How Bad Can It Be?: “Live from Daryl’s House”

Let it be said, for starters, that Daryl Hall has a really nice house. It’s a rambling old place, somewhere in rural Pennsylvania. He needs to do something with the landscaping — the place is set way back from the road, on a hill, surrounded by a huge, bare open lot, and like a lot of mini-mansions it looks like it fell out of the sky — but the interior is beautiful; lots of exposed brick and beam, warm, dark wood tones, comfortably cluttered and tastefully appointed. In the web show “Live from Daryl’s House,” we don’t see much more of the place than the rec room-slash-home studio (of which more later) and the massive eat-in kitchen, but it looks like a gorgeous blend of traditional and modern. In one, Hall mentions that the basic structure dates back to the 18th Century; the entire house has been extensively remodeled and relocated.

Not unlike Daryl Hall’s face, actually. If you haven’t paid much attention to Hall & Oates lately — and let’s face it, why should you? — you may be surprised to note that Daryl has… well, he’s had some work done. The eye job is the most obvious change, but a side-by-side comparison shows an odd lengthening of the chin, as if all his facial features have migrated slightly northward. It might be a face-lift gone awry, or a bone-distorting disease like acromegaly; in any case, if this keeps up, Daryl Hall will eventually resemble Rondo Hatton.

My first concert was a Hall and Oates show, back in the ’80s, before Daryl began his slow metamorphosis into the Creeper. I hitched a ride with my friend Stu to a hockey rink in the desolate ass-end of Massachusetts for one of the shows on the Big Bam Boom tour. I only went because I wanted to see the opening act (I was a music snob even then), but the show was a perfectly satisfying pop product; the band was tight and solid and consistent, bopping along like a pizza-parlor jukebox. What struck me about Daryl Hall that night, though — as in all the H&O concert footage of the period — is the disproportionate effort he was putting in. He was in constant nervous motion, bouncing and mugging and shimmying beneath his extravagant mullet, oversinging and overselling every song, trying to inject a streetwise jive into the material — which was pretty shopworn, even then. Occasionally, he even succeeded; but man, was he over the top.

Yeah, that’s right. Imagine that in your living room. Sucking up all the oxygen, shouting to the nonexistent back rows, exhorting you to get fired up, to party down, to put your hands together and go crazy. If that Daryl Hall showed up at your party, you’d call the cops. Now imagine being trapped in his living room for an hour, while he runs his mouth and forces you to listen to all his favorite records, laughs at you when his Great Dane humps your leg, gets in an ugly scene with his girlfriend, forgets to bring you the Pepsi he promised and won’t tell you where the bathroom is. That’s what I was imagining when, with clenched teeth, I clicked over to his Web show.

Which is why I am both pleased and astonished to report that “Live from Daryl’s House” is utterly charming. Maybe Daryl Hall has simply mellowed with age, maybe he was doing fuckloads of coke back in the ’80s and ’90s, maybe he’s finally getting enough ketchup in his diet; whatever the cause, whatever the cure, Overbearing Daryl is nowhere to be found. The Daryl Hall on display here is affable, generous, at ease in his home and in his own skin. He’s still a bit of a goofball, and he’s not above hamming it up for the cameras, but he seems, at last, to have found his “off” switch. He is, in short, an ideal host.

And that’s exactly what the show requires. It embodies the offhand delight of a group of friends gathered in your rec room, jamming on a few songs. Provided, of course, that your rec room is equipped with a state-of-the-art sound system, more guitars on the walls than McCabe’s, and six video cameras, and your friends are cherrypicked from among the world’s top-flight session musicians and songwriters. Other than that, exactly the same.

Now, I’ll admit I’m a sucker for the format — of mashing up players from different genres and backgrounds, and finding common ground. I loved the oddball Hal Willner series Night Music, and the original iteration of MTV’s Unplugged, with Jules Shear, and even Later with Jools Holland (the latter despite the irritating presence of, well, Jools Holland). “Live from Daryl’s House” doesn’t go quite as far afield as its predecessors — I watched one full episode, featuring the Bacon Brothers, and snippets of the others, and the guests tend towards AAA stalwarts like K.T. Tunstall, Nick Lowe, and the guy from Gym Class Heroes. But if the web show doesn’t yield anything quite as revelatory as the Residents dancing with Conway Twitty, it is good fun nonetheless — in part, precisely because of its relative lack of ambition.

