Yes, Hanson are still around. And on Friday night at New York City's Gramercy Theater, as they debuted their new album Shout It Out (out June 8) live, the Tulsa, OK, brothers showed what keeps them -- and their fans -- ticking 13 years after "MMMBop" stormed the world's pop charts: Love. Lots of it.
The 130-minute show (the last in a sold-out five-night run, in which Hanson played each of their albums track-by-track) was a warm, fuzzy pop-rock bear hug -- and it brought together a whole bunch of folks: live video was streamed in over 93 countries; the venue was packed with young girls and their boyfriends and/or parents (some of whom waved flags from their native countries, including Germany and Australia); the band's extended family and even a group of nuns showed up, too. That's right: Jesus' right-hand gals, dressed in black tunics, singing and dancing along.
Indeed, Hanson are nice, nice boys. In fact, the most offensive part about the concert was when singer/pianist Taylor Hanson stopped to thank the band's "badass" tour crew.
The show was all happy, happy, joy, joy -- and the music was its embodiment.
When Taylor (the 27-year-old all-American dreamboat, in a red ranch-hand shirt, blue jeans, and black bandana), guitarist Isaac Hanson (the 29-year-old dapper one, in a suit, vest, and red tie), and Zac Hanson (the 24-year-old cute younger bro behind the drums) walked onstage, the crowd's screams hit a I've-never-heard-anything-this-loud-at-any-show-in-my-entire-life level. But they quickly silenced as Taylor began pounding out the choogling piano of Shout It Out opener "Waiting for This," flinging his boyish blonde hair, side-stepping, and flashing his wide smile to the ecstatic girls upfront, instructing them to "Shout it out, shout it out!!!"
Hanson was joined by a five-piece horn section, all dressed in black Blues Brothers suits, and a bass player and guitarist/percussionist in the shadows. Their addition helped flesh out Shout It Out highlights like the disco-inflected jam "And I Waited," the big band blast "Make It Out a Live," and "Thinkin' 'Bout Somethin'," a hyper-upbeat Michael Jackson-esque groove with a slick guitar solo from Isaac.
As a whole Shout it Out's sound can be linear and formulaic, but Hanson's energy, charm, and pure joy onstage maintained the momentum. On "Carry You There" the 10-piece band built a gospel-style sing-along, with the nuns clapping in the rafters and crowd stomping the floor. The scene could have been mistaken for a wild Young Life rally.
Even the slow ballads were uplifting: On "Me Myself and I" the Hanson bros sang three-part melodies to tell a story of overcoming obstacles and holding their heads high.
The best track, though, was Shout It Out's second single, "Give a Little" -- and it sounded even better the second time.
"We didn't do so good on a couple songs, so we're going to redo them," Zac explained, following a brief encore of non-Shout tracks like a cover of the Blues Brothers' "Shake It" and Three Dog Night's "Never Been to Spain." "This is the first time we've played most of these songs from the new album."
Like most the Shout tracks, "Give a Little" was instantly catchy, but it was the most accessible of the bunch. It opened with a snappy electric guitar riff before the band exploded into a rhythmic groove of tambourines and maracas, a slashing rhythm guitar, and lead saxophone. "Put your hand on my hips / Wrap your arms around her body / Let your body lose control," sang Taylor.
"Oh my God! This is exactly how all their babies are made," exclaimed one fan, referring to the seven children the Hanson brothers (who are all married) have between them. And if that was too risqué, Hanson then closed out the show with a family-friendly, PG moment: by singing their mom (who was sitting in the crowd with Pop Hanson) a spirited "Happy Birthday."