Hall & Oates hadn't been to Pittsburgh since 2005 and in the meantime they picked up a lot of new fans, especially for the '80s hits, making the excitement pretty high for the sold-out show at Stage AE Outdoors Wednesday night.
With so many veteran acts sounding smooth as ever, there was every reason to think Daryl Hall (65) and John Oates (63) would roll in here in near-vintage form and blow people away.
It was clear, though, from the first song that the years had left them a little worse for the wear and tear. Hall & Oates, which hasn't had any new material together since 2003, went back to the '80s right away with "Maneater," and where it should have been kicking, the low energy version wasn't man-eating in any sense, down to Mr. Hall's rough vocal.
"Family Man" had almost as many cringe-worthy notes, and it didn't help that the sound was unbearably tinny on that and "Out of Touch," as the band was trying to pull off a Southern boogie jam. People who remembered listening to them on a transistor radio may have gotten a flashback.
Mr. Oates' mention of "We had an album called 'Abandoned Luncheonette'..." was met with mild applause, proving the point he made in the recent PG interview that the new fans weren't big on the older '70s catalog.
He was introducing a "Luncheonette" mini-set of "When the Morning Comes," "Las Vegas Turnaround" and "She's Gone" that sounded better for the simpler instrumentation and more mellow soul feel. Still, Mr. Hall, who still suffers ill effects from Lyme disease, sounded brittle, taking some of the shine off of "She's Gone" and "Sara Smile." Not surprisingly, Mr. Oates didn't struggle as much with his huskier baritone.
They spent the last 10 minutes of the 65-minute main set doing an overblown James Brown funk jam on "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)," during which you could feel it in the air that it wasn't quite what the crowd came for. When Mr. Hall signed off with it, people seemed a bit shocked by the length of the set and shortage of hits.
Hall and Oates salvaged the show by returning for two crowd-pleasing encores, running through the hits "Rich Girl" (drawing the biggest reaction of the night), "You Make My Dreams," "Kiss on My List" and "Private Eyes." With the band (especially sax man Charles DeChant) heating up, along with the backup harmonies, Mr. Hall rode that energy to belt out the songs with more authority.
By the end, it wasn't the disaster it could have been, but it also wasn't the polished outing you'd hope for from such seasoned pros.
Scott Mervis: firstname.lastname@example.org; 412-263-2576.