There are no bullshit interview segments, no attempts to theorize or contextualize the musical meetings as they go on. What you get instead are quirky little fly-on-the-wall moments, the stuff of a working musician’s life — of everyone’s life, really: people bitch about the weather and the traffic on the drive down; Kevin Bacon plays with Daryl’s cats; Daryl teases his sister; Zev Katz shares his chili recipe. The musicians fumble and sweat over complex riffs, talk shop, forget not to curse for the camera, swap local stories. At one point Daryl gives a surprising potted history of the celebration and suppression of Christmas in colonial America. Everybody is relaxed and funny.

There’s precious little showboating. For all that he’s the name in the title, Daryl is unfailingly generous with the spotlight; the emphasis is on gang vocals, passing around the circle from mic to mic. Longtime H&O and Saturday Night Live bandmember T-Bone Wolk takes the sidekick role, playing leads and throwing spazzy guitar-poses such that you wonder how he doesn’t fall off his stool. The real revelation of the clips I sampled was the Bacon Brothers; God bless them and their rock ‘n’ roll dreams, they always seemed like a bit of a punchline, but they prove they’re no Dogstar. It’s rowdy; it’s high-spirited; it’s got all the finesse of a sharp stick in the eye, but everybody’s having a good time. Not essential viewing, perhaps, and certainly not cutting-edge — but “Live from Daryl’s House” is a hell of a lot more fun than it has any business being.

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  • hemisphire

    Please share – who was the opening act you went to see?

  • http://barefootmailmen.blog.com CSR

    I love the show, too, and have discovered artists I didn't know (Nick Lowe, KT Tunstall) and some great old soul songs covered by DH and guests. Weirdly, the one guest he seemed not all that comfortable with (he usually praises the guests to the skies) was . . . John Oates.

    I attended a recent concert of theirs, and it was very good. At the end, Daryl Hall mentioned Live From Daryl's House. No mention was made of Oates's solo record, which I thought was an odd omission.

  • http://jackfear.blogspot.com Jack Feerick

    That's kind of an odd story, actually: the scheduled opening act was Big Country, for whom I had a major boner at the time—but for whatever reason, they left the tour a couple of days before it hit Massachusetts. I never did end up seeing them, and now I never will.

    They were replaced by another band, one already semi-famous around Boston: perhaps you've heard of them—'til tuesday? About two weeks before the release of “Voices Carry,” no less. So yeah, not too disappointed, in the long run.

  • http://jackfear.blogspot.com Jack Feerick

    Well, let's face it—what is Daryl Hall supposed to say to John Oates at this point? “Hey, I'm a longtime fan! Love your stuff!”? Frankly, Hall having Oates on his web show is kind of like going to the prom with your sister; no matter how pretty she is, you're only with her because you couldn't get a real date.

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    This has been internet fodder for years, so I know I'm not getting any more yardage with this ball, but apparently Daryl feels Oates is just so much musical afterbirth he's been saddled with all these years… Afterbirth with majestic, consummate mustache, but nonetheless, just ego-drenching placenta.

  • http://www.ricksaunders.blogspot.com/ Rick

    Try episode 15 with Company of Thieves.

  • breadalbane

    Major props for finding a way to reference Rondo Hatton, Garrison Keillor and The Residents in the same post!

  • Elaine

    HEY. I like Dogstar! I think that girl's voice is awesome.

    Wait, no, that was Jagstar. Nevermind.

  • Arlene Johnson

    Daryl Hall's house that you are referring to in Pennsylvania is incorrect information, it is near Millbrook, New York. Live From Daryl's House is addicting. He is a genius!

  • Arlene Johnson

    Daryl Hall's house that you are referring to in Pennsylvania is incorrect information, it is near Millbrook, New York. Live From Daryl's House is addicting. He is a genius!

  • audrianne in detroit

    jack,who are you anyway? what gives you any credibility at all to comment on anyone? it's always apparent that folks like you are way too full of yourselves and the need to impose your opinions on others just proves jealousy. what's YOUR house like and WHO VISITS YOU TO SHARE MUSIC?

