Hall and Oates at The Ryman, The Sword w/Young Widows at 12th and Porter 

The Spin

The Spin

We see their every move

We learned just about everything there is to know about Hall & Oates' live experience circa-2011 within roughly three minutes on Thursday night. As one might expect, the crowd seated in The Ryman pews gave a warm collective cheer as the tabernacle's house lights went dark and, barely visible, the duo's six-piece backing band sauntered onto the stage.

Next, an ever-diminutive, sans-'stache-but-soul-patch-sporting John Oates — whom we'd spotted earlier in the day lunching at Cantina Laredo — followed close behind, stepping into the spotlight and elevating the crowd's cheer to a roar. And then ... the moment: Daryl Hall made his onstage entrance and the place erupted with a feverish standing ovation.

Without hesitation, the duo nodded at one another and counted the band into an opening "Maneater." In an instant, the Mother Church was transformed into a cruise-ship ballroom. While musically speaking, both band and duo were performing the sonically iconic, synth-era vanilla soul jam with note-