Picks and Pans Review: Live at the Apollo

Hall & Oates

As they proved at Live Aid, when they played behind Mick Jagger and Tina Turner, H&O can provide pretty good background music. Once again they are the supporting cast for the best part of this concert, recorded at the reopening of Harlem’s historic Apollo Theater last May. Blue-eyed soul pays homage to the real thing, as ex-Temptations David Ruffin and Eddie Kendrick grab the spotlight for a rousing round of their old hits, Kendrick’s feathery falsetto elevating to the rafters on Get Ready and My Girl. When those two leave center stage, however, they take some of the magic with them. But Hall and Oates rush in creditably where angels might fear to tread. The two have never been a scintillating live act (though Hall’s more energetic gamboling and the antics of guitarist G.E. Smith are a big improvement over the wooden performances of the past). That mediocrity comes across on Live at the Apollo, but Hall and Oates have always rendered spirited versions of even their most repeated songs, as they do here on Possession Obsession among others. There is one strategic error. Before Everytime You Go Away, Hall makes a pointed comment about an English artist, referring to the huge success singer Paul Young has had singing that song, which Hall wrote. That introduction throws down a gauntlet neither Hall nor the H&O band are able to pick up. If anything, it makes Young’s version of Hall’s song sound better. (RCA)

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