  • http://jackfear.blogspot.com Jack Feerick

    Hi, Audrianne! Glad you enjoyed my positive review of “Live From Daryl's House”! I look forward to reading YOUR weekly column. Be sure to keep me posted on when that starts happening!

    (Did I do that right?)

  • Jim M.

    In my opinion, it's hard to be too critical of someone who posts lots of interesting live music on the Web for free consumption. Long live – “Live From Daryl's House”.

  • Jim M.

    In my opinion, it's hard to be too critical of someone who posts lots of interesting live music on the Web for free consumption. Long live – “Live From Daryl's House”.

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  • paganbethie

    Although you seemed to try to pull your foot out of your mouth in the end, I find your long winded version of verbal diarrhea to be as ignorant of musicality as a donkey. For being a self proclaimed ‘music snob’ your lack of understanding of the roots, of what I’m sure it is you listen to today, is appalling. I’m sad in my soul for you, to have seen a group of amazing and innovative musicians live and to come away with nothing more than whining and criticism.
    Do you have any idea what those men you saw that day have created? How many musicians have been influenced? The fact that he face of music changed forever that day in the elevator?
    As far as your criticism of Tommy Wolk, it was so far off the mark that it’s almost not worth the effort of placing my fingers to the keys, however I happen to have a few minutes. He is a legend. He was a walking encyclopedia of musical knowledge as well as an extraordinary musician. He was the most humble, kind and talented person that I have ever met. You criticize his styling but obviously didn’t bother to use q-tips that month because you are either tone deaf or stone deaf.

  • reiner

    hey bo peep checkout diane birch singing fire escape on live from daryls house… enjoy….

  • http://www.catdiarrhea.org Cat Diarrhea

    Excellent! Great article, I already saved it to my favourite,

  • http://www.catdiarrhea.org Cat Diarrhea

    Excellent! Great article, I already saved it to my favourite,

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NF5UFH32BR4YGRVLX54GXXMP4M Rusty R

    Daryl’s house is in Dutchess County New York not “somewhere in rural Pennsylvania”.  If Daryl Hall had plastic Surgery, as the article is rumoring, than his surgeon is the worst in the world at removing wrinkles.

  • Anonymous

    Well, I can’t say what I think about ‘jack feerick’s ‘review” of Daryl Hall’s career and web show. If I did, I’d violate the rule of supporting knowledge. That rule, if the reader is not familiar with it, is that people who review ‘things’ – literature, music, acting, etc. mostly lack the knowledge (skill) on which to base the review. So we get what everyone has. An opinion. However, because these reviewers get paid, the, in their minds, rise to be experts. IF the “reviewer” could actually DO that which he/she is “reviewing”, he/she would be doing it, rather than giving us their opinion!

    Having said that, I have enjoyed Hall and Oates music for the duration of their careers. I was delighted to discover this web gem, which has now gone to that other, older, media outlet called television. Don’t worry, younger generation, you can still pull it in on your 21st Century walkie talkie – telephone – hand held pc..or Apple.

    For me, it has offered a great viewing and auditory look into a bunch of kick ass younger musicians who appreciate the chops put in by those who broke ground for them – and the elders who appreciate the younger gifted musicians who come to play.

    Besides the oft pointed out geographic relocation several hundred miles to the Southwest that Feerick perpetrated on Hall’s house, he also missed it on the ‘house” band. Yes, they ARE all “world class musicians” (I think. I only play the mountain dulcimer, and badly), BUT they also constitute the “house” band for most, or all, of the recording years of Hall and Oates. Not JUST world class, these folks created the “sound” of the blue eyed soul that epitomize “Hall and Oates”.

    Which takes me to my only “gripe” about “Live From Daryl’s House”. WHO ARE THESE GUYS!???? We’re never introduced!! By listening, one can learn that the long haired reed player is Charlie, one of the drummers is Brian…and a master of all strings is the late, great T-Bone Wolk, who seems to have been a muse to Daryl, and the “out there’ spiritual centering guy (and creator of the back up sandwich) for the entire personage. Who are the keyboardists? Who is the other drummer? A kick ass guitar player appears after T-Bone’s sad death, who seems to be a long time member. But, who is he?

