HANSON: UNDERNEATH ACOUSTIC LIVE
Review by Michael Jacobson
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, PCM Stereo
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
Features: Documentary Trailer, Interview
Length: 90 Minutes
Release Date: July 27, 2004
you ever ask them why,
they told you, you would cry,
just look at them and sigh…
know they love you.”
terrific new album Underneath was three years in the making, but the time
wasn’t all spent writing and recording. A
lot of it was dealing with struggles with their label and the people there who
seemed to have no faith in them, and ultimately facing the challenge of putting
their money where their mouths were and releasing the album independently.
before they did, they tested the waters a little bit with an inexpensive live
acoustic CD showcasing some of the new material (available only on their
website), and a string of acoustic shows where it was just the three brothers,
their instruments, and their songs…no tapes, no sequences, and no guest
musicians to help out. It took a
lot of guts for a band without a label and their entire careers on the line to
present a wealth of new material to the world in such a manner.
But Hanson has never seemed to lack confidence…or the talent to back it
we first heard of the brothers Hanson from Oklahoma, Isaac, Taylor and Zachary
were 16, 13 and 11 respectively. Now
at 23, 20 and 18, they’re seasoned veterans of the music business who have
spent their entire careers writing their own songs, playing their own
instruments and even manning production for themselves.
Those who got it recognized early on that these young men were the real
deal…unfortunately, others were too quick to pigeonhole them in the wave of
faux teen pop that brought us The Backstreet Boys, N SYNC, Britney Spears and
others. After capturing the
attention of the world with their infectious first single “MMM Bop”,
they’ve spent the years following trying to prove to anyone who would give
them a chance that they stood head and shoulders above their fabricated
Hanson: Underneath Acoustic Live doesn’t prove that once and for all, I
don’t know what will. Taped live
at the House of Blues in Chicago in 2003, it’s a live show stripped of every
possible pretension. While
today’s teeny bopper acts are known for lip synching to pre-recorded music and
costume changes, these brothers offer a simple show of nothing but real music.
There are no tapes or backup singers, computers or other musicians for
them to lean on…they were perfectly willing to sink or swim on their own.
And not only do they swim, they come very close to walking on water.
you strip most modern pop or rock songs from their studio productions, you’ll
end up seeing how weak they really are. But
Hanson’s songs are strong enough to stand with piano, acoustic guitars,
harmonicas and drums. And of
course, the siblings’ unmistakable harmonies.
the opening “Strong Enough to Break”, you know you’re in for a real night
of great music. The concert
features songs from their new album Underneath as well as their earlier
efforts This Time Around and Middle of Nowhere.
As an added treat, there are some new songs that didn’t quite make
the recent record, but are still here for your listening enjoyment, such as “Rock n’ Roll Razorblade”.
impressive as their original material is the band’s ability to lovingly
present covers of classic rock songs to their audience, further cementing their
reputation as the ultimate band for younger and older audiences alike.
Their take on Crosby Stills & Nash’s “Teach Your Children” is
transcendently beautiful. Later they play Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine”
with soul and gusto. Near the end,
they do a rip-roaring version of Little Richard’s “Rip It Up” with plenty
of audience participation.
brother gets a solo spot, too. First,
Zac moves from drums to piano to introduce a new song called “The Walk” that
I hope will be on the next record. Near
the middle of the show, Isaac plays “Hand in Hand”, and offer a hilarious
introduction explaining how the song came about. Finally, Taylor tears through “Crazy Beautiful” while
accompanying himself with rippling piano.
it’s when the brothers come together that the real magic begins.
They’re not afraid to experiment with the arrangements for acoustic
instruments, and as such, familiar songs get different but equally good
treatments. New songs like the
haunting “Underneath” and “When You’re Gone” sound perfect next to old
favorites like “You Never Know” and “Where’s the Love”.
Whether it’s a lovely ballad like “With You in Your Dreams” or
raucous rock and roll like “Deeper” or “If Only”, Hanson delivers with
solid playing and terrific vocal lines…and the fans love it.
may still be doubters out there, but Hanson’s true fan base continues to be
loyal because the group has always put the music first.
Their dedication to writing, performing and producing good songs has
always made them a better band than the others, who unfortunately tend to sell
more records than they because of well-oiled publicity machines behind them.
But that’s okay, because while most of those acts are already
collapsing into parodies of themselves, Hanson is still doing what they’ve
always done, and doing it better than ever.
with most productions shot on videotape, things aren’t perfect, but this is
still a pretty good anamorphic offering overall. Colors are bright, and I noticed very little grain, just a
touch of bleeding here and there. Nothing
distracting…compared to a lot of concerts by ‘bigger’ artists, this one
holds up quite well.
can choose either 5.1 or PCM stereo; both sound quite good.
The full surround mix offers more dynamic range and a fuller concert
going experience thanks to the sound of the crowd in the rear speakers and the
extra bottom end from the subwoofer. Everything
is clean and clear, from the notes of the acoustic guitars to the razor sharp
harmonies from the brothers.
most interesting feature is a trailer for an upcoming documentary called Strong
Enough to Break. It appears to
chronicle the three year struggle the brothers had in trying to make the new
record while battling with a record company that didn’t believe in them.
There is also an interview with the band about this show, with at least
one amusing anecdote about what kind of things can go wrong just when you’re
getting ready to take the stage!