Hanson: Past, Present and Future

Before I begin, let’s break the stereotype. Hanson are not still 12 years old. They do not dance to tracks written by other people. They write and perform original music, like any other band you love. They just happen to have had a major hit (MMMBop) during the age of boy bands (like *NSync) that also attracted a highly female fan base. But Hanson are much more than that.

This review started out as a simple recap of three Hanson shows I recently attended. But as I continued contemplating the review and my initial notes began to form, I realized there was so much more to be expressed here. First of all, I have been a Hanson fan since 1997. My love has wained and grown over the years, through various phases of my life, but has never gone away completely. Watching these three boys (Isaac, Taylor and Zac) from Tulsa, OK grow up alongside my friends and myself was a gift. The music they make has uplifted and inspired me on numerous occasions. And to this day, fansons (that’s what us Hanson fans call ourselves) make up some of my closest friends. There is no bond like the bond of a fanson.

Isaac Hanson @ House of Blues, San Diego
September 24, 2013

On September 24th I set out for a three day Hanson adventure. The beginning night found me in San Diego at the House of Blues were I braved the general admission crowd to be third row center for the show. I wanted to channel my inner child, a throwback to the good ol’ days. The opening act, Paul McDonald, was a pleasant surprise. His melodies catchy, his command of the stage quite excellent and he really involved / connected with the audience. This was all a surprise as I’ve grown accustom to not enjoying Hanson’s choice of an opening act over the years.

Then it happened, Hanson was onstage. They started off with a track from their latest album, Anthem, entitled “Fired Up” which immediately flowed into “In The City” (my favorite track from This Time Around). I was transported to another realm, a place without stress, fear, and worry. My sense of inner calm was breathtaking as I let go of all my inhibitions and began to rock out. I remembered why I chose to work in the music industry. I remembered why music heals. But most importantly, I remembered why Isaac, Taylor and Zac have been in a successful band for 21 years. The answer? Because these men are extremely talented musicians with a gift for writing pop/rock tunes that make you wanna dance your cares away.

And really that’s the theme of this whole piece. Hanson are a force to be reckoned with. They send a positive message through their lyrics, their actions, and their continued dedication to their craft. They’ve recently released their sixth studio album, Anthem, which Taylor told the crowd was about how a song takes on different empowering meanings to each of us to become like an anthem. And at the same time, it’s a testament to the band’s continued work – their own personal anthem. This is a band that’s no stranger to the struggle that is the music industry. They’ve been releasing album’s through their own independent label, 3CG, for 10 years now and surviving off their ever dedicated fan base.

San Diego’s set continued on to include a vast array of songs from the Hanson catalogue (“I’ve Got Soul,” “And I Waited,” etc.), taking breaks to do a couple acoustic tunes (i.e., “With You In Your Dreams”) and even allowing each brother to perform a song solo. Well, except for Taylor, who I later discovered (after the House of Blues – LA show) was performing with strep throat – impressive. Fans were even treated to a Hanson.net exclusive track called “On and On” and a fun rendition of The Turtles “Happy Together.” But more than that, I was impressed with the fans. In 1997-2004, a Hanson show was more like a war zone. If you braved the general admission crowd, you left the show bruised, battered and worn. This crowd was polite and looking out for each other. Could it be, we’ve all grown up?

Isaac & Zac Hanson before #TheWalk

The following day saw Hanson in Anaheim, performing at the House of Blues in Downtown Disney. Before the show I participated in an one-mile barefoot walk led by Isaac and Zac Hanson. For every person who joined the walk the brothers donated $1 to improving life conditions in places like Zimbabwe (better school, building water wells, giving shoes to kids who don’t have them, etc). Hanson are hosting this walk before most of the shows on the tour (anyone can join!) and on top of that donating $1 for each ticket sold on this tour as well. Beautiful.

Then the show kicked off, and while it was a lot of the same fans as San Diego I opted for the comfort of a balcony seat this time. Paul McDonald delighted the crowd again and this time brought out his wife, actress Nikki Reed, to perform a couple duets. Hanson stuck to a lot of the same set list sans a handful of songs. Isaac played an unreleased song called “Being Me” for his solo which showcased his vocals in a new light. So much power, passion and punch. Then Taylor performed “Save Me” which consumed every listener in the room. And between those two tunes and a delicious cover of “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” I witnessed the conversion of many new fans in the room that night.

Hanson @ House of Blues, Anaheim 9/25/13

The next morning brought Hanson to Los Angeles. The fans I had met were getting in line at 9am, so I decided to join the fun earlier than planned and by 11:30am I was in the thick of it and ready for whatever the day would bring. We watched Hanson arrive (and nobody even bothered them), we did another one-mile barefoot walk, listened to sound check through an open door, and grabbed prime spots to watch the show inside the House of Blues as soon as doors opened.

Los Angeles shows always bring out a lot of industry and unexpected celebrity fans. This show saw everyone from Glee cast member Darren Criss to Jack’s Mannequin frontman Andrew McMahon rockin’ out. Hanson themselves brought out Joe Karnes from Fitz & The Tantrums to play bass on two songs (FUN FACT: Joe performs on Hanson’s new album as well). The set itself was just about two and a half hours long and more impressively, the crowd stayed full from start to finish. A rare feat for any gig in LA. Song highlights of the night? Isaac’s performance of “Ain’t No Sunshine,” the surprise interlude of “Let’s Get It On” in the middle of “If Only” and the ever-addicting stuck-in-your-head “You Can’t Stop Us Now” which is even more powerful live than on record.

At the end of the three-day adventure, one thing proved very true: Hanson have grown up. Their fans have grown up. But their music still maintains the sense of youth, passion, hope and inspiration it always has. It will move you, it will soothe you, it will heal you. So, why not let Hanson fill your soul with their blend of rock n roll?