When Hanson took the Barrymore Theatre stage Saturday, it was 1997 again for a brief moment. True to their word, the band performed an energetic show that made the sold-out crowd stand up and dance for the show’s entirety. The venues may be smaller and the fans are older — and in some cases, more intoxicated — but the energy and devotion Hanson shows its fans is still there, even after 11 years.
That same devotion was reciprocated by about a handful of dedicated fans who had spent much of Saturday morning camped out in front of the venue. Deserted lawn chairs and garbage bags filled with Milio’s wrappers remained as reminders of these fans’ determination. Similarly, the line to enter the venue was filled with female fans who had been following the band since the current leg of the tour began Wednesday in La Crosse. Stories and banter were traded regarding past shows, set lists and the Barrymore’s no-flash photography policy, and this pre-show atmosphere was one of the most good-natured ones I’ve witnessed in a long time.
Opener Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers received a hearty Madison welcome from the crowd. The band’s 45-minute set consisted of a variety of smooth indie rock songs with some bluesy influences. Frontman Kellogg worked the mostly female crowd for all it was worth, even going as far as to dive into the audience at the conclusion of their final song. This paid off, as the crowd response was more positive a reaction than most openers tend to get. The band is currently touring in support of their latest album Glassjaw Boxer. If the album is anything like their performance, Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers have a remarkable future in the music industry ahead of them.
Nevertheless, it was Hanson who everyone came to see. The screams from the audience were deafening as the brothers picked up their instruments and launched into their first song. Throughout the 90-minute set, the band played such old favorites as “Where’s the Love,” “If Only,” “Lost Without Each Other” and “I Will Come to You.” Songs from Hanson’s latest album The Walk, such as “Blue Sky,” “Running Man” and “Been There Before,” were also performed.
An acoustic set was also performed and included the song that made the brothers famous: “MmmBop.” Vocalist/keyboardist Taylor Hanson jumped off of his piano bench many times to run across the stage and rev up the crowd — not that it needed to be done. Guitarist Issac rocked out to the delight of many, and drummer Zac was even able to stand up from behind the drums every now and then to keep the momentum going.
Hanson’s recent charity work combating poverty and HIV/AIDS in Africa was also highlighted. Earlier in the day, the band walked their 51st mile barefoot with fans to help draw attention to these issues. After an encore, they appeared onstage to briefly touch on the importance of these issues. Following this, the show was closed with a heartfelt, a cappella rendition of a few lyrics from their latest single, “The Great Divide.”
When it comes to Hanson, some things will remain the same: the screaming fans, the catchy music and the dedication to their fans. It may not be 1997 anymore, but try telling that to the throngs of fans who packed the Barrymore Theatre.