    Finally, IMHO, one of the reasons these guys sound so tightly woven is that they ARE!!! They’ve been playing and recording together for over 30 years..they kNOW before the next guy plays. Their harmony is PERFECT!! It is a joy to watch the show…sometimes over and over again.

    Now, if Daryl would introduce them for the recognition they deserve~!~!~!

  • swimnan

    Holy cow,Jack. You should be so lucky to have so much hair,and have one of the best voices in America.Let’s not even mention being a musical and poetic genius,and still has thousands of ladies dreaming about him,in even in his Sr. years. Good God..he writes songs with no more effort that it takes the average person to drive to the mall. Maybe he’s had botox,or whatever. Showbiz is like that.
    He could easily rest on his laurels,but he’s a musician. It’s in his soul. His music is as delicious as he is.

  • http://jackfear.blogspot.com Jack Feerick

    You know, we have a site stats tool that allows us to see what searches people use that lead them to Popdose. And *somebody* — in fact, several somebodies — came to the site today via a Google search using the term “daryl hall facelift.”

    Now, I’m not saying it was you. But then again, I’m not saying it wasn’t; it is about three years to the day since this article went live, after all, and it doesn’t get a whole of traffic any more. But if nothing else, it’s obvious that I’m not the only one who’s noticed.

    And thanks for reminding me that I need a haircut.

  • http://jackfear.blogspot.com Jack Feerick

    You really don’t express yourself very well in writing, do you? I guess that’s why you feel the need to bash me. You must just be jealous of my ease with critical prose, which fills you with a neurotic drive to tear down what I create, knowing you could never do it half as well.

    (And for the record, I’ve been a working musician on and off since I was 16; I’ve played more gigs than you’ve had hot dinners, kiddo, and I can my play the guitar just like a-ringin’ a bell.)

  • a fan from the early days

    lol…well, jack, guess i pricked your overly sensitive “gosh ain’t i swell and you’re not” skin, eh? I know who Darryl Hall is, Jack…I had no idea before your poorly constructed and badly researched rant against a clearly superior life force who ‘jack feerick’ was…nor do i now, other than you’re easily offended. Well, look at the other posts, Jack..seems I’m in better company, and you’re not.
    Sucks to be you. Too bad. Get over it and keep trying to find those multiple gigs you referred to.

  • http://jackfear.blogspot.com Jack Feerick

    Thanks for proving my point, even as you miss it.

  • a fan from the early days

    Who is the gay “blogger” who goes by the last name of “Perez”, who is smarmy, delusional and oppositional who gave the Miss U.S.A. more publicity than she could have warranted on her own? If you are trying to be him, you missed your mark.

    And that point i supposedly missed? I proved nothing of the kind. You see, my friend, your point was way over your own head, so how could you have known what your point even was? I certainly didn’t. Oh, no, Jack. Not over my head. The point never coalesced into serious dialogue.

  • http://jackfear.blogspot.com Jack Feerick

    I’ll spell it out, then, as if i were speaking to a tiny child. So draw near, because school is now in session.

    Your initial critique of my critique (and by the way, I actually gave “Live from Daryl’s House” a *positive* review; did you notice?) rested upon a false premise often trotted out by people who do not understand the purpose of criticism:

    people who review ‘things’ – literature, music, acting, etc. mostly lack the knowledge (skill) on which to base the review… IF the “reviewer” could actually DO that which he/she is “reviewing”,
    he/she would be doing it, rather than giving us their opinion!

    Which is obvious and patent nonsense, and betrays your utter lack of understanding of what criticism is and what it’s for.

    Criticism is more than just “an opinion.” It’s an opinion backed up with standards, and with expertise. And a critic needs to understand the work deeply, even if (like me) he expresses himself flippantly. In order to fairly judge a work of art, the critic must first determine what that art is trying to do, and then determining how well it succeeds in the attempt. There’s a hell of a lot more to it than “I liked it” or “I didn’t like it.”

    You’re under no obligation to agree, of course. But make no mistake: it’s not just an opinion, it’s a response, and your efforts to discredit the critic personally by muttering “They’re all just jealous” (also known as the argumentum ad hominem) does not invalidate the criticism in the slightest. If you have an actual counter-argument, or an actual critical response of your own, I’d love to hear it. (“I liked it fine, and Jack is just a jerk” does NOT constitute a counter-argument, BTW.)

