Reviewed by Evan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Since I went and saw Hanson perform live in Pittsburgh last August (see October 1998 Oasis), I thought I would be an ideal person to review the group's two new releases with tour material, a CD ("Live from Albertane") and a video ("Road to Albertane").
(Albertane, for those of you wondering, comes from their "Middle of Nowhere" bonus track "Man from Milwaukee," which details Zac's encounter with an alien from the far-off land of "Albertane.")
The CD was taken from the July 21 performance in Seattle at the Key Center. In addition to favorites from their albums, there are several tracks previously unreleased: their covers of "Money" and a medley of "Gimme Some Lovin'" and "Shake a Tail Feather," plus originals "Ever Lonely" and "More Than Anything." The former was featured on VH1's "Hard Rock Live" last month. It's basically a harder version of their power-ballad "I Will Come to You," with a super-memorable chorus and fast beat. Great to sing along to and rumored to be their next single, though its raw rhythm seems to me to be more suitable to a live performance than an inevitably overproduced studio recording.
"More Than Anything" is a solo by the band's elder member, Isaac. He shows off his considerable keyboard skills and underused vocal capabilities (both areas generally dominated by middle Hanson Taylor) in this weeper of a ballad. At the Pittsburgh show I went to, the screaming was so loud that I was virtually unable to hear the quiet song, so when I listened to it after buying the album, it was almost like hearing it for the first time. It is a beautiful weeper of a song, a more mature cousin of "As Surely as the Sun" from "3 Car Garage." Those doubtful of Hanson's talents will be proved dead wrong by this unadulterated gem. Ike, who usually draws less screaming than his two younger brothers must have been vindicated by the deafening applause preserved on the CD.
Speaking of screaming, though Hanson's concerts are notorious for deafening cacophony from the countless excited pubescent girls in the audience, the roar (which distorted even louder songs at the Pittsburgh show) doesn't diminish the sound quality of the Albertane CD. And, always a concern in live shows, there are no noticeable blunders or missed chords in the performance itself.
Other keepers from the CD include a powerful "I Will Come To You" (which was soooo good live), a slam-bang rendition of "MMMBop" (which you may like even if you hated it on the radio), and, of course "Man From Milwaukee," which was their final encore piece. Conspicuously missing is the acoustic remake of "Weird" (which was not performed at Pittsburgh due to a malfunction with Tay's keyboards, a real disappointment for me). It is on the video, however.
Although the three Hanson lads do need to get their cute butts into the ole' record studio and pump out a new album, they still give you your $20 worth with "Live From Albertane." Not just old stuff but a few new tracks as well. Worth the money if you are a Hanson fan. And if you haven't bought a Hanson CD before, this mightn't be a bad place to start.
The video is also good. If you were not one of the roughly half million who got to see Hanson on tour this past summer, this is the next best thing. Unfortunately for those that DID see the threesome, the footage from nearly every tour stop is not labeled with the location, so it is difficult to tell which bits you've already seen (if you get my meaning), unless you saw them in a really distinctive venue like Red Rock or the Hollywood Bowl. A stray "USAir: The Official Airline of the Penguins" banner in the corner of one shot helped me identify my show, but others may not be so lucky. What an over sight!
I was also a little disappointed by the "behind the scenes" footage, which was mostly Zac and Ike being REALLY hyper. Aside from a water battle between the two tour buses at 75 MPH, most of those clips are pretty annoying. With the exception of a pool scene. Only a few seconds in length, but our first (albeit limited) sight of the sex symbols shirtless.
Like the CD, "Road to Albertane" has lots of great performance material. Being about 30 minutes longer than the CD, there are some additional pieces, including "Weird." While the video is from many tour stops, the audio was dubbed from their single Seattle performance. That is a little disappointing, but it would have been impossible technically to do it otherwise.
In closing, while the video is a great way for me to relive my concert experience and a pretty good way for others to catch what they missed, it isn't as good an effort as the CD. But, for $19.95, it isn't all that expensive either. Get the CD first and, if you like it, grab the video.