The night of the John Oates concert finally arrived! 

When I first saw it advertised, I debated about whether to buy tickets. I liked the venue, our little local theater, The Paramount. But I just wasn’t convinced I would enjoy a show by Oates without Hall. It wouldn’t be his first time to Bristol, but I had missed him back then, then being during a Rhythm N Roots Music Festival where he had performed solo acoustic work on one of the several stages throughout the weekend and my friend Denton Loving had eaten breakfast in a downtown Bristol eatery beside him, which I thought was so cool (eating breakfast with Oates) – sorry about the tangent, but it was a cool story.

For the show at The Paramount tonight, I had gone to the website at least a dozen times and had tickets in my cart but could never quite commit. There was still something about seeing one without the other that made it seem “not right,” even though, realistically, now that the famous duo of Hall & Oates had restraining orders against each other, this would likely be the only way I’d see either of them – alone, individually. The relationship had always seemed solid from the outside looking in, even though Daryl Hall’s star eclipsed John Oates’ by far in terms of popularity and notoriety when it came to their solo work. It came as a surprise to learn in November 2023, about the time these concert tickets went on sale, that Daryl Hall had issued a restraining order against John Oates because Oates had decided to sell his share of their joint business venture involving Primary Wave, an investment firm which apparently purchased a large percentage of the duo’s catalog over sixteen years ago. I worried then that Oates might use the concert as a stage to wave his banner in the fight. Months have passed, though, and Oates has remained tight-lipped about the feud with Hall. Hall has mounted his own tour for the summer, with Elvis Costello. That made me feel better about seeing the show. I didn’t want to spend my concert dollars listening to someone bash someone else instead of performing. 

While I was on the 80s Cruise recently and saw so many performers no longer with their former bandmates, it made me realize that I have a unique opportunity to see John Oates right here in Bristol. The tickets were affordable. There were still good single seats available, and I’d attend on my own. They may not be living in a “Dream World,” but I can still go and enjoy a great show. As long as there’s no negativity about the legal battle: and “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do).”

The show itself was great – not what I was expecting, but great, nonetheless. Oates played a ton of his solo stuff, none of which I was familiar with, but it was done well, and he is so incredibly talented, both as a musician and as a singer. He did have a small three-piece band playing with him, and the “unplugged” effect was tremendous, especially in that small venue with its amazing acoustics. He also played covers of some other artists’ songs, not anything that I really knew, but again, everything was aesthetically pleasing. There was only one brief barb about musical partners getting tired of each other, and even then, no real name-calling, and just a brief interlude. It wasn’t necessary. The show could have gone on without it. I was disappointed that he succumbed to the moment and made it, but at least it only happened one quick time.

What was not pleasing was the crowd around me. When did I get old and grumpy? Or maybe I just expect people to be respectful at concerts and live shows and that has now gone out of vogue? The man beside me, even though I was scrunched up away from him as far as I could get in my seat, continuously poked me in the ribs with his elbow; he was not a large man – just a man who apparently needed all his space and mine, too, in order to function throughout the show, which made me physically miserable. The woman in front of me, a botox-injected cougar with a guy looking young enough to be my son, was all about public displays of affection, taking selfies every five minutes, and snuggling up, practically curling up on his lap at one point during the show. And then, there was the loud drunk girl behind me. She and her friend talked out loud the whole show. Then she started yelling out to Mr. Oates between every song. Nothing rude, just random drunk stuff, “Damn, dude, I think I’m in love with you,” kinds of stuff. At one point, he did have to ask her to stop because he was trying to get into the presence of mind to do a serious song called “This Field Is Mine.” I really wanted to whirl around in my seat and tell her to shut up. I hoped that him asking her to let him concentrate would end her rude behavior; it did not. I was embarrassed, not for her, but for Bristol, because she was what he would remember about his show in our little town. And that’s a shame. 

He only did three Hall & Oates songs the whole evening, I think. One, from the 90’s, a very obscure one I’d never even heard. “She’s Gone,” was the next one he sang, covering the 70s. Then he said, “That just leaves one decade.” 

We all screamed, “The 80s!”

He shook his head and asked, “What was so great about the 80s?”

Several of us – including the drunk girl behind me – answered, “Everything!”

And he started naming off all the things that were bad in the 80s. Hairstyles, clothing, etc. (I’m thinking he would not be a good candidate to be asked on the 80s Cruise, for certain!) “What was great about the 80s, though,” he finally said, “was the music!” And he sang, “Out of Touch,” which has my favorite line of any Hall & Oates song, so I was thrilled to hear that one. (“Broken ice still melts in the sun.”) 

For his curtain call number, he chose an upbeat arrangement of “Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong. I started videotaping both “Out of Touch” and “Wonderful World.” Unfortunately, “drunk girl” also thought she had a great singing voice and crooned loudly, almost as loudly as Oates. It was painful and I had to stop taping. It was the first concert I went to in years where I posted absolutely no video footage. I really wish I’d had a different bunch of people around me, because the seat itself wasn’t bad at all. The show itself was pretty awesome. It was a lousy part of the crowd I was stuck in. And I will regret that for a long time to come.