Words by Ceri Black
1997 has a lot to answer for; the death of Princess Diana, Tony Blair becoming Prime minister, and Hanson releasing ‘Mmmbop’. Now, after 5 years and three marriages, the Oklahoma trio are back touring the UK. Birmingham Review went to the HMV Institute to see how they’ve grown.
I’ll admit, I had concerns about attending this gig. Mainly that I was going to be the only person in the venue, outside a couple of 30something’s dressed head to toe in Hanson merchandise. But with an open mind and emergency bar tab, I dragged myself into town on a cold Sunday evening. As it turns out so had 750 other people, mostly women, all of whom knew every lyric to every song performed. It seems Hanson are far from forgotten in certain circles.
One fan even waited outside the HMV Institute for 7 hours, in the bitter cold of Digbeth, just to make sure she got a ticket. Baffling. I was certain if a survey was conducted a higher percentage would tick the ‘Hanson are drivel’ box. Someone’s been lying…
Eventually, Zac, Isaac and Taylor Hanson appeared on stage. What happened next was an hour and a half of sugar-coated, lyrically feeble pop. As a group, Hanson know what they’re doing. Taylor’s guitar skills are adequate, and vocally his harmonies and timing were solid. A proficient performance, but one I felt lacked originality and depth.
The lyrics to ‘Strong Enough to Break’ didn’t seem to make sense, and ‘This Time Around’ sounded like something from the Dawson’s Creek soundtrack. The more acoustic tracks such as ‘Go’ and ‘Lost Without Each Other’ were more audibly pleasing, almost acceptable – even to me, but again containing no lyrical substance. They felt impersonal, without any intimate meaning to the person who wrote them.
However Hanson clearly know how to give their fans what they want. The crowd was enamored by the brothers, and when the inevitable rendition of ‘Mmmbop’ started I was the only person in the room not screaming with delight. In fact, I was embarrassed. I wanted to hide my face and pretend none of it was happening.
After 14 years in the music business Hanson Have a dedicated audience. Pop obsessed, unsettlingly enthusiastic people. Fortunately I’m not one of them, and as I left the HMV Institute I felt confused (and a little angry) as to how this kind of music is still as popular as ever. Which when it comes to Hanson, it clearly seems to be.
Shout It Out, Hanson’s third album under their 3CG Records label, is out now. For more info visit www.hanson.net