- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 19, 2003

Everyone remembers Hanson (brothers Isaac, 22, Taylor, 20, and Zac, 17) from their single “MMMBop” which played incessantly on the radio the entire summer of ‘97.

Now, six years after brief pop stardom, the trio is still together and making music. On Friday, the brothers played to an adoring sold-out crowd of mostly female fans at the Birchmere in Alexandria. The special acoustic show was part of a two-month national tour supporting the release of their CD “Acoustic Underneath.”

With their trademark long blond hair cut short and growing darker, the Hanson brothers onstage were a far cry from the three youths who ruled the pop charts in the late ‘90s. With only acoustic guitars, minimal drums, piano, and the occasional bass line as accompaniment, the dead-on three-part tenor harmonies of the brothers were able to shine through.

Hanson played a range of songs from their career. Highlights of their 90-minute, 20-song set included a soulful rendition of “With You in Your Dreams” (which featured vocal participation from the audience for the “whoa-oh’s” of the chorus) and Taylor Hanson’s solo piece, “Crazy Beautiful.” The song, dedicated to the “lovely lady” in his life, showcased his strong voice and piano playing.

A slightly lower point, however, came when Zac, the youngest Hanson, performed one of his own compositions. Among the brothers, he has the least versatile voice. But his sheer enthusiasm and pulsing piano style — reminiscent of Elvis Costello — made the song enjoyable and very entertaining overall. Isaac also took a solo turn in the spotlight, and backed solely by his acoustic guitar, came across powerfully as he plaintively apologized for being himself.

Inevitably, the time came for Hanson to play “MMMBop” and the crowd enthusiastically joined in, singing the chorus a cappella with no help from the group. The tune, amazingly, was carried to near perfection by the audience through several repeats — an awe-inspiring show of fan loyalty to a group some dismissed as mere pop fluff that demonstrated the deep, intimate connection between the band and its fans.

Also worthy of praise: the brothers’ rendition of the Bill Withers’ classic “Ain’t No Sunshine,” an excellent cover for Hanson since the group is obviously influenced by the blues. Their other cover, “Rip It Up” as performed by Little Richard, showcased the trio’s love and respect for R&B; and early rock ‘n’ roll. During the song, they extended repeats of the chorus as the audience clapped in different patterns.

The brothers ended their set with “This Time Around,” the title song from their second to last CD, released three years ago. Taylor divided the crowd in two and taught each side to sing one part of the double harmony. On that note, Hanson thanked the audience for coming out and exited the stage.

For a brief moment, the first time in more than an hour, there was complete silence. Then shouts of “one more song” and “Han-son!” — coupled with screams from adoring female fans — enticed the Grammy-nominated trio back for an encore. The band returned to the stage and performed a song from their early days as the enthusiastic crowd screamed along in unison to the lyrics. Hanson ended their show with a bang. After their exit, several girls began to sing “Happy Birthday” to Zac, who turns 18 on Wednesday.

Since their debut six years ago, the Hanson brothers have grown up to be young men and serious songwriters. But they haven’t forgotten how to write infectious pop rock. I went to this show with some trepidation: The last time I saw the band I was 10 and a huge fan. Since then, my tastes have changed. Still, I came away impressed with where Hanson has come from and where they’re headed.

Bonnie Coombs is a 16-year-old junior at South River High School in Edgewater, Md.

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