Denis Armstrong

Wed, September 7, 2005
Hall and Oates get the funk in

Greats make for Motown revival

By Denis Armstrong

Producers at last night's Hall and Oates gig might have miscued when they paired them with a veritable institution of '60s Motown, the Funk Brothers.

And then played Al Green between sets. That's like having dessert before dinner.

See, when I'm in a really soulful funk, the kind that an Al Green, Harold Melvin or Marvin Gaye can make, it's hard to switch gears into white soul pap, I mean pop, with Hall and Oates.

Don't get me wrong. I was as much a fan of Daryl and John throughout the 1970s and early '80s as any easy-listening suburban lothario could be. A couple of Hall and Oates discs in your collection virtually made you a soulful brother.

The truth hit hard last night as only 2,500 golf-shirt wearing, Lexus-driving suburbanites like myself buzzed around the Civic Centre looking to relive some of the sweetest-sounding pop in white funk.

Opening for Hall and Oates was the venerable Funk Brothers, who joined the tour when British duo Tears For Fears, who we thought were getting it together one more time, quit the tour after reportedly quitting each other yet one more time.

Good riddance, says I. While TFF would have been a neat fit with Hall and Oates as retro-'80s pop icons, the Funk Brothers proved to be a more natural, and sexier, pairing in the soul department. Maybe too good. You could say that the 12-piece orchestra was stuck in Motown's heyday, but it would fall on deaf ears.

Audience hit

Veteran soul musicians all, the Funk Brothers, happy purveyors of the best-loved Detroit and Philadelphia soul, connected immediately with the audience with a string of hits including Rock Me, Marvin Gaye's Let's Get It On, Your Love Lifts Me (Higher and Higher) and Ain't No Mountain High Enough. The hour-long set was like travelling back 30 years with Diana Ross, Tammy Terrell, Marvin Gaye and The Temptations all on one stage.

Now who's going to argue with a lineup like that? For my money, the Funk Brothers were too good to open.


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