Hall & Oates can’t carry the spark of their radio hits on a breezy night

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Hall & Oates at the Austin360 Amphitheater on Tuesday, May 17, 2016. Photo by Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman
Hall & Oates at the Austin360 Amphitheater on Tuesday, May 17, 2016. Photo by Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

Hall & Oates at the Austin360 Amphitheater on Tuesday, May 17, 2016. Photo by Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

Midway through Hall & Oates’ two-song encore after a 10-song main set on Tuesday night, an increasing breeze swept through the Austin360 Amphitheater, serving notice that the stormy weather on the southwestern horizon was perhaps starting to get a little too close for comfort. Maybe this was the reason that, after the 1970s and ’80s hitmaking duo delivered a one-two punch of “Rich Girl” and “You Make My Dreams,” they departed and didn’t return — even though their shows in Dallas and Houston a few days prior had included a second encore with the 1981 chart-topping singles “Kiss on My List” and “Private Eyes.”

Regardless of the cause, it wasn’t really that much of a loss. What the band’s 80-minute performance ultimately demonstrated is that while Daryl Hall and John Oates wrote some fine pop-soul songs during their heyday, their music ultimately came across better on the radio than it does onstage.

It’s not that their performance was bad, but few moments rose above a going-through-the-motions vibe. Opening with two other #1 hits from the ’80s, “Maneater” and “Out of Touch,” the duo and their five-piece backing band — guitar, bass, drums, percussion and keyboards/saxophone — delivered the hits that fans both young and old had come to hear. But in concert, they don’t seem able to reach the inspirational level of ’70s and ’80s peers who visited Austin recently, such as Fleetwood Mac last year and the Cure a few days ago.

The best moments came in a mid-set stretch that focused on the duo’s early years. They reached back to their 1973 sophomore album “Abandoned Luncheonette” for Oates’ comparatively obscure “Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song)” before Hall introduced that album’s standout “She’s Gone” by saying, “This one took us out of Philadelphia and into the world.” Initially a minor single, the track was re-released three years later after Lou Rawls had scored on the R&B charts with it. It became one of Hall & Oates’ two top-10 hits in 1976 — the other being “Sara Smile,” which smartly was placed next in the set.

Gotta have #SaraSmile at a #HallAndOates show. With help from the @austin360amp audience.

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From there, though, it was a bit of a slog to get through the ill-chosen “Do What You Want, Be What You Are,” with an overly drawn-out jam that eventually segued into the main-set closer “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do).” The amphitheater crowd, which was respectable but not close to sold-out, seemed restless as they awaited the final hits the encore would deliver. But they also didn’t seem overly disappointed when “Kiss on My List” and “Private Eyes” never arrived.

Perhaps that was partly because they’d been treated to a pretty good night out before Hall & Oates even hit the stage. It’s rare for an opening act to have a larger band than the headliner, but Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings packed quite a punch with an 11-piece lineup that featured a horn section and backup singers supporting Jones’ live-wire stage presence.

Midway through a set that ran about 40 minutes, the soul belter invited four members of the audience up onstage to groove with the band, a great gimmick that got the crowd even more into the show.

Opening for #HallAndOates: @sharonjonesandthedapkings invite crowd members onstage to dance.

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And Jones gave a heartfelt introduction to the song “Get Up and Get Out,” explaining how its message helped motivate her to bounce back from pancreatic cancer in 2013.

Kicking things off at the early hour of 7 p.m. — thus amounting to walk-in music for much of the crowd — were Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, who offered an engaging blast of energetic funk and soul to get everyone in the mood. Befitting their name, 50 percent of the six-man group consists of horn players, and they used that brass to full advantage in a 40-minute opening set.

Hall & Oates set list:
1. Maneater
2. Out of Touch
3. Did It in a Minute
4. Say It Isn’t So
5. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling
6. Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song)
7. She’s Gone
8. Sara Smile
9. Do What You Want, Be What You Are
10. I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)
Encore:
11. Rich Girl
12. You Make My Dreams


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