July 29 – July 31, 2022
If you were a Hanson fan in 1997, you probably know they released a documentary of their promo tour on VHS, called Tulsa, Tokyo, And The Middle of Nowhere. If you were anything like me, you probably watched it 100 times or more and even still, 25 years later, can quote most of it – especially when redwood trees are nearby. The documentary opens and closes with footage from a performance at The Beacon Theater in NYC, and most of their commentary was filmed in the lobby. So when the chance finally came for me to see them at that same venue 25 years later, you better believe I was determined to make it happen! And with the NYC show being on a Sunday, it only made sense to make a whole weekend of it and do Boston and Hampton Beach as well.
Getting to Boston was not the experience I anticipated it to be. I had booked an afternoon flight and was supposed to land around dinner time. Instead, a 3-hour weather delay left me subject to Southwest employees wandering around BNA in shark costumes while blasting “Baby Shark”. Once we finally took off, everything went smoothly and I made it to the hotel just in time to get a good night’s sleep. This was another balcony show, so we moved our original dinner plans to show day and I’m so glad I didn’t have to miss out. We went to this incredible New Orleans-inspired restaurant called Buttermilk and Bourbon. I tried a raw oyster for the first time (yum!), and we all shared some tapas. It was easily one of the best meals of my life.
Thanks to traveling with Hoogle herself (our affectionate name for Katie, the brains behind Hansonstage, a.k.a Hanson-Google, thus Hoogle), I knew that since my last leg of shows, Hanson had added “Dressed In Brown Eyes” to the set list, featuring John Calvin Abney on harmonica. This started suspiciously after I mentioned on Hanson.net that I was hoping to hear it, but I digress. Knowing these were JCA’s last shows with the band, I had hope that I’d get to hear it at least one of them. I lucked out, and got to hear it at all three. It’s one of my favorite songs of CBIB and was so fun to dance to live. Zac continued his streak of winning solos by playing yet another new-to-me-on-this-tour song, “The Ballad of Seymour Better Times”. Despite my argument with Isaac about “River” in Birmingham, (and the other Holly’s similar argument in Raleigh), he stuck to his guns and played it again that night. Of important note: he did change it up at all but one of the shows in between, including one night where he finally played a song off Green. Taylor stuck with “Save Me”, which didn’t surprise me as that seems to be on brand this tour.
What did surprise me though was when a friend grabbed a picture of the set list. I learned two things that night: First – “River” was on the set list, proving that Isaac’s voting system is a rigged election after all. Second – rather than “Save Me”, Taylor had “Truth” listed as his solo – followed by a full band cover of “With A Little Help From My Friends”. Despite wishing they had made better (imo) set list decisions, I had a great time at this show. The energy was high and Hanson seemed to be having as much fun as the crowd. The balcony offered some fun views of people watching, which I love to do during songs like “Where’s The Love” and “MMMBop”.
After sleeping in for awhile in Boston, we made the quick trip up to New Hampshire. One of the few parking spaces available happened to be right in front of the Isaac/Zac bus. We ended up beating our friends by a few minutes, so we sat in the car waiting for them so we could all go grab lunch together. A few minutes before our friends showed up, we saw Taylor drive by in his bus. The natural response to this was to wait around and watch him attempt to park in the very tight, very full parking lot. We waited around mostly for entertainment, but also because there was a legitimate concern that we might need to move our car out of his way. About a half hour later, and with the help of some beach-going passersby, he succeeded with no damage to any vehicles. (Personally, I kept debating whether I should help or stay out of the way, and I opted for the latter.) He made a joke about there being a crowd even for the parking, to which my friend responded “well I wasn’t sure if you were going to be able to do it, but you did!” Taylor quickly quipped back, “well there’s only one way; you either do it or you do it.”
For this show, I was in the ADA section with my friend, which was set past where the stage ended on Isaac’s side. However, because of the angle they had it at, we still had a great view of all three guys, just from the side. I am often asked, “don’t they know you by now?” and honestly, I never quite know how to answer. I never want to assume anything, although Zac has made a few comments here and there that lead me to believe he does recognize me. Taylor I’m a little unsure of, and Isaac has done quite the opposite to the point where I’ve been tempted to tell him it’s my first show just to see if he believes me. But that suddenly changed this weekend and now I’m slightly convinced he’s out to spite me. Because of where we were in the venue, I don’t think any of them saw my friend and I… and this time Isaac played “Hand In Hand” for his solo, sans vote. But then, at the end of the show, he jumped down off the stage to give a kid his guitar pick, then as he attempted to head backstage he accidentally wound up stuck inside the ADA section. He finally figured out how to get out, but just before leaving he stopped, looked directly at my friend and I, said “thank you” and waved.
