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REVIEW: John Oates at The Dakota

Multi-genre musician John Oates, who played at The Dakota in Minneapolis, MN on November 6. Photo by David McLister.

Hall and Oates are, as the publicity states, “The most successful duo in rock history…ten #1 records…over twenty Top 40 hits”. They are enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The duo behind classic songs like “Maneater” have performed in the Twin Cities twice in recent years, but more recently their appearances have been one at a time. Just a few weeks ago, Daryl Hall appeared (with Todd Rundgren) at Mystic Lake, and now the other half of the duo, John Oates, was found last night at The Dakota.

At Hall’s concert, there was a high percentage of H&O’s hits, played pretty straight. Those expecting similar at Oates’s concert were disappointed, however. Hall and Oates songs did not appear until the last third of the set, and even these started with deeper cuts (“Promise Ain’t Enough,” “Las Vegas Turnaround,” and “Had I Known You Better Then”), rather than the well-known hits.

John Oates. Photo by Juan Patino.

Oates is on a “Song and Story” tour. At The Dakota, he sat with guitar in the center of the stage, flanked on one side by John Michel on percussion and vocals, and Nathaniel Smith on cello on the other side.

Oates has always been an aficionado of Americana, roots music, and this was on display throughout.  He reveled in displaying gems from the beginning of popular music (when first the phonograph and then the radio first made music generally and more easily available to millions), and telling their stories:  “Sitting on Top of the World” by the Mississippi Sheiks, “Spike Driver (John Henry)” by Mississippi John Hurt, “Deep River Blues” by Doc Watson, and “Miss the Mississippi and You” by Jimmy Rodgers.

The concert stayed in that spirit, but moved on to songs Oates had written or co-written of a similar style:  “Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee”, “Arkansas”, “Lose it in Louisiana”, and “Pushin’ a Rock”.  After offerings of John Prine’s “Long Monday” and Fraser and Debolt’s “Dance Hall Girls”, Oates performed some his most recent work, the excellent “Too Late to Break Your Fall” and the powerful, “Disconnected.”

At the very end of the concert, Oates indulged those waiting for H&O hits, with “She’s Gone,”

“Out of Touch,” and “Maneater” (though the last in Oates’ preferred reggae version).  Overall, the evening was not a playlist from the 80s; it was, instead, an entertaining education from one of popular music’s most important figures.

Brian Bix