I hadn’t thought about Hanson, for around 20 years. But now that they were back at the forefront of my mind, I had questions: Had their voices broken? Would they still sound the same? What does ‘Mmmbop’ even mean? More importantly, were they still single?
These questions and more were all answered on Tuesday night at the Auckland Town Hall for Hanson’s 25th anniversary Middle of Everywhere tour.
A mob of mostly 30-something females took over the Town Hall looking to bask in the nostalgia of their teenage years. A few obliging hubbies were also in tow, with a distant look like being dragged around bra shopping.
In a near packed out show, I was up in the very top balcony with a good view of the seething mass of fans below. The merch stall had clearly taken a good hit with many in the audience wearing t-shirts with HANSON emblazoned across their chests.
I felt as though I was fitting in quite well. I was a tween when Hanson exploded on the scene in 1997. The 90s were just great. A time when you physically went out to a music store to buy an album or single on CD. A time when everything about the birds and bees could be garnered from the Dolly and Girlfriend magazines’ Ask Us columns.
That’s also where I got my centrefold pull out poster of handsome Taylor Hanson. At a sleepover in the 90s my friends and I cut his face out and stuck it on a balloon and had turns snogging him.
So what was Taylor’s relationship status now? A quick search on my phone revealed Taylor is happily married with 5 kids to a wife called…Natalie. Maybe Zac and Isaac weren’t taken? Alas, on further investigation the brothers from the bible belt of Tucson Oklahoma now have 12 children between them.
My expectations before the show were pretty low. Most know Hanson for that one song, and I was concerned that they might just going to tiredly belt out their old albums… As it was, this was far from the case. With 9 studio albums under their belt in a 25-year musical career, they easily went through about 30 songs in the next 2 and a half hours. And while I wasn’t familiar with 27 of the 30 songs played, I loved it nonetheless.
From the moment Hanson arrived on stage, the crowd went wild, and blood curdling screams of I LOVE YOU TAYLOR!!! arose out of the pit and surrounding seats (I swear it wasn’t me).
Hanson started out with the upbeat Shout It Out then straight into the Middle of Nowhere hit Where is the Love? The audience got into the swing of things with songs Everybody, Thinking about Something, This Time Around and Waiting for a Sign.
I was in complete awe of their musicianship. Especially Taylor, who really wowed me with his piano, keyboard and wistful looking tambourine skills.
Their sound was also beefed up with two inconspicuous supporting guitarists to create the full sound of the records, and everyone just sparkled under the impressive on stage light display.
Taylor asked the crowd if anyone had seen them live before, and from the pit, there was a distant scream from someone exclaiming that they had been to 150(!!) shows. I would be a little worried if I were Hanson, since they personally invited all their fans to their hometown for their annual Hop Fest jam, resulting in their privacy levels being questionable at best. And yes, they do, in fact, own a beer company called Mmmhops.
One of my favourite moments in the show was Hanson’s a cappella homage to the original three brothers, the brothers Gibb (aka The Beegees), creating a more intimate moment as Isaac put down his guitar and Zac came out from behind the drum kit to cover Too Much Heaven.
Then came other toe taping numbers like Juliet, Get the Girl Back and the slow love jam I Will Come to You before Hanson unleashed their new song I Was Born during which, Taylor asked the audience to fist pump in unison, making me feel like I was at some sort of rally.
While these performances were great, there is no doubt that everyone was secretly waiting for that one song – you know the one. Isaac continued to tease us talking about “going back to the early days” and everyone was frothing in anticipation throughout the show, hoping that the classic track that helped define our younger years would be coming up next. I am, of course, talking about Mmmbop
I can see why they left the song to the end of the set, though. Quite a few people around me left immediately after they finished the iconic song, something that I felt it was a bit stink of them. Kind of like having a one night stand, and the person leaving straight away without hanging around to spoon after. Sometimes, the dessert can be just as satisfying as the main course, and in this case, it was definitely worth sticking around for.
It turns out Mmmbop has a very philosophical, existential meaning behind it, roughly translating to ‘time passing’ and the ‘futility of life’. In an Mmmbop they’re gone. In an Mmmbop they’re not there. Plant a seed, plant a flower, plant a rose. Which one will grow? That’s a secret no one knows. Except Hanson. Amazing to think the brothers wrote this catchy and kind of deep song themselves when they were so young.
Here is the original music video. Warning: it features rollerblading.
Taylor wound up the night talking about how the band has been proudly independent for the last 10 years, and waved goodby, thanking fans for supporting them, and said they’d definitely be back in NZ again…
Responding to screams of an encore, the brothers arrived back on stage to cover songs they were influenced by from the 50s and 60s, Rocking Robin and Johnny be Good, encouraging Taylor to go into full party mode, jumping around the stage with an unbelievable energy considering the 2 and a half hour show we had just experienced, then they all bopped off into the wings.
As the lights came up. I ventured right down to the bottom stalls. Maybe Taylor would be lingering in a corner waiting just for me? But in an mmmbop he was there, and in an mmmbop he was gone…Deep.
All photos provided by Gavin Walker.