Thursday, 14 January 2016

The Solo Sets

The solo sets are unique to BTTI - as yet, Hanson have never performed solo anywhere else. Watching guys perform by themselves is a different experience, and a song is usually played with a full band will sound completely different accompanied only by the keyboard or an acoustic guitar.


If at BTTI 2015 Zac’s solo set had been somewhat subdued, this year was the exact opposite. Zac was on top form, making everybody laugh and just - well, being Zac. The tone was set with the opening song, ‘Give Me Your Best Shot’ - of which Zac had forgotten the lyrics. No problem though, because our resourceful drummer got his phone out and googled it (other bands: don’t try this at home. Only Zac Hanson gets away with that).

After a repeat of ‘Juliet’ (a song he really must love because he repeated at his solo last year too), I heard the opening notes of one of my absolute favourite Hanson songs: “I Am” - one of those songs which really should have made it into an album. It was so good to finally hear it live and that moment was the highlight of the whole event for me.

Setlist photo courtesy of Iria Rodriguez

The setlist had something from all ‘eras’ - there was “Lucy” for the really old fans, “Broken Angel” from the Underneath era, “No Sleep for Banditos” and “Up All Night” from the 2012 EP, “On and On” from “Sound of Light”, “Bittersweet” and “Get So Low” - which some of us have long been referring to as ‘The Shit Song’ because of the uproar it caused when it was first played due to the use of the ‘s’ word.

I don’t know what was different this year but Zac certainly seemed to be more comfortable being on stage by himself and as a result, his performance was a lot more involving. It was a great set which set the bar high for the next two which were still to follow.


Dressed in his tie-dyed t-shirt, Taylor sauntered on stage and took his place at the piano for the first song - a solo version of ‘Every Word I Say’. There had been a discussion on the forum as to whether that song would work as a solo, and lo and behold, now we had a chance to find out (and yes, it worked!). The set continued with “Kiss Me When You Come Home” and then took a more heartfelt, poignant turn with “One More” [EDIT: this was omitted from the set as Taylor said 'I'm not feeling this one'] and “Weird”, which even as a solo always seems to have this big, sweeping sound - but maybe I was just getting caught up in the vibe.

The set ended with ‘Sunny Day’, a fanclub favourite, which Taylor performed partly on guitar before sitting back at the piano after saying something along the lines of preferring it that way.

Setlist photo courtesy of Iria Rodriguez
It was a pretty flawless performance all round, and although I’m not terribly keen on some of the songs he played - and would have gladly swapped ‘Crazy Beautiful’ for a lesser-known track, I still really enjoyed the set. What can I say - Taylor is always the consummate professional and I knew he wouldn’t disappoint. The next day, it would be Isaac’s turn.


When Isaac finally strolled on stage some 45-minutes late, and grabbed the microphone, I thought he was going to offer an apology.  "I guess I'm the tardy brother. I show up when I need to, not before or later." he said instead. Where’s this diva-like attitude coming from, I thought? Has Isaac turned into Mariah Carey, I wondered as I tried to peer into the backstage tent to see if he had staff holding cute little puppies for him, Mariah-style?. This had better be good, I told myself.

It started off okay - with the by now classic “Best of Times”, which has become a kind of anthem to BTTI. But then things began to deteriorate; guitars weren’t tuned (Isaac blamed the humidity), lyrics were forgotten, the setlist got covered in beer. Isaac started to play ‘Lonely Again’ (one of my favourite) then abruptly stopped and began to play something else - I’m not sure why, possibly he had the wrong guitar for it.

Soon, people began requesting songs, and the set quickly turned into Request Hour. That’s where things really began to take a turn for the deeply frustrating for me - because it felt as if the fans were in charge, rather than the guy on stage. This resulted in a lot of chatter among the audience, and I missed most of ‘Next Train’ thanks to some fans in front of me who had decided to compare something on their phones during one of Isaac’s best leads.

Things should have improved when someone requested ‘Grace Unknown’ - which Isaac played on the electric guitar. It was an odd but interesting arrangement but again, Isaac forgot some of the lyrics. He then went back to the piano and played a couple of notes of the same song on the keyboard, explaining that he had originally intended to play it that way. Too late now though.

I got the impression that Isaac had kind of got it together during the last 2-3 songs, and he did a good job with “Smile”, “Sometimes” and “River”, but overall I felt that his set had been really messy. Maybe it was a combination of technical problems, sun and a free bar, but Isaac was kind of all over the place for a good three quarters of his set. What a shame. Luckily, a couple of hours later he was in top form again, going on to play the best concert of BTTI 2016. How does he do it?

The original setlist got covered in beer

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