by Linda Ray
Tuesday, Nov. 10
Hanson were mere adorable kids, ages 11 to 16, when "MMMBop" launched an era of teen megastars, from Britney Spears to the Jonas Brothers. It was all but a foregone conclusion that they'd flame out and never attain credibility as serious, talented musicians.
In the dozen years since, they've all gotten married, had kids, lived through label tribulations worthy of indie-rock princes and taken up global social causes, à la U2.
They've also continued to write and record a respectable number of pop-rock gems, and, with a savvy assist from this millennium's technology, they've stayed tight with many of their original fans. The core of the $40-per-year Hanson Fan Club is what their management calls "lifers." The subset street team, easily recognizable at the Rialto thanks to their official T-shirts, travels to shows from all compass points, helping Hanson win new fans, one venue at a time.
It's not that hard; the biggest hurdle is the hipster sneer. Anyone who opened their minds on Tuesday night would have been awestruck by the brothers' sheer talent—for indelible pop hooks, thrilling hairsbreadth harmony, and intelligent and eventful arrangements. Their crowd-engagement skills were unparalleled, just on this side of outright pandering.
"Madeline," from the brothers' 1997 Middle of Nowhere, was voted onto the Rialto set list via an online poll. The song's lyrics featured a certified sweetheart sucker punch: "You are my 10,000 roses / and I let you go." Other highlights from the band's pan-album smörgåsbord included the 1996 MMMBop track "Sometimes," and "Get Up and Go" from 2004's Underneath.
Plans are afoot for a new Hanson release early next year, and the brothers made it clear that the current tour is a warm-up. Sample songs in Tuesday's performance, which they said was their first in Tucson, portend a huge new sound for the band. Despite the live, acoustic arrangements that muffled their power, it's easy to imagine Hanson filling arenas again with anthems like "Carry You There" and "Worlds on Fire," two of five songs available on the tour EP Stand Up, Stand Up.
Openers were the delightful Sherwood, who offered plenty of bouncy, happy harmonies of their own. Their unadulterated, charming indie pop only served to underscore the breadth of Hanson's influences and the dynamism of their arrangements.