    Criticism is something that artists do, too; In fact, the critical impulse is one of the most important things that drives musicians and artists of all kinds. They get into the arts in order to respond to the art that moves them. The entire career of Hall & Oates, in particular, is absolutely a critique, a sustained and sophisticated commentary on Motown and classic Philly soul.

    Anyway: to drive home the point that the “You’re just jealous because you could never do what Daryl does” argument is irredeemable bullshit, I did a little exercise called “flipping the script,” and jokingly asserted that the reason you’re spending all this time and effort engaging with me (in the comments of an article that is, let us not forget, three years old) is that *you* must somehow be jealous of *me.* You know: People who attack cultural criticism mostly lack the knowledge (skill) to do criticism themselves… IF you could actually DO that which you are attacking, you would be doing it, rather than giving me your opinion!

    I hope you get it now. Because whether you do or not, I’m done with you. You are either truly so rock-stupid as to not understand the basic function of criticism, or you are pretending to be stupid for alleged comic effect. Either way, you lost your chance with me when you started in with the vaguely homophobic slander.

    Here endeth the lesson.

    You’re welcome.

  • swimnan

    Male ego is a trip. Oh the power of the web search.

  • Chep

    What are the band member’s names??

  • globug

    ok. this is just my opinion, but I read you’re article and watched the film clip you put up of daryl hall and yes I am a fan of darly’s so I really didn’t care for the article. But I can see where one could get the idea where drugs could be involved here. i’m not saying he was on drugs or wasn’t. I just liked listening to him and watching him dance around. however, I took a long hard look at his chin in both eras and the only difference I see is it’s older and has
    hair on it. just sayin

  • vsark

    I thought this was ultimately a positive review of the show. Why is everyone bashing the critic? Granted there were a few sarcastic remarks against H and O but the overall impression was a good one.

  • marc

    It was a fair and balanced article.

  • Mike Solano

    Jack- go away. We have enough plastic critics jabbing at any irrelevant analysis of the way people appear. I strongly doubt you have any idea of musical talent as you base your comments on looks. Your tripe does not deserve a website and yet here I am wasting 5min to tell you that you are totally obtuse…go look that word up or watch Shawshank Redemption. Your freelance know-it-all opinions have you living in a shack where you throw stones at who or what you can`t comprehend. Please stop posting and go ask Daryl if you can be hired to take out his trash, if you are competent enough to do so. You sir are an ass.

  • http://jackfear.blogspot.com Jack Feerick

    Hi, Mike! Glad you enjoyed my positive review of “Live From Daryl’s House”! We appreciate the strong and well-thought-out opinions that obviously spring from a careful close reading of the article and a long familiarity with the author’s work! You plainly put a lot of thought into your remarks, and CERTAINLY didn’t just dash them off in a pissed-off frenzy after only half-reading the article in question. (God forbid.) Why, with comprehension skills like yours, you could be a critic yourself! Be sure to keep me posted on when your column starts running!

  • ApathyNihilism

    Great show indeed. Very happy to discover this. Whether it’s classic or new musicians/bands featured, the chemistry, vibe, and musical results are a pleasure to behold.

  • JEng

    Apart from KT Tunstall’s cover of Out of Touch, this show is really not that entertaing to me and I sat through every episode of David Sanborn’s Night Music so I have a great deal of patience and endurance. I’m not sure if Daryl Hall is really good at pretending to be a little off or if he is genuinely as he conveys himself to be on this show. I never gave much thought to Hall and Oates but now after seeing him on his show, I realize that I prefer the demeanor of Dwight Yoakum and Joe Jackson. I just think their interaction and chemistry with band members is more natural and welcoming.

    And I hope he and his family are living in modern luxury in the upstairs rooms because that whole authentic 18th century thing looks uncomfortable but maybe he is shouting out to his Ichabod Crane era ancestry.

  • JEng

    and I stayed away from the youtube video for Kiss on My List because it’s just weird for KT and Daryl Hall to be doing a duet of that song. She looks like an American Girl version of his daughter who I guess looks exactly like his wife and sang on “Talking to You is Like Talking to Myself.”