Hanson fans walk the walk

Lynn Saxberg
The Ottawa Citizen

Friday, December 07, 2007

You gotta hand it to Hanson for creating a tight show that overflowed with positive energy. After a decade playing together, the three brothers sure know how to rock out, as they demonstrated throughout Wednesday's concert at Bronson Centre.

With Zac bashing the drums, Isaac cranking an electric guitar and Taylor hammering the keyboards, along with a bassist and a second electric guitarist, the band dove into the anything-is-possible anthem, Great Divide. A string of similar-minded rockers from the new album, The Walk, were deployed without wasting a second.

The audience, predominantly female and under 25, surged with every power chord and squealed at the sweet harmonies created by the three sets of pipes on stage. The barrage of punchy rock songs might have become tiresome for a less enthusiastic crowd, but not these pumped-up gals.

Decibel for decibel, their voices matched the amplification of the band.

A couple of acoustic guitars and a djembe drum signalled a welcome change of pace as the brothers settled into an acoustic segment that contained a reworked version of their breakthrough hit, MmmBop. The pop-rock ditty that swept the world when the boys were barely in their teens was reinvented as a groovy campfire jam. As the band softened and reshaped the music, the crowd couldn't resist singing along, the twentysomethings relishing a rare opportunity for nostalgia by shouting at the top of their lungs and raising their phones to capture the image.

The level of devotion was impressive, especially considering it was not a sold-out show. About 600 were in attendance, which is about 200 short of a full house, but their vocal exuberance had the power of a much bigger crowd.

On stage, Isaac described them as amazing fans and thanked them for sticking it out for 10 years, not only supporting the brothers through their record-company woes and health problems, but also encouraging them as they started families of their own. (Yes, the lads are old enough to be married with kids!)

It seems Hanson fans are also doing their part to help the band make the world a better place. Inspired by a trip to South Africa and Mozambique, Hanson launched several projects to raise money and awareness for the plight of children in Africa.

One program directs the proceeds from downloaded sales of the song, Great Divide, to a hospital in South Africa. Another calls for the brothers to take a mile-long walk in each city of the tour, a pre-show ritual designed to bring attention to (For every pair of shoes purchased at, another pair goes to a child in Africa.) The brothers' support has helped -- after 37 of Hanson's mile-long walks, the company was able to make a shoe-drop of 50,000 pairs.

Intimidated by the forecast for bitter cold, Hanson decided to cancel the walk in Ottawa, mostly out of concern for fans who might camp out beforehand. In other cities, the Walk was often a barefoot excursion, in solidarity with children in Africa. But with the recent snowfall in Ottawa, navigating the sidewalks was a challenge that required winter boots, if not snowshoes.

By showtime, the brothers found out that fans took action on their own -- some did the walk without them.

"Today we were worried about the cold," Taylor said from the stage. "We said we aren't going to walk but you guys did it anyway. That's probably the coolest thing that happened so far."