I’m coming home to Hanson. I know, it sounds weird for someone as enthusiastic about the Tulsa Three as I am, and as a Fanson it pained me to say it. But after the rush that accompanied the release of Shout It Out in June, I actually needed to take a break from them. I stand by every word of praise I gave the album a couple months ago, but having first spends weeks and months looking forward to it, and then several weeks listening to it non-stop, I had to take a step back. and throw my self into something else. In that sense, it reminded me of when I saw Bruce Springsteen live in Bergen last year. Then too, I had dedicated so much time to looking forward to it and listening to him endlessly, that when it was over, I couldn’t pick up where I left for a while.
This may seem like self-indulgent fanboyism, and maybe it is. The lesson, anyway, is not that such deep dedication is bad; it is that you need to find a way to reconnect after the big event, whether it be the Springsteen concert or the Hanson release. When Hanson’s 5 of 5 concert series was re-aired on the Hanson website upon the Shout It Out release, I wrote a long blog post about how it almost felt like going to a real concert, and how it give me the chance to experience some of my favorite songs in a new way. On Tuesday, that happened again, when Hanson’s gig at the Sounds Like Paper festival in New York City was streamed for all the world to see it. I wouldn’t say it opened up Shout It Out to me in a whole new way, but it didn’t have to. It was more than enough that it added a new twist here and there to an album that has not yet been recorded in numerous live version. Before this concert, the only other live performance I had seen of the Shout It Out material was the 5 of 5 concert that unveiled it to fans.
One of the pleasures – and possible pitfalls – of obsessive listening, is that you run the risk of cementing your preferences, not just with regard to other artists, but within a particular album. And while I struggle to find obvious weak spots on Shout, a certain listening pattern has emerged. If I want to dive right in, I usually start at the end, with my three favorite tracks, Musical Ride, Voice In The Chorus and Me Myself and I. and If I want to take my time, I start from the beginning, from Waiting For This to Carry You There. This leaves and extended middle section, starting with Give A Little and ending with These Walls, that I sometimes skip, even though I feel bad about it. Taking individually, several of the songs in this section are very good, but in the context of the album, three of them – And I Waited, These Walls and to a lesser extent Use Me Up . there aren’t quite as interesting. But that’s what live performances are set to change. The Sounds Like Paper version of And I Waited was a deliciously funky affair, complete with a horn section, and both Give A Little and Make It Out Alive sounded sharper as well. To the extent it was needed, the live performances may have added a new dimension to the album versions. How I consume the album may be about to change.
Hey was another one of those songs who sounded much better than the album version. I have called out as part of a fairly anonymous final third on Underneath, but in this setting it fit perfectly with the old-fashioned rock sound of today’s Hanson. Likewise, when they played Gimme Some Lovin’ back in the nineties it was kinda cute that they did, but there wasn’t enough funkiness and grit to make it particularly interesting. Here, it made for a good final number. As always, I was also glad to hear some of the classics, like MmmBop and If Only, even though Where’s The Love has never ranked among my favorites. Thinking ‘Bout Somethin’ proved that it’s on course to become one of the next generation of classics. From behind his sunglasses, Taylor seemed to signal that its funny and clever music video – in which Hanson are dressed up as the second coming of The Blues Brothers – the band has reached another stage in its career. It was all kinda cool.
This being a livestream, however, a word on the online. I wrote previously about how there appears to be two distinct factions of Fansons watching and sounding out on these shows. The first category consists of who might the Bodyguards, extremely loyal and seemingly unable to find any flaw in anything the band has ever recorded or done. The second camp, which includes me, are made up of people who love Hanson just as passionately, but who don’t necessarily think it should be considered questionable Fansonite loyalty to ask whether there might be some weak spots on a record. So, did this pattern change between the 5 of 5 outing in June and now? Yes and no. Sure there was the occasional slapdown of those who dared suggest that And I Waited and Hey were not personal favorites, but the shared gratitude for getting to witness an unexpected Hanson performance far overshadowed it. Some commenters though Taylor’s vocals were a little off (I didn’t find much wrong with it), but in general, the factionalism was less visible this time around. What unites Fanson is much stronger than what divides us.
In the end, I’m most happy about getting confirmation that the Shout It Out material holds up. At this time in the Walk cycle, the first doubts had begun to creep. This time, there’s no reason for that. Shout It Out is supposed to take center stage in the Hanson repertoire for years, and luckily, that’s something to look forward to. Finally, I have yet again been reminded of how much to see them for real, in a concert hall somewhere, with fellow Fanson. My grand ambition doesn’t have to be bigger than that.