This week, I received my second copy of Hanson’s Shout It Out. Sure, It wasn’t because I’d worn out my first copy (although, if I still played CDs, I’m sure that could’ve been a distinct possibility.) No, the occasion was that the UK release of Shout It Out came with a special Best of 5 DVD that I really wanted. The release coincided with Hanson’s 5of5 concert series in London this week, reprising the US five-nighter (one album a night, for five nights) that launched SIO. Last year, I took the opportunity to put together my list of 25 favorite Hanson songs when writing about the 5of5, which was restreamed to a worldwide audience upon the album’s initial release. This UK DVD collects 13 Hanson performances from the US 50f5, and should serve as a great introduction to new fans, or maybe fans (I was once one of those) who somehow lost touch with the band, but wanted to reconnect with them. If I was to recommend it for one group of people in particular, though, I’d send a copy to people who still believe that Hanson was something of a one-hit wonder that simply faded from the scene when their MMMBop was up.
For the rest of us, the DVD doesn’t contain surprises of the sort that open-minded pop lovers should get when they realize that Hanson is still very much alive and kicking, but I’m not one to complain. I loved most of these performances when I saw the 5of5 re-stream last year, and I love them today. But focus on singles on Best of 5 means that some tough choices had to be made, not all of them to my liking. I would have liked it if they had included at least one of the rarer singles on this DVD, say, Weird or Thinking Of You off Middle of Nowhere, instead of yet another performance of Where’s The Love (which has been on previous releases Live From Albertane, Underneath Acoustic Live and Live & Electric). This is partly an issue of personal taste, of course, since I probably wouldn’t have objected to yet another version of I Will Come To You. The Where’s The Love version on this DVD actually is among my favorite versions of the song, but it has never been in my Hanson pantheon. Likewise, and as much as it pains me to say this about a song written and performed by Zac Hanson, I wasn’t exactly thrilled to see Go, the first single off The Walk, making the cut. The rules the band had made for the selection probably made it impossible to ignore, but it remains one of my least favorite Hanson songs of all time. Maybe Geat Divide could have been given the task of defending that album honor by itself, or the rules could have been bent to include a song like Been There Before, another great intro song for people who think they know Hanson when they actually don’t.
Luckily, the focus on singles left room for Lost Withouth Each Other, the second single off Underneath, not previously released in a live version. The band reported has been reluctant to play it live, which gives the 5of5 performance a shine of exlusivity. Included in the lower half of my Top 25 list, it’s a song that has the old-style rock n’ roll feeling of a song like Thinking ‘Bout Somethin’, yet it never felt out of place on the Underneath album. The song and video also launched the Are You Listening? tagline that became an integral part of the promotion of the record. The DVD also has a good version of Isaac’s Deeper, sounding tighter than it has in previous versions. However, I am still slightly torn on Save Me, a This Time Around tune. The TTA night of the 50f5 was uneven, and I don’t think Taylor was at his best here. While I like the song, it has never been among my definitive favorites from that album, not least because it was preceded by If Only, Runaway Run and This Time Around, three Hanson classics. The album version of Save Me has a nice gospel touch, but live, it’s just not very exciting. Again, if was responsible for the setlist on the DVD, I might have yanked it in place of, say, Strong Enough To Break from Underneath. But again, this is a question of taste. Using my own standard when I argued against Where’s The Love, I guess it’s OK that Save Me won the day. It’s more exclusive as a live track, whereas Strong Enough To Break was on both Underneath Acoustic Live and Live & Electric.
When I’m nitpicking like this, it’s out of love. I used to watch video clips from the heights of Beatlemania, or of girls fainting in droves at Backstreet Boys concerts and not really understand what could make people feel that strongly about a band. Blind devotion, definition, definitely, but physical reactions? But that was before I was reintroduced to Hanson back in 2005. I’m usually not the squealing, hyperventilating kind, but whenever I see a new Hanson concert stream – or, heck every time I hear MMMBop or Penny & Me - I’m reduced to mess of genuine, ecstatic emotion. I don’t know why, exactly; all I know is that it has to do with a combination of the music itself and a set of very personal reasons, the first of which is my unbending crush on Zac Hanson. Let me end by saying this: I think I would have bought this DVD even if I didn’t like the music. It offers lots of Zac, and for Hanson haters, there’s always the mute button.