Warning: This was intended to be a review of the 1st Annual Hoagie Nation Festival with headliners Hall & Oates. Of course the things I write about are things I personally enjoy, which is why I write about bands I love or places around the world I love. In this case, my personal love for Tears for Fears totally took over yesterday, so today’s review of Hoagie Nation is really going to be a review of the Tears for Fears set and not much else! But, more on that in a minute.
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First, a little about the event in general. This was the brainchild of Daryl Hall & John Oates, who are both Philadelphia natives. They are out on tour this summer, and wanted to do something special when they played their hometown. They wanted it to fully represent what Philadelphia is about, including lots of local Philly music and, of course, hoagies!
The festival was held at Festival Pier, which is on Delaware Avenue on the riverfront. There were three stages of music that had performances throughout the day. There were definitely some great things about the event, and some things I think they could improve on for future years.
First, they did a great job of getting local Philadelphia musicians to play. Everything from Vivian Green (who I’ll talk about more below) to G Love. There was plenty of great music to go around. Festival Pier itself is a great venue for this type of event. Things were set up quite well. There were plenty of port-a-potty’s located throughout the venue, and plenty of concession stands. That meant you didn’t have to wait in long lines for anything.
There were a few things on the negative side, that can be easily corrected for future years. First, signage was terrible at best, non-existent at worst. As I mentioned, there were three stages throughout the venue. There was no signage at any of the stages to tell you which stage was which. You had to ask somebody, or find one of the small maps that were sitting out at some of the concession stands. I saw a lot of people that were very confused (including us at first), about which stage they should go to in order to see the band they wanted to see.
There was a “hoagie pavilion” that was giving out free samples of hoagies from various local restaurants. While it was great they were free, there were a couple vendors that appeared to not show up. Also, almost everyone was sampling their Italian hoagie. So, if you loved Italian hoagies, you were in paradise. If not, there was nothing for you. They were selling hoagies that were named after Hall & Oates songs at a special concession stand, which was a cute concept. Problem is that we couldn’t find that stand. Again, signage was an issue.
Another problem was that there were huge gaps in between acts on each of the stages. I’ve been to festivals before, where they bring one band on after another with only a 15 to 20 minute gap in between. Here, there was as much as a couple of hours between acts. I think the intent was for people to walk around to various stages, which I understand. However, if you were like us and wanted to be on the rail for Tears for Fears, you had to guard your spot and couldn’t walk to the other stages. They could have easily gone from 3 stages down to 2, and at least had more live music on each stage. Alternatively, they had big video screens that were showing videos of what was happening on the other stages from time to time, but no audio. At least playing the video and audio of the acts on the other stages would have given people a chance to enjoy the music.
Finally, when we did make it over to the main stage to see Hall & Oates, the sound was horrible. More on this, below.
We were able to catch a couple of the acts live, and here are some details about those performances.
The first act we saw was Nashville-based singer/songwriter, Kandace Springs. Kandace has a very soulful voice, and her music reflects that. She said that she was inspired by listening to the greats while she was growing up – Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Roberta Flack to name a few. Kandace performed a set of her own songs, and wrapped up with a Roberta Flack cover that got the crowd singing along with her. You can find out more about Kandace and her music at www.kandacesprings.com.
Vivian is a Philadelphia native managed by hip hop legend Kwame Holland, who joined her onstage. Vivian and her two back-up vocalists (also from Philadelphia) have voices that will knock you right out of your seat. Vivian’s career started when she became a back-up singer for Jill Scott and went out on tour with her. Since then, Vivian has experienced success as a solo artist, releasing 5 of her own solo albums. You can download Green’s latest album Vgvi here.
As I was set in my position on the rail for Tears for Fears (who was following Vivian), I got a front row view of her performance. Vivian and her band had amazing energy. As I mentioned, the vocals from Vivian and her back-up singers were powerful. Vivian gave both of her back-up singers time on their own to shine, which was nice to see (and hear).
To wrap up their set, Vivian and Kwame encouraged everyone in the audience to get up and dance, while the DJ played hit dance songs from Michael Jackson, Prince, and others, which got the crowd up and dancing and singing.
While I wasn’t familiar with Vivian’s music, her energy and voice got me dancing along. You can find out more about Vivian on her website at www.viviangreen.com.
