Saturday, July 12, 2008

What Day it This? Daryl Hall

Daryl Hall
The Mahaiwe Theater
July 6, 2008

Oh my my. I think everybody wanted this to be a great show. One of the first big shows in the Mahaiwe’s foray into popular music, a big ol’ star, and a neighbor (Hall lives 30 minutes away in Millerton, New York). Which makes the disappointment all the more acute. And it was all so avoidadable.

First, the sound. There was a massive monitor system on the stage, significantly bigger, in fact, than the front-of-house rig (the Mahaiwe’s a tiny, 700 seat hall). And that’s pretty much all we heard: muffled, indirect vocals coming from speakers pointed away from us, with no presence or definition. Hall’s singing has a ton of nuance, and he works the microphone like a musical instrument, but whenever be moved off-mic even a little, his voice disappeared in the house. I imagine it sounded great on-stage.

And it wasn’t an equipment problem—the opening act, a sweet-voiced folksinger with nothing to say, sounded superb through the same system.

Second, Hall seemed to be trying to recreate his excellent “Live from Daryl’s House” webcast concerts, which feature casual, acoustic sessions. He tried, and he failed. There was a massive, hideous, and unnecessary stage set that looked like the inside of a post-and-beam barn; one expected Miss Kitty to pop her head through one of the second story windows and waive to the crowd, which would be pretty weird for a neo-soul concert. But critically, Hall and his trusty side-kick, the terrific T-Bone Wolk, played acoustic guitars throughout the set, mostly while sitting on stools. Which would have been fine, but nobody told the ham-fisted rhythm section to lay back, and they played like they were in an arena, and they were stiff. The result was a muddled, bottom-heavy din; T-Bone appeared to be taking some big-statement solos from time to time, but they were inaudible. The overall sound was monolithic and annoying, a long way from the palpable intimacy of the web concerts.

Which was all a damn shame, because Hall seemed lit up (at one point I think he said “Hey, I shop at Guidos, too!”), in good voice (from the little we could hear), and ready to play all night. Wolk is always on, and set-list was schweet indeed, with minor ear-candy hits dominating: “Everytime You Go Away,” “When the Morning Comes,” and an evening closing “You’re Living in Dreamtime.”

Too bad we couldn’t hear it.


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