We waited out by the bus to get their autographs. All three eventually came out, and I managed to get them all to sign a journal I had made documenting all the set lists from my first 76 shows. I didn’t tell them what they were signing though, because there were a lot of people at the bus, so instead I used what little time I had to put in a song request with each of them. My theory about Isaac spiting me continues, because as he was signing my journal, I asked if there was any chance he could play “Greener Pastures” the following night. He responded “oooh!” in an excited tone, but then he looked me in the eye and immediately shifted his tone and said “not likely.” Zac was next, and I asked if he could play “World Goes Round”. Of the three of them, he had the most assuring response. Finally, I asked Taylor if he could play “Truth”. He hesitated and said “maybe”, but then my friend called him out and said we knew it was on the set list for Boston. He confirmed we were right, but I still left with the impression that we probably wouldn’t be hearing it.
New York City
Being a lifelong Hanson fan and seeing them as often as I do is such a weird and unique experience, it makes it so hard to describe. I’m just a few weeks older than Taylor, which means I’ve literally grown up with them over the past 25 years. Back in the height of their fame, they seemed so untouchable, and now they’re so approachable. There are moments where they feel like any other band that I’m going to see live. There are moments they feel like annoying siblings who seem to know exactly which buttons to push. Similarly, I can make fun of them all I want but all defenses are up once someone from the “outside” makes a joke at their expense. Sometimes they’re the weird para-social, almost-acquaintance who asks when they will be seeing you again, and then even still every once in awhile they’re that same untouchable idol you had at 14 years old. The New York show was somehow every single one of these experiences.
Come solo time, I was of course curious to see if any of them would play the songs I had requested the night before. Zac was first, and while he didn’t play “World Goes Round”, he did at least play a song off Blue, choosing “Wake Up” as his solo. And then there was Isaac. Remember how I said I think he’s out to spite me? He came out for his solo, then looked directly at me (I was front row center) and announced “I’m going to call an audible on this.” He then asked his guitar tech to get a capo ready (implying he knew what he was about to play), and did the vote again. But this time he threw “Lonely Again” into the mix right between “Deeper” and “River” – and he barely even gave it a full second before announcing “River” as the supposed winner. Later that night, guess which one we saw on the set list? Sure enough, “Lonely Again.”
As much as it might sound like I gripe about the set lists choices, I’d still rather hear a least-favorite or over-played single than hear nothing at all. But this night, hearing all the old school singles hit different; I was finally hearing them in the same venue I watched on that tiny TV screen so long ago. Even for being my first time stepping foot in the building, there was so much nostalgia, and I noticed Taylor having a few moments where I assume he was feeling the same. Every once in awhile after a song, he’d take a beat, close his eyes, and just stand still soaking it in.
When it was time for Taylor’s solo, he sat at the piano, so I fully expected another night of “Save Me”. After all, “Truth” is a guitar song. However, it turns out he’s converted “Truth” into a piano song and I’m so glad he did. It was absolutely gorgeous and so much better than I had expected, and even better than the album version. At the very end of the song, Isaac and Zac came back out and joined in on their instruments, adding some harmony. Then, they immediately went into the “With A Little Help From My Friends” cover. It was a natural flow and brought me back to my youth group days where we’d throw our arms around each other and sing this song (without the references to getting high). Rest assured, no amount of singing out of tune will make me walk out on Hanson, although they sounded pretty perfect to me. When it ended, I watch him have another one of those soaking it in moments. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, held it, and then I saw him whisper to himself, “okay” before letting it out.
I often get asked if I ever get tired of seeing the “same show” over and over. The short answer is no. The longer answer is that it’s not the same show over and over. Every night is different. There are big and small set list changes, the venue changes, the crowd changes. And with that, the energy and atmosphere change, making each one a unique experience. Sometimes you’ll catch Zac laughing at your bad dance moves. Sometimes you’ll roll your eyes as Isaac changes his solo to a song you don’t love. And sometimes you’ll notice Taylor having a moment. Naturally, some nights will be more memorable than others and this will definitely be one of those. After all, it was a New York dream on a New York night.