Every great act needs its anomalous album, but Hall and Oates really took that maxim to its limit, teaming up with Todd Rundgren to record a post-apocalyptic concept album that owes so little to anything they did before or after that, even today, admirers and critics approach it with caution. Rundgren fans, on the other hand, adore it.
Recorded on the accompanying tour, War Babies dominates the live show, of course, and in many ways, the material sounds closer to "classic" Hall and Oates than the studio set ever could. For all their behind-closed-doors perfection, after all, the duo were always at their best on stage, where the magical harmonies took on a life of their own, and the band seethed soulfully behind them. And so the opening "Can't Stop The Music" pays only lip-service attention to its vinyl counterpart, kicking the Stax chants into play at the earliest opportunity, and establishing a level of intensity that would sustain the rest of the evening.
Naturally, the established favorites are here to help things along. A sublime "She's Gone," a tight "Lady Rain" and a super-funky "When The Morning Comes" (among others) all pop up mid-set, while "Born Too Late" and "Rock And Roll (I Don't Wanna Play)" were presumably intended to offer up a taste of the duo's next album, before both fell from favor. And then it's back to War Babies, for a driving "Is It A Star," and a truly tumultuous title track, all battering bass and scything guitar lines, and one of the most powerful show closers you could imagine.
Of course Hall &
Oates never truly followed up War Babies - it wouldn't be an anomaly if
they had. But for a moment, they were perched so brilliantly on the edge
of total sonic revision... of their own outlook and everyone else's...
that, whether you normally like the lads or not, this is one show you
really need to hear. -
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