Daryl Hall and John Oates play Cincinnati’s PNC Pavilion
By Rusty Pate
Photo: Daryl Hall and John Oates will perform at PNC Pavilion in Cincinnati on May 11; photo: Mick Rock
Daryl Hall and John Oates have been making music longer than most realize.
It’s been more than 40 years since the duo released their debut album, Whole Oats, and today’s music industry bears little resemblance to the world of 1972. Their career has weathered the rise and fall of disco and MTV. Fads like grunge and new wave have come and gone.
The way music is consumed has shifted from vinyl and cassettes to CDs and MP3s, then back again.
Through it all, these two white kids from Philly have found a way to keep their take of blue-eyed soul relevant.
The duo, perhaps best known for a string of hits in the MTV-drenched 1980s, recorded their first albums together in the early 1970s.
They’ve topped the Billboard Hot 100 six times and in 1987, the R.I.A.A. certified them as the best-selling duo in the history of music – a distinction they hold to this day. They were also recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
With all that success and name recognition, it would be easy to just set the controls to auto pilot, but John Oates said keeping their art fresh remains the constant goal.
“The fact we let ourselves have options and have been willing to allow each other to stretch out and do our own thing is what has enabled us to stay together,” Oates said. “If you look at our albums, every album we’ve ever made from the beginning, always says on the cover ‘Daryl Hall and John Oates.’ There’s never been an album called Hall and Oates. That may seem like a subtlety, but to us that’s actually very important. We were making a point we’re two distinct individuals working together.”
He said they constantly tour, but in smaller blocks. That allows them to pursue a myriad of musical options.
Hall has his cable TV show “Live from Daryl’s House,” which allows him to play with old friends and up-and-comers alike. It airs on Palladia and also has an online home at livefromdarylshouse.com.
Oates recently released a string of digital singles with guests like Jerry Douglas, Vince Gill and Jim Lauderdale. Those songs have now been released as the proper album Good Road to Follow.
He also was invited by My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James to play the 2013 Bonnaroo Music Festival’s Superjam, a coveted gig at one of the biggest music gatherings in North America.
“I have to say it was one of the highlights of my musical life,” Oates said. “It really was a very exciting, amazing kind of magical experience.”
He and James began discussing the event about six months before the show. While James was busy touring to promote his solo album weeks before the festival, Oates began putting the pieces together.
“I kind of went to work in the trenches and I started pulling a core band together out of some guys I work with in Nashville,” Oates said. “We only rehearsed two days. The fact we were able to pull off a two-hour plus show, with all those moving parts and all that music was quite an accomplishment, if I do say so myself. I could talk about it all day.”
All those album sales and accolades seem to matter much less to Oates than one might assume. Throughout his career, he always seemed to eschew the limelight.
From his work with Hall to his new album and the Superjam, the art of collaborating seems to get to the heart of what he hopes to accomplish with his craft.
Rather than saying “give me the spotlight,” he finds much more satisfaction in playing with the highest caliber of musician he can find.
“I have 40 years collaborating with a very amazing, talented partner,” Oates said. “I’m used to working with very high quality musicians and players. One thing I’ve learned about collaboration is when you surround yourself with good people, good things happen.”
While 2014 is a much different time than when the duo first began recording, Daryl Hall and John Oates continue to sell albums and pack concerts because the passion for what they do is palpable.
Despite the shifting tides and winds of taste and culture, the key to remaining relevant is a simple one.
“The world has changed,” Oates said. “The world has accelerated. Media has accelerated along with it. You have to understand it as best you can and deal with it. What you do is be true to yourself. I try to make music that turns me on.”
Daryl Hall and John Oates will play the PNC Pavilion in Cincinnati at 8 p.m. on Sunday, May 11. Tickets can be purchased through ticketmaster.com. For more information, please visit hallandoates.com.
Reach DCP freelance writer Rusty Pate at RustyPate@DaytonCityPaper.com.