Going to a Hanson show is like entering an alternate universe. A universe in which women have willingly tattooed song lyrics on their bodies… multiple times. A universe in which the venue is packed an hour before the set was supposed to start. A universe in which Taylor, Zac, and Isaac Hanson are musical gods that have been building this cult-like following for years, seemingly without anyone else knowing. So the best (and only) thing to do was take a swig of the ol’ Hanson Kool-aid and just roll with it.
Jokes aside, Hanson may be one of the most underrated bands around. The brothers have released some pretty solid albums over the years, including their newest, Anthem, their latest release in their 21-year career. As they have aged (gotten married, become fathers) their sound has progressed from pop to soul, stretching even further to Motown, and a bit of rock, all of which suit their penchant for writing catchy hooks and choruses sure to be stuck in your head for days. Seriously.
This show was meant as an album release for Anthem and was the second of a two-night, sold-out stint at Irving Plaza. The band gave the ecstatic audience a nice mix of old and new during the over two hour set. But they probably could’ve played anything, because it seemed like the crowd knew literally every word to every song. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.
For the non-hardcore Han-fans (myself included), they were kind enough to play their singles as well as a few fan favorites from older albums. The harmonica solo in “Penny And Me” elicited such screeches and wails that you’d think the biggest musical heartthrobs in the world were on stage, and when the intro to “If Only” kicked-off, the room vibrated with the sheer amount of noise the overwhelmingly female audience created.
The standout moment of the night, of which there were many, was the acappella song the brothers laid down about halfway through the set. There was never a question that Hanson are a talented trio of musicians, both vocally and otherwise, but to hear them on their own, stripped down, and indulging in their spot-on three-part harmonies was truly astounding. Throughout the night, each Hanson brother took on lead vocals, which was nice to hear as most of the songs in my immediate memory featured Taylor primarily. While Taylor has particularly impressive vocal range, power, and precision, the other brothers are nothing to scoff at. Each has their own distinct sound that is equally as polished as Taylor, and offered a nice variety to the show.
This show had such a weird atmosphere that it’s still hard to pinpoint even hours after. It was like simultaneously being stuck in a time warp from 1998 while still being fully aware that the whole point of this show was to release an entirely new album. Maybe it was just the mindset of the crowd—it’s been 16 years since “MMMBop” hit the charts (yes, they played it and yes, it was awesome), and the majority of fans at Irving Plaza last night have clearly been on the bandwagon since then. Maybe Hanson fans get perpetually stuck in 14-year-old girl mode when they see Hanson live, and that creates a very youthful ambiance. It’s by no means a bad thing, just a unique concert-going experience that very few bands could hope to replicate.