Tears for Fears
So, I have to start by saying that Tears for Fears was the first band that I really loved. Their albums The Hurting and Songs From the Big Chair, were on constant repeat on my record player when I was a kid. This was a band that was on my concert bucket list from the very beginning. But, in 21 years, they had never played Philadelphia, until last night at Hoagie Nation. I went into the show hoping that I would be happy with a performance from a band I remembered being so fantastic as a kid, but now were beyond their prime. What I got was one of the greatest concert experiences of my life!
If you aren’t familiar with Tears for Fears, the band is made up of the duo of Roland Orzibal and Curt Smith. Formed out of Bath, England in 1981, the band released their debut album, The Hurting and then hit it big in 1984 with the release of Songs From the Big Chair. One of the biggest hitmakers of the 1980’s British invasion, Roland and Curt parted ways in 1991, and then reformed in 2000 when they released Everybody Loves a Happy Ending. They have been touring together since, and are working on a new album.
I was lucky enough to get a spot on the rail at nearly the center of the stage, so I got a close up view. While both Roland and Curt have gotten older, their energy and their voices are still as strong as ever. They interacted with the crowd (Roland even called out a few fans he recognized by name) and just appeared to be having a great time on stage.
The set opened with Lorde covering “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” playing. The anticipation of the crowd was intense, as they sang along and cheered for the band to come out. As the Lorde cover slowly faded, the band walked out and went directly into “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”, which immediately got the crowd singing along.
The band moved through their catalog of hits like “Sowing the Seeds of Love”, to more obscure songs like “Advice for the Young at Heart”, which features Curt on lead vocals. Then, Roland asked the crowd who remembered their first album, The Hurting, which led to a huge roar from the big fan base that was there to see the show. That led into a three song string of songs from that album – “Change”, “Mad World”, and “Memories Fade”.
The lights lowered and the music slowed down, and Roland led with vocals on an amazing cover of Radiohead’s “Creep”. The energy didn’t stay low for long, as the band wrapped up their main set with a three song string of hits – “Pale Shelter”, “Break It Down Again” and “Head Over Heels”.
As the band walked off, we all knew there would be an encore, as their most popular song hadn’t been played yet. The crowd was clapping and started a chant of “shout, shout, shout”. As the band walked back on stage and started the first notes of their biggest hit “Shout”, the crowd exploded. The set wrapped up with all of us singing at the top of our lungs and dancing like we were back in the ‘80s. If you want to add it to your playlist, download Shout here.
If you’d like to see and hear Tear for Fear’s whole set, check out my husband’s periscope video.
I was lucky enough to get a set list after the show (thank you again to the Live Nation security guy who felt sorry for this 45-year old woman acting like a crazy teenager and begging for the set list). You can see from the picture, below, how happy this show made me. As my husband put it on his Facebook post “She screamed, she sang, she danced, she cried…. she got the damn set list!”
Hall & Oates
It seems funny to write a review about Hoagie Nation – which was created by Hall & Oates and who were the headliners – and not have a lot to say about them. However, by the time Tears for Fears was over and we headed to the main stage, the crowd was so big that we were all the way in the back. The sound, unfortunately, was horrible. The venue clearly needs to work on the speakers to project the sound further towards the back. I ran into a woman who said she had been upfront, and the sound was not much better and she was tired of being pressed and pushed into, so she just left.
We ended up going to the tent where they had been passing out the hoagie samples earlier. They had a video screen and the audio playing through the sound system there, which actually gave us much better sound than being in the stage area.
We’ve seen Hall & Oates before, and they still have great vocals and music, and always run through all of their many hits. However, maybe it was because we couldn’t get close enough by the main stage, or maybe it was the result of being on such an emotional high for Tears for Fears, but I found their set to be a bit flat and not a ton of energy. I’d definitely catch Hall & Oates in a smaller venue where you could enjoy the music, but it just didn’t work for me in the festival setting.
Hall & Oates and Tears for Fears are touring across the U.S. this summer, playing various stadiums and arenas. If you are a fan of either band, I highly recommend checking them out. You can find information on Tears for Fears at their website at www.tearsforfears.com. Information about Hall & Oates can be found at their website at www.hallandoates.com.