Written by Anonymous
Not many people can claim to be Grammy nominees, international superstars and credible musicians in their tweens. Furthermore, not many can boast a solid discography and career spanning a decade in their mid-twenties.
And so the audience was reminded Saturday night at La Zona Rosa when Hanson performed to a crowd of über-eager, dedicated fans.
In the middle of the set, with a laughing glint in his eyes, Zac (the younger Hanson chap, 22 years old) introduced their classic, to say the least, as “a song you all first heard 10 years ago”.
Quite audibly, as my ears have not yet recovered, the crowd knew what was coming. The first strains of “Mmmbop” began.
It had been so long that I had forgotten that I first heard the catchy harmonies of the admittedly effeminate young band in 1997.
I even remember the very day I first heard the name “Hanson”. I was about 12 years old in the playroom at day camp, when my friend Diana proudly showed us her new CD of these three brothers who were our age and wrote their own music, played their own instruments and were sooo cute.
Soon I had purchased the CD, fallen in love with the music and had penciled little hearts around the faces of the brothers inside the CD jacket.
A decade later, Hanson has 5 studio LPs and several live records. They broke from their record label in frustration with the industry and formed their own completely independent label, 3CG, where they now produce all of their music.
The band is touted by critics and fellow artists alike. The Village Voice says they are “the finest straight-up rock band in America” and Bono apparently called their music “genius” recently.
Hanson has forged a path not straying from their “straight-up rock” sound. One may be able to pick out blues influences and there is certainly pop appeal but their hearts belong to rock.
This night they were performers as well. After openers Lee Simmons and Ingram Hill left the stage, the buzz was palpable. We wanted Hanson.
Along with Zac, Taylor, 24, and Isaac, 26, ascended to the stage to almost maniacal screaming. But because I contributed to this uproar, I will simply call it “very enthusiastic”.
This would be my second time seeing the guys live, my first being about four years ago in San Antonio. So I had full confidence that I would have at least as much fun as I had that first time.
I had more.
The intimacy of La Zona Rosa was a factor. More so, the obviously flattered brothers didn’t see the edge of the stage as the edge of the band.
Continuously encouraged by the band mates, the crowd served as an instrumental extension, providing time-keeping hand claps in song breakdowns and a chanting chorus where their African children’s choir was absent in the new songs.
Their set began electrically with songs like “A Minute Without You” from their first album, “Can’t Stop” from their second album, “This Time Around”, and new hit “Great Divide”.
“Great Divide” has special significance to the band because it was the result of their trip to Africa to educate themselves on the AIDS epidemic and poverty in the region.
Inspired by friends and fellow musicians in their hometown, Hanson decided it was time they took action and teamed up with Tom’s Shoes. Sold at every show, for each pair of shoes bought another pair would be sent to a person in Africa without any.
In addition, before every show on this tour, Hanson leads a barefoot mile-long walk in each city with fans to raise awareness of this issue.
Meanwhile back at the show, the set turned acoustic. The three sat in chairs closer to the crowd, Taylor traded his keyboards and piano for a guitar and Zac emerged from behind the drum set to beat on a djembe.
Included in this set of about five songs was their most recent single, “Go”; Zac took the lead in this minimalist ballad.
One more set change and we were electric again. The set list covered the spectrum.
“Been There Before”, “Running Man”, “Where’s the Love” (before which, Taylor concluded it was, in fact, in Austin), “Penny & Me”, “Crazy Beautiful”, “Strong Enough to Break” and “Something Goin’ Round”, among others, rounded out the set.
“Whether you believe in God or monkeys, you’ve all got an ass, so shake it,” Taylor said before “Lost Without Each Other”. Dancing ensued.
Seemingly overwhelmed with the crowd’s adoration, Taylor promised before the last song of the encore that they would play all night for us if possible. I’ve no doubt that the audience would have stayed all night for them.
After the final bow, the brothers remained on the stage awaiting the quieting cheers. They spoke of their trip to Africa, their partnership with Tom’s Shoes and the hope and feasibility of positive change in the world.
On that note, they stood with one microphone between them and sang, a capella, the sincerely inspiring chorus to “Great Divide”.
The evening was a triumph in every sense of the word.