- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 3, 2003

Remember when that particular golden oldie would come on the radio, and suddenly, horribly, your mom and dad would break out into the hustle or the twist or maybe just — yikes — start slow dancing in the middle of the kitchen?

It was mortifying, sure, but remember, too, how revealing it was? How it reminded you that your parents must have been young once, and all that must have entailed? Broken hearts and first kisses and favorite songs?

That’s what it was like when Daryl Hall and John Oates stepped out onto a breezy waterfront stage in Baltimore on Tuesday night and took a decidedly middle-aged and overwhelmingly female crowd on a magical mystery tour through their hits of the 1970s and 1980s.

Many of those on hand Tuesday night looked as if they might be more at home these days at a suburban PTA meeting than at a rock concert. But for a couple of glorious hours under the spacious pavilion at Pier 6, they were all teenagers and twentysomethings again, swooning to Mr. Hall’s soulful vocals on “Sara Smile.”

Mr. Hall and Mr. Oates, an MTV-sanctified duo that seemed to mint gold and platinum records in the 1980s, are touring in support of “Do It for Love,” an album that has been billed as their comeback effort and has secured the popsters’ return to the airwaves in recent months. Adult-contemporary stations around the country have been playing the title track and another single, “Forever for You.”

Many in the audience seemed familiar with the new material, but even those hearing “Man on a Mission,” and “Do It for Love” for the first time welcomed them enthusiastically — and why not? The new songs, like the earlier hits, are sparkling pop gems that marry Mr. Hall’s dazzling voice and unique phrasing to impeccable, percussion-driven guitar lines.

“Do It for Love,” which has more in common with the duo’s acoustic ‘70s sound than with the more dance-oriented later hits, is as strong, in its own way, as anything the two have ever done.

The new album, released earlier this year after a 2002 episode of VH1’s “Behind the Music” sparked renewed interest in the group, has sold well, and the return to the spotlight seemed to energize the two old friends, especially Mr. Hall.

His enthusiasm was readily apparent on the group’s old Philly-soul ballads, including the aforementioned “Smile” and the FM-radio staple “She’s Gone,” but he also seemed to relish pounding on the keyboards and bouncing around the stage for such crowd favorites as “Out of Touch” and another ‘70s chestnut, “Rich Girl.”

When he sang “we’re soul alone, and soul really matters to me,” from “Out of Touch,” the blond-tressed singer pointed to himself and smiled broadly, unabashedly acknowledging the line’s summation of his remarkable career. He even graciously accepted a peck on the cheek, midchorus, from one long-haired fan who somehow had slipped through security and skittered up onstage during “You Make My Dreams.”

Mr. Oates, who must be accustomed to stuff like this after playing alongside his sex-symbol partner since the late 1960s, seemed to brace himself for a quick peck, too, when suddenly the rogue soccer mom reconsidered, waggling her fingers instead and darting off stage right.

After delivering two hours of hits such as “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do),” “Maneater” and “Family Man,” along with surprises such as Mr. Oates’ silly-but-infectious “Phunk Shui,” from his 2002 solo album of the same unfortunate name, the band came back out for a final encore of “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” the old Sly and the Family Stone classic and a Hall and Oates concert favorite.

With a warm breeze blowing in off the harbor and Mr. Hall singing and scatting over the saxophone player’s chugging riffs, the thousands of couples in the audience danced in the aisles or swayed arm in arm — enjoying another few fond moments on memory lane before heading back home to relieve the baby sitters.

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