NIAGARA FALLS – Rock stars, particularly longtime rock stars and ones who aren’t named Springsteen, can be a bit robotic. It’s not their fault; try playing a hit song for two or three decades and make it seem fresh. Fans don’t mind; they’ve been listening to those same songs for those same decades.
But a dose of discomfort doesn’t hurt anyone – not the fans, and not the musicians. That vulnerability can be playful, relatable, memorable. Daryl Hall and John Rzeznik proved that Friday night at the Seneca Niagara Events Center.
The Hall & Oates singer (and recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee) and Goo Goo Dolls front man, backed by a six-piece band, tag-teamed a 90-minute, 14-song set that alternated between their respective hits. Among others, that included “Iris” and “Broadway” from Rzeznik’s Goo Goo Dolls catalog, and Hall’s “Don’t Hold Back Your Love” and “Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid.”
Hall and Rzeznik each jumped in on the other’s songs, a twist that added some unpredictability. When Rzeznik played the Goos’ “Slide,” playing and singing his way through lyrics well known in his Buffalo hometown, Hall joined in for the chorus. The contrast of his voice, higher and a touch rougher than Rzeznik’s trademark smooth vocals, leapt through the speakers.
One song later, it was Rzeznik’s turn. He raced his way through the punchy chorus of Hall & Oates’ “Did It in a Minute,” making the crowd smile.
And so it continued: Hall took over the second verse of Rzeznik’s “Iris.” Rzeznik gamely attempted to reciprocate on “Kiss on My List,” but quickly looked to Hall and the backup band for some lyrical help.
The whole thing had a garage-band feel. A very well-trained, musically talented garage band. The artists clearly had fun – especially Hall, who concocted the idea nearly a decade ago of having famous fellow musicians jam in his house. The idea became a Web series, which was picked up by MTV Networks. (A new season starts in May).
Hall, who still tours with John Oates, decided to take the “Live” show on tour. This iteration, with Rzeznik, is a two-night stand – the second of which is Saturday at the Seneca Allegany Casino & Hotel in Salamanca.
The concept is a treat for fans, who got the rock stars they recognized with so much more intimacy and personality than you’d find in a one-size-fits-all tour show. Rzeznik, 50, with his red-tinted glasses, dark leather jacket and slicked blond hair, said to Hall, “I’ve met a lot of rock stars, and you’re one of three that I like.”
Hall, 69, looked ever the rock-star part, wearing charcoal-gray glasses and a dark jacket, his light hair dangling on both sides of his face. “At least I’m in the top three!” he responded, seemingly bemused.
Both performers engaged in banter. A couple of times, Hall asked Rzeznik if he was ready to play a given song, pointing out to the crowd that the show is largely unrehearsed. When someone called out a song suggestion, Hall said, “We’d like to take requests, but man, that would really mess us up!”
The fans wouldn’t have minded. This was rockers for real. It was as close to a jam session as you’ll ever get with a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and the chief songwriter of the Buffalo band that’s left a permanent mark on the musical scene. The fans will take that, poetic lyrics and blemishes included.
Daryl Hall and John Rzeznik
Friday night in Seneca Niagara Events Center