Hanson - Manchester Academy 2 - 6.11.04

Given that the youngest member of Hanson was just 11 when "MMM Bop" catapulted them to instant recognition you'd expect a messier story than the one that we're presenting with today. Rather than a litany of drug problems, depression and the fall out you'd normally associate with former child stars what Hanson represent is the blue eyed, blonde haired American dream and still a naive purity. The hair may be shorter and Taylor's got a kid but what we still have in Hanson is the same thing we associate with the Waltons - a world where there's everlasting peace and if there's any problems we'll get the whole family round a camp fire and sing songs until we fall asleep.

Strangely enough when we walk into the Academy 2 amongst the twenty something screaming girls there's a sizeable amount of goths that should really be staying indoors listening to Marilyn Manson. For them Hanson represent the first time they ever saw a pop band with guitars as back in the day it was the tale of end of Britpop or the pure pop of the Spice Girls. And of course there was the androgyny of Taylor Hanson who caused as much sexual confusion in the playground in the nineties as Ziggy Stardust era Bowie and Boy George did in the seventies and eighties respectively.

Tonight's sold out show follows on from the Acoustic Tour of the States they did last year. It's shows a back to basics approach for the brothers and takes it back to a time pre-Mmm Bop where these shows would be a regular occurrence. While the songs are given chance to breathe you can't help but think how great they'd sound with an electric plugged in and a full band behind them. From the old school set they play "Where Is The Love?" and "Mmm Bop" while newer tracks like "Strong Enough To Break and "Penny And Me" are greeted like old friends through the help of the internet age and file swapping.

When the guys take to the stage for solo spots they're less successful. Stripped off the harmonies little drummer boy Zac takes to the piano and proves that while he can play competently he's no Chris Martin. Older brother Isaac offers a more reflective mature sound that sadly is stripped off the pop sensibilities we've come to expect from Hanson. And Taylor, well he doesn't really need to play a note and the screams more than signify how the crowd feel about him.

Many people have taken pops at Hanson over the years, but that fact that they can sell out a show over 7 years since they last played the UK speaks volumes. Just recently Bono described on CD:UK that "Mmm Bop" was the work of genius and this time next year when they come back and do a full on live show they may just reach those heights again and be seen as the band that kick started the whole Avril Lavigne, Michelle Branch and Busted phenomena of pop acts with guitars

Alex McCann

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