Tonight, Hanson are playing at HQ and when I rock up at the club, the line has stretched far back around the venue and through the car park. From first glance, it seems like the attendees (mostly female) are in their mid-20s to early 30s, the Hanson fans who have followed the Tulsa trio from their heyday in the late 90s. When Middle Of Nowhere was released, I was about seven years old and like every other impressionable girl, I soon became obsessed with the Americans’ harmonies, catchy melodies and long locks. Although Hanson have been steadily releasing records since then, as well as embarking on countless tours around the world, it’s not hard to surmise that there is a fair amount of people chomping at the bit to get inside HQ and secure a good spot to see Taylor, Isaac and Zac perform.
I didn’t know anything about Matt Wertz, the opening act, before tonight and as he took to the stage armed with only an acoustic guitar, I wasn’t too sure how long he’d be able to hold the attention of a packed out HQ. The Nashville singer-songwriter proved to be a great entertainer and it wasn’t long before he had the crowd screaming and responding to each call out. A strong vocalist, Wertz managed to warm the crowd up by doing all the right things; performing uncomplicated acoustic rock, dropping Adelaide-friendly references and reminding everyone that the Hanson brothers were in fact, in the same vicinity as us all, which cued frenzied screams. Wertz exuded a charming onstage persona and for his first time touring in Australia, there’s no doubt that he can be proud of how his shows so far have gone down. There were quite a lot of people in attendance tonight who had travelled from interstate, but in general, I don’t think I’ve been in an ‘Adelaide’ crowd which has been as responsive to an unknown support act as I was tonight. I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for Mr. Wertz the next time he’s in the country.
The crowd is left waiting for what seems like an eternity before the lights go down and Hanson, plus two live musicians emerge from side stage. Now, when I saw New Kids On The Block and The Backstreet Boys perform earlier in the year, I thought the response to their entrance was deafening, but tonight’s reaction was definitely running a close second. Hanson performed a great mix of songs, both new and old tonight; it was a set list which didn’t completely alienate those fans who were here mainly for a nostalgia trip, nor was it a set purely rooted in the 1996-1998 era of the band’s repertoire. The first song recognised by everyone in the venue was “Where’s The Love” from Middle Of Nowhere and from then on, it was like a big dance party; Taylor didn’t even need to speak to earn shrieks every time he’d walk back and forth along the stage, but it was his talents behind the keyboard which really impressed me.
Musically, Hanson ran a very tight show; I know it sounds stupid to point out, but with some bands that have been knocking around for 20 years, it’s not surprising to see a band simply running through the motions at a gig. The band tonight however, packed enough enthusiasm into their show to last beyond their almost two hour long set and didn’t falter. Zac Hanson’s cover of The Beatles’ “Oh Darling” worried me at first, but he managed to pull it off and demonstrated some killer lead vocals. If we’re being completely honest, the youngest Hanson brother has never been in charge of overly-complicated drum beats and percussion sections, but there’s no denying his presence was one of the driving forces behind the Hanson live show.
I hadn’t listened to Hanson’s latest material in much depth up until now, but as they performed “Thinking ‘Bout Somethin’” and “Give a Little” off their most recent record Shout It Out, I enjoyed the fact that they clearly still had a decent idea of how to craft catchy pop tunes. The blend of fun guitar riffs and the trademark ‘Hanson’ keys was fun to bop to and although there were clearly more people in the audience who were more familiar in the songs than I was, I still found myself getting increasingly familiar with the new songs as the night went on. Of course, highlights for all of us children of the 90s came in renditions of “Mmmbop”, “Madeline”, and a chilling performance of “With You In Your Dreams”; obviously, certain notes weren’t hit like they used to, but the harmonies were still on key as ever and the crowd sing-a-longs were epic to be involved in. The encore consisted of “If Only”, with the brothers inserting a snippet of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” unexpectedly before the end, turning every female in the joint into sweaty, flustered messes. Following on from the performance, Hanson looked seemingly satisfied with the impact they’d left on the audience tonight and after taking multiple bows, the brothers promised not to leave their next visit so long; Taylor’s brave move of jumping into the photographer’s pit and shaking people’s hands caused the security to restrain the more hardcore Hanson fans from ripping the singer’s kerchief and shirt.
This year’s been full of ‘retro’ tours and it’s been fun, but the difference with Hanson seems to be that they’ve been able to sustain a successful career post “Mmmbop” and have retained some of the more passionate music fans I think I’ve ever seen. I’m going to have to go and listen to Shout It Out properly now and perhaps fall in love with them all over again.