Hall & Oates: Live at the Troubadour Blu-ray Review

One certainty growing up in the early to mid-80s was firing up the radio on a boom box would within minutes produce a Hall & Oates song. Daryl Hall and John Oates, whom today have become the best-selling pop duo of all time, dominated the airwaves with hits like “Maneater,” “You Make My Dreams Come True,” “Private Eyes” and countless others.

Before they hit it big, Philadelphia native Hall & Oates journeyed to Los Angeles for the first time in 1973 to play at The Troubadour club fronting for Harry Chapin. 35 years later in May 2008, the band returned to The Troubadour to complete the circle so-to-speak, playing in front of a packed house in attendance solely to see decades of hits plucked from the duo’s arsenal.

Daryl and John look and sound remarkably young after all these years, no doubt due to hair coloring and other celebrity upkeep secrets. John’s voice has been especially well-maintained, belting out harmonies exactly as he did three decades before. John keeps pace when he’s required to vocalize but it is clear he’s also been hitting the gym hard.

The electric guitars featured heavily on Hall & Oates albums have been shed in favor of acoustics but the signature saxophone and soulful sounds remain. A trio of acoustic guitars in the lead reveals more complexities in the music and songwriting than the studio album recordings. New acoustic arrangements improve upon some songs like “Say It Isn’t So” but don’t work as well for others that are identified by the electric sound like “Family Man.”

As with any band revival there are a few new songs mixed in with the classics especially during the second half of the set. The most notable is a new Oates single “Had I Known You Better” from his solo album which is decent but doesn’t stand a chance against the classics sandwiching it. By the time “Maneater” cues up about one-third through the crowd is into the groove and the best is yet to come.

The high definition presentation of Hall & Oates: Live at the Troubadour on Blu-ray is encoded in VC-1 at 1080i lines of resolution. The concert begins with a temporary sepia-toned filter to hearken back to 1973. The “washed” appearance quickly gives way to bright and vibrant performers on stage. You can reach out and pluck the hairs from Daryl’s beard or curl one of John’s infamous locks. When the camera pulls back the image is a little hazy due to dim blue stage lighting and traditional dimly-lit concert halls. The detail is in the close-ups and in that respect this is an excellent 1080i transfer.

Shout! Factory chose to default the audio setting to 2.0 stereo, possibly an accidental carryover from the previously released DVD. I was able to catch on quickly and make the change to 5.1 Dolby TrueHD which makes a world of difference. The uncompressed track is stronger, fuller, clearer and more natural than the stereo mix. Rears are not artificially overused to keep the sounds of the performance in front of you, exactly where it would be if you were attending the show in person. Concerts on Blu-ray with lossless audio rarely disappoint and neither does this one.

The default audio snafu carries forward into a pair of bonus features. Choosing Dolby TrueHD for the main feature sticks when selecting the first bonus feature resulting in no audio. You have to exit the bonus feature, change the audio and then return to the bonus feature.

Going from the first bonus feature to the second replicates the problem even if the audio is defaulted to stereo 2.0. This is an inexcusable authoring mistake that will hopefully be avoided on future releases.

Daryl Hall Interview (6:41, HD) – An interview with Daryl filmed hours before the show where he reflects on the bands first appearance at the Troubadour and how they happened into returning, as well as how he’s changed over the years as a performer. He comes across as intelligent and genuinely down to earth.

John Oates Interview (5:50, HD) – John’s interview was likely filmed right after Daryl’s. Mirroring his demeanor on stage, John has less to say but still manages to get a few sentences out. Unfortunately half of this brief interview is spent listening to John pump up his new solo album.

Recommending Hall & Oates: Live at the Troubadour is easy for me having grown up a fan. Newer generations may balk at the group’s soulful sounds but any old timers that ever connected with one of their songs will find the group is not “Out of Touch.” A comparison audio recording of the original 1973 Troubadour would have been a great archival inclusion. Regardless, this is a solid live acoustic performance on Blu-ray from the greatest pop duo of all time.

– Dan Bradley

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