The inexorable movement of time came to a halt Tuesday night at the Durham Performing Arts Center with rock royals Daryl Hall and Todd Rundgren traversing their careers and multiple genres before a near capacity crowd of mostly empty nesters wearing a variety of classic concert Ts including Utopia.
The stop in Durham, N.C., was included in the third leg of Hall’s first solo run in more than a decade and in support of the 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee’s solo Legacy Recordings retrospective BeforeAfter. Rundgren, a fellow Rock Hall of Famer (2021), childhood pal and one-time record producer for Hall & Oates opened the show as Hall’s special guest.
The 2,700-seat venue was the perfect place to witness the evolution of two musical masters who created songs that were the musical bedrock of a generation. Now at 74 and 75 respectively, Rundgren and Hall have reimagined their individual catalogs sans constraints, or apologies.
The result was a careening three-hour excursion through hits, hidden album tracks and songs by artists they like and admire. Musically, the lane shifts included the obvious rock, but also jazz, blues and classic-era Stax recordings.
The Daryl’s House Band was up to the task and backed both artists. The musicianship was obvious, but equally impressive was the amount of stamina required from drummer Brian Dunne, musical director and guitarist Shane Theriot, percussionist Porter Carroll Jr., keyboardist Eliot Lewis, bass player Klyde Jones and multi-instrumentalist Charles DeChant, who played in the original Hall & Oates band and delivered radiant solos.
The tour has included stops at legendary venues including New York City’s Carnegie Hall and the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee, but the audience proximity at the edge of the Mildred & Dillard Teer Stage at DPAC brought a heightened level of energy to the performers.
The multigenerational audience was appreciative including concert pals Stephen Corbin, 31, and Terry Bonenstein, 69, who have seen 47 concerts together in 2022. Bonenstein was frequently on his feet reliving the originals while Corbin was feeling nostalgic about the ’70s rock his dad introduced to him as a teenager. Everyone found their personal groove.
Rundgren plunged into the opener “Real Man” wearing a vibrant gold and crimson jacket with a pattern of rooster plumage, which seemed appropriate as he worked the stage strutting side to side with a hand-held mic. His performance was all rock swagger with a wink at the epoch behind his shades.
Without a guitar, his hands were busy, a quasi-conductor, theatrical and interpretive into “Love of the Common Man” and “It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference” before crowd pleaser “We Gotta’ Get You a Woman.”
He lost the jacket and made a joke about his absent green guitar “Foamy” before strapping his main axe of the night. “I call it Pearly,” Rundgren announced to the assembled. “I’m not going to call it Whitey, we have enough problems with that and Marjorie Taylor Greene.”
A gifted guitarist and acclaimed producer, Rundgren soared through “Buffalo Grass,” “I Saw The Light,” a blistering, blues-tinged “Black Maria” and “Unloved Children.” The first ovation of the night followed “Hello It’s Me,” with Rundgren scatting effortlessly over the audience singalong.
His version of “Sometimes I Don’t Know What to Feel” felt even more poignant with the passing of time. He emerged from the lament with The Impressions/Curtis Mayfield’s “I’m So Proud,” The Miracles/Smokey Robinson’s “Ooo Baby Baby,” Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You,” which spotlighted Rundgren’s affinity for jazz improvisation, and finally “The Want of a Nail” with intricately locked beats between Dunne on drums and Theriot on guitar.
After a 20-minute set break, Hall took the stage and made it feel like home with a backdrop that resembled the set of Hall’s award-winning web-series-turned-TV show “Live from Daryl’s House,” where he collaborates and has conversations with musical guests. Hall is also a successful venue owner with “Daryl’s House,” a restored live music hall in Pawling, New York.
Even his guitar strap was emblazoned with “Live From Daryl’s House.”
Dressed in black, dark glasses with a plume of platinum blond hair, Hall looked the part of modern-day Renaissance man confidently moving from guitar to grand piano to keyboard.
The set was a satisfying mix of Hall & Oates standards, Hall’s solo compositions and personal favorites built around the premise of BeforeAfter, a 30-track collection compiled and sequenced by Hall. The retrospective album spans his five solo records from 1980’s Robert Fripp-produced Sacred Songs through 2011’s Laughing Down Crying, which was co-produced with T-Bone Wolk, who died before the album was released. The project also includes six never-released tracks from the “Daryl’s House” series.
Welcomed with a standing ovation, Hall started with the 1986 “Dreamtime,” from his Three Hearts in the Happy Ending Machine record. Telling the crowd, “I like this room. This is a good room.” It got even better.
He went into Hall & Oates “It’s Uncanny” and then the percussion-driven “Problem With You (Bone’s Last Ride)” from Laughing Down Crying. Philadelphia’s native son followed with “I’m In A Philly Mood” and then leaned into “Cab Driver,” with an inspired saxophone solo from DeChant.
Hall wasn’t making excuses when he told the crowd, “Thank you for supporting this concept, you do new things and move on in life” before playing “Everytime You Go Away,” which was a Hall composition that became an international hit for Paul Young in 1985.
Taking a seat at the grand piano, Hall performed “Sacred Songs” and “Babs and Babs” before stripping it down with Theriot on acoustic guitar for the Eurythmics’ “Here Comes The Rain Again.” A version of the song with co-writer and longtime Hall friend Dave Stewart is included on BeforeAfter. At the end of the riveting live performance, Hall told the audience, “A good song is a good song.”
He concluded the set with Hall & Oates favorites “Sara Smile” and “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” which had the audience on their feet and dancing in the aisles of DPAC on all three levels.
With that kind of enthusiastic response, no one was leaving without an encore. Hall didn’t disappoint and returned with Rundgren.
It’s what some fans had been waiting for all night: Seeing the two legends, friends and tourmates together, the natural rapport and obvious respect between them.
Rundgren joked, “We are like Captain and Tennille!”
Hall piped up, “Which one am I?”
Rundgren responded, “You’re the Captain.”
With Rundgren on a stool and Hall at the keyboard, the pair effortlessly blended vocals on the Hall & Oates’ hit “Wait For Me” and then went into the Rundgren standard “Can We Still Be Friends,” which is also featured on Hall’s record.
“One broken romance after another,” quipped Rundgren.
The pair have known each other since growing up in Philadelphia and used the next song to talk about those days and a local bar band they both admired as teenagers, before singing The Soul Survivors 1967 “Expressway To Your Heart.”
A retrospective can be tricky: walking the line between the breadth and creative engine behind a solo career balanced with worldwide acclaim as a top-selling duo, but Hall pulled it off. He provided context and infused each song with an appropriate level of emotional weight that was believable and drawn from experience.
Hall appeared genuinely appreciative of the response, making the final song of the night resonate as he sang the line from the Hall & Oates classic, “You make my dreams come true.”