Music legend John Oates has taken his Rock & Soul sound back to basics. This particular chilly evening, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer is performing like a troubadour at Eddies Attic in downtown Decatur, Ga, completely stripping down his melodic, soulful pop/rock past as one half of the massively successful duo Hall & Oates in favor of revisiting his love for roots music.
Oates recently performed two evening shows simultaneously at Eddies Attic, pouring his appreciation for Americana music and Delta blues into a 110-minute set. Long gone are both his signature thick mustache and the long, dark curly hair.
The musicians deep admiration for veteran blues musician Mississippi John Hurt laid an extraordinary template for the evening. Joking that he completely forgot his set list, Oates loyalty to his musical lineage gave his organic live show its refreshing ambiance. The New York-born hitmaker opened with Stagger Lee, When Carolina Comes Home Again (the first of several tunes he performed that were co-written along with Jim Lauderdale) and another Hurt cover Spike Driver Blues.
Percussionist Johnny The Clock Richardson and guitar virtuoso Guthrie Trapp joined Oates on-stage periodically, playing an array of bluegrass, folk, country, soul, and gospel tunes. Clearly embracing his comfortable element, an extremely interpersonal and delightful Oates kept reiterating how the intimate venue was a great place to perform.
The end result was an infectious live music experience, full of cheers, handclapping flash mobs, an audience singalong, and some dancing. Oates, who graduated with a degree in journalism from Temple University, crooned with a tranquil and soothing essence. At the same time, the Philadelphia native who now lives between Colorado and Nashville belted out soulful, husky (sometimes breathy) wails to match his crisp plectrum strums caressing the strings.
Oates sat stage front the entire evening, emulating aVH-1 Storytellers-like format. He shared a few stories about working with a plethora of musicians and gave details about what inspired some of his songs. An architect for successful musical partnerships, Oates shared more songs he co-wrote with Lauderdale (the lush Let Her Come to You), Grammy-winning musician Keb Mo (the harmonically stellar Edge of the World), OneRepublics Ryan Tedder (Stone Cold Love) and Nathan Paul Chapman (the inspirational Pushing a Rock Uphill).
Subsequent fillers during Oates performance were the moody All I Am and the romantic Promise Aint Enough. As to be expected, a few Hall and Oates classics were given a jam band treatment. Maneater, You Make My Dreams, and Out of Touch were all done with a boogie woogie flavor. Shes Gone closed the show as a one man encore. Oates reappeared for another encore: the spirited Here Am I, Lord Send Me.
Four decades into his storied career, Oates can still electrify a crowd and bring good feelings to music. Whats even more beautiful is seeing how the extraordinary musician still prides himself on delivering performances that both please his audience and pay homage to his musical forefathers.
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