You make my dreams come true
Besides Rundgren, who's appeared twice, the guest list has ranged from major Hall inspiration Smokey Robinson, British pub rock legend Nick Lowe and The Doors' Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger to rising stars like Sharon Jones, Matt Nathanson, Neon Trees, Plain White T's and Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy.
Johnny Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls is on the newest (No. 42) stanza, not only performing well with Hall and his great house band but also demonstrating the fine art of frying buffalo wings (Rzez is a Buffalo, N.Y., native.)
"When we started out, we had to do a lot of explaining about the show's concept," said Hall with a laugh, in our recent chat. "Now, artists are coming to us."
While half of the Philly-spawned Hall & Oates - only the biggest disc-selling duo of all time - "Live from Daryl's House" has "established Daryl Hall in a whole new world, touched new generations of music fans," said his manager and Web show producer Jonathan Wolfson.
Oh, and for those who can't find their way to A.C. tonight or to www.livefromdarylshouse.com, take cheer that a broadcast TV version of the show is launching in the fall. The syndicator's plan is for two half-hour (edited) episodes to be shown back-to-back in a late night Friday or Saturday time-slot. Chicago "superstation" WGN first tested the waters with a well-received New Year's Eve LFDH special.
Clearly, this is a big breakthrough. A few comedy and reality shows have attempted a move from the Web before, none with success. There's never been a music-centric crossover like LFDH.
Check out some on-demand episodes in chronological order and you'll see how expectations (and budget) have grown at Daryl's House. "It's become expensive as Internet TV goes, but it's still dirt cheap for a broadcast show," conceded Hall.
After the first season, the production team traded up to high-definition video gear, better lighting and one of those fancy camera hoists for "fly in" shots. "We also started asking for clearances from the guest performers so we could do more with the material than just show it online," said Wolfson. And recent episodes have been digitally transcoded "at great expense" to also play on iPads.
Most hours are still shot in the barnlike rehearsal room of Hall's Colonial-era Millbrook, N.Y., house. (A serious home restorer, Hall actually saved and moved the structure from Connecticut.)
But episodes also have been captured in London (with K.T. Tunstall) at another Hall domicile, in Jamaica to lure Toots Hibbert, Maxi Priest and Billy Ocean, in Austin, Texas (to catch South By Southwest acts), and even in Kauai, Hawaii, for a musical luau at Rundgren's gorgeous, hillside spread.
Starting all over again
Media watcher Bob Lefsetz has cited "Live from Daryl's House" as a case study in "career reinvention." Hall doesn't deny "that thought was more than in the back of my head. You know, I've written most of the [Hall & Oates] songs. I feel like I have a great body of work. But I also feel I'm a victim of success with Hall & Oates. As John and I get older, you want to be more yourself. And while I like making solo albums" (another "stripped-down and rocking" set is on the way), "that's the route everyone's gone forever."
Hall also reminds everyone that the basic premise of his give-and-take Internet (and now concert) show actually goes back to the mid-1980s, to those generous with song-swapping, video- and audio-captured "Live at the Apollo" shows that Hall & Oates did with their idols Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin of the Temptations.
But it's all the little things that slip out casually in an LFDH stanza that make Hall seem so genuine and personable, much more than he used to let on.
The guy's quite the schmoozer, great at putting younger, awe-struck guests at ease. "That's easy. Today's musicians are much more levelheaded than my generation's were," he said.
On one particularly touching episode (No. 30) [spoiler alert] Hall and buds have to share their grief and good memories, because band leader and show sidekick Tom "T-Bone" Wolk has suddenly quit this world.
While all participants clearly do their homework, Hall likes to keep the music spontaneous. He doesn't have the band rehearse much together before the videotape starts rolling. Nor does he warm up that voice, though Hall's instrument is still stunningly strong, as soulfully pliant and expressive as in his youth. The singer credits "having a vocal coach for a mom," who got him started right when he was 4.
Your kiss is on my list
You'll occasionally spot Hall's parents Betty and Frank Hohl on screen. The couple haul up from their lifelong home in Pottstown. And Daryl's sister Kathy, "who now lives nearby," is often seen fussing around the kitchen or dining room.
But you never see Hall's "camera-shy" (and no-names, please) British wife or their teenage kids on camera. "My wife thinks it would take away from the focus. This is not the Osbournes. It's a show about making music."
Each episode mixes some of the guests' material with some of Hall's own, plus "covers" they enjoy in common. It's quite telling how many of these musicians admit the influence H&O had on them in their formative years. Geez, Travie McCoy of Gym Class Heroes even has a picture of Daryl tattooed on his hand.
And you gotta love all those cool shout-outs to things Philadelphian on the show. Besides Rundgren and Hall's musical partner (since their Temple University days) John Oates, the host has also welcomed Philly locals Mutlu and the Bacon Brothers, Kevin and Michael. With Rundgren he's brought up "The Geator" (Jerry Blavat) as an introduction to the song "Bennie G and the Rose Tattoo" that mentions the DJ. And Hall and the Bacon Brothers had a good chat about the hooligan roots of mummery before launching into the Bacons' sizzling "New Year's Day."
Hope that good history doesn't get lost on the cutting-room floor in the show's transition to broadcast TV. You can be sure it'll loom large, though, in Daryl and Todd's A.C. get-together tonight. "And if this works out well, there could be a lot more collaborative concerts where this came from," hinted Hall.
Ah, home sweet home.
Live From Daryl's House: Daryl Hall and special guest Todd Rundgren, The Music Box at Borgata, Atlantic City, 9 tonight, $65-$75, 866-900-4TIX, www.TheBorgata.com, www.livefromdarylshouse.com.