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Feature Thu Nov 06 2008
Hanson: More Than MMMBop

By Lisa White

If you haven't been following Hanson since the "MMMBop" days, you'll be happy to know the adorable tween blonde threesome from Tulsa grew up to be profitable, passionate and extremely savvy business men and musicians. They've released numerous albums and DVDs, toured all across the globe, and somehow fit in enough time to all get married and spawn a few Hanson kids of their own.

Isaac, Taylor and Zac Hanson are currently on The Walk Around The World Tour, a cross-country expedition that landed in Chicago at the House of Blues November 3rd and 4th, 2008. They're promoting a new book and EP Take The Walk, the second of which tells stories of individuals taking action to fight poverty and AIDS in Africa. The unique thing about this tour is that before each show, Hanson walks a mile with fans, and for each mile a dollar is donated on each walker's behalf-by the band-to one of five causes the walker can choose from. The causes range from building a school in Africa to a partnership with TOMS shoes to provide 500 pairs of shoes to African children, all on behalf of Hanson and their fans. They also have a site where you can donate, learn more about each cause, and also register to host your own walk to help raise funds.

While many of the fans showing up at the House of Blues were active in helping Hanson with their amazing social efforts, they were first and foremost there for the music. Openers Everybody Else served up catchy west coast style pop music similar in sound to Rooney or early Phantom Planet, while second act Dave Barnes delivered a more soulful performance (like a cleaner cut John Mayer with an affinity for funk music). It was Barnes last night on the Hanson's tour, so at the end of the set Hanson came out for good old fashion pranks with Barnes and his band. It was all in good fun, and the audience could feel the camaraderie between Hanson and the artist they take on tour, giving a feeling of a family affair.

And then it was time for Hanson. Talking to the fans you could sense the excitement and joy of seeing this band, even though they may have seen Hanson 20+ times live before. When the band took the stage and opened with a cover of Sly & the Family Stone's classic "I Want to Take You Higher." The entire room bounced in unison with their hands in the air, and the floor of the House of Blues quaked under my feet. They launched directly into a song off their album Underneath called "Dancin' In The Wind" and their trademark harmonies shined. While their voices may have changed and evolved since their days in the spotlight, Hanson still has some of the best vocal harmonization in the music industry today.

Hanson went on to cover a broad range of their work, including an acoustic set with the song that introduced them to the world. Love it or hate it, that song was a bonafide pop hit, and it still elicits rapturous joy from their fans every time it's played. The set was a bit heavy on covers, but it's a forgivable offense since Hanson does a great deal of justice to the original. And the vocal talents of each brother really is exposed when they play songs that are not their own repertoire and style.

The show ended with an encore cover of AC/DC's hit "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)." Everyone sang along, Taylor Hanson couldn't stop jumping up and down despite looking like he ran a marathon from the looks of the sweat he was producing, and there wasn't a fan or a band member without a huge grin on their face.

Hanson is a band that like others I found interesting in their prime, but started to fade into my memory as the years went by. But after my night spent at the House of Blues I was not only impressed with their new spin on their old materials but also intrigued by their solid mix of soul, rock, and pop music that they are putting out these days. Hanson is a band that regardless if you enjoy their music or not, you have to respect for their longevity, their talent, their commitment to their fans, and their overall drive and passion for their music and the causes they champion in their careers and lives.

You can truly tell that Hanson loves what they do, and are gracious to the main people that give them the opportunity to still be thriving in a rough and failing industry. I'm talking about the Hanson fans. There are fans that still camp out for 12+ hours at a show and groups of girls that follow the band from city to city on tour. There is a bond between all of these people packed within the House of Blues, and it goes deeper than music. As Hanson graciously thanks all their fans at the end of the night, Isaac exclaims "It's been 15 years guys, here's to 15 more," and the crowd responds with a resounding roar of approval. Many musical acts will come to life, bear fruits of their labor, and fall to the wayside. But will Hanson still be standing 15 years from now? There is no doubt in my mind they will. They will still be releasing music, still be selling out shows, and the same fans will come together on tour, this time probably with their own children (and a new generation of Hanson fans) in tow. The Hanson community will continue to feverishly support a group of artist they dearly care about. It's the success and fandom of artist like Hanson that really make the music industry shine in a dark hour, and shows the world that music will always matter.