One surefire way to know the artist you’re paying homage to gives you his blessing? He shows up at your gig.
John Oates, the dark-haired half of Hall & Oates, paid The Bird and the Bee the ultimate compliment Friday night when he joined the alternative/synth pop duo’s packed show at the El Rey in Los Angeles.
Singer Inara George and keyboardist Greg Kurstin’s new set is a tribute to Hall & Oates, the most successful duo in pop history. “Interpreting the Masters Volume1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates” comes out March 23 on Blue Note Records and includes eight classic Hall & Oates tunes.
The Bird and the Bee interspersed their own songs, including their genius dance hit, “Fucking Boyfriend” and “Polite Dance Song,” with songs from the new album. George, who is very pregnant and is due next month, didn’t let having a baby on board slow her down as she made a commanding presence in a skin tight mini-dress and red tights straight out of the ‘60s. She shimmied and shook with so much abandon, the fan in front of me muttered that he was afraid she was going to go into labor. (With good reason, she often cupped her stomach as if she was making sure her precious cargo didn’t drop out). For the gig, the duo recruited four fellow female singers, all similarly clad (minus the baby bump), including Juliette Commager, who opened the evening. Additionally, George, who often plays bass, ceded the duties to an overzealous bass player who proved to be an extremely distracting presence as he bounced around as if he were the main attraction. Kurstin, who was nominated for a Grammy for producer of the year for his work with The Bird and the Bee and Lily Allen, stayed behind his keyboard, uttering nary a word.
George has a lilting, soaring voice that works perfectly on the pair’s slightly twee, jazz-oriented tunes and she handled some of the Hall & Oates material, such as “I Can’t Go for That” and a languid “Kiss on My List” with plucky aplomb. However, some of the material was simply a bad match for her talents.
Oates joined the band for “She’s Gone,” remarking “I’ve played a lot of shows but never had anyone behind me shaking their ass like that,” alluding to George’s pregnant prancing. He also added how happy he was to be there since “I really needed to feel good,” clearly a reference to the painful loss of the band’s longtime musical director/bassist T-Bone Wolk, who died of a heart attack last week.
Oates also provided a much needed oomph on guitar since the back-up singer playing guitar seemed to play as well as one of the girls in a Robert Palmer’s “Simply Irresistible” video. As George tried to go toe-to-toe with Oates and handle Hall’s powerhouse vocals, she was simply unable to muster the sheer muscle that Hall’s peerless performance on that song demands. She handled herself better with main-set closer “Maneater,” making it clear that if Oates is ever looking for a distaff female singing partner, he need look no farther than George.