Last year I must have been to about 40 gigs and at not one of them did I sense the same frisson of energy that I felt at the gig I attended tonight. In fact, the last time I felt it was at Taylor Swift’s last UK gig, which leads me to think it is created by a combination of the act being American (therefore their presence in the UK is a rare and treasured occasion) and having, or having had, a special resonance with teenagers. Taylor Swift has that now, but it was another Taylor who had it when I was growing up: Taylor Hanson. And his brothers of course. Yep, the band I saw tonight was Hanson!
Tonight they played a one-off surprise gig at London’s famous 100 Club. They hadn’t properly publicised it and only announced it a week ago on their website, but when I walked past the venue almost two hours before the show began, the queue to get in snaked around the block. Word had definitely gotten out to the Hanson hardcore.
When the gig finally got started, I was excited to see and hear a band who’d been a big part of my early pop fandom, but I didn’t recognise any of the songs and, having been informed that it would only be a half hour gig, expected that I would go home without hearing any of the classics or even anything familiar. Luckily, I was very wrong.
Once a few enjoyable-but-no-Mmmbop new tracks were out of the way (which I was surprised to find most of the audience knew the words to, even though they haven’t been released in the UK), the back-catalogue came out and I was thrilled to hear almost all of my favourites. This Time Around, Lost Without Each Other, Mmmbop, Where’s The Love and Penny & Me were all present and correct. The only one missing was my ultimate Hanson favourite I Will Come To You, but I’ll forgive them for that as they didn’t make one snide comment about any of their old hits and seemed to enjoy them as much as the audience did.
Apart from the old favourites, there was one more moment which was particularly special. They did a cover of a song I didn’t know called Never Been To Spain, and what impressed me was the fact that lead vocal duties were taken on by all three members of the band, and I was left wondering why this isn’t the case on all their tracks. Taylor’s always been the voice of Hanson, but Isaac and Zac are both incredibly talented vocalists too.
Isaac has a deeper, grittier voice which reminds me of Gavin Degraw, while Zac’s voice is like Paolo Nutini but stronger. In fact, Zac’s performance on Never Been To Spain was the highlight of the night. You can watch a previous performance here to get a little taste of what it was like. If someone that talented (and adorable!) entered American Idol they’d win without a doubt, yet he’s just the drummer in a band that few people care about these days. It’s a real waste, actually!
It’s always been hard to fit Hanson into the pop landscape as there’s never been anyone else quite like them, not just in their sound (which was imitated at the height of their fame by bands like The Moffatts and Next of Kin) but in their level of talent which, for a teen band, was quite unbelievable. Did you know they write all of their music themselves? Even their first album, when they were aged 14, 11 and 9! They wrote their biggest hit, Mmmbop, only two years later.
Their talent may not be so remarkable now they’re adults (even little Zac is 25 and a married father of two, though he still looks 15), and unfortunately they didn’t sustain superstardom long enough to avoid the stigma that comes with having only one really big hit. They’ll never get over that now, but nonetheless they have a hugely dedicated international fanbase which most groups can only dream of.
If you’ve not been following Hanson since their heyday you’ve missed out on a lot – not only some great songs, but also a fascinating documentary. The film they made about starting their own label in the early 2000s is one of the most interesting, honest documentaries I’ve seen about the music industry and worth a viewing even if you’re not a Hanson fan. You can watch it online here. And if you’re sad about missing out on tonight’s gig, follow the band on Twitter as they said they hope to play again in London soon.
Before I go I just have to quote some of the lyrics to Mmmbop, which are, on reflection, incredibly fitting for Hanson’s pop story:
So hold on to the ones who really care
In the end they’ll be the only ones there
When you get old and start losing your hair
Can you tell me who will still care?
In an mmmbop they’re gone,
In an mmmbop they’re not there,
Until you lose your hair… but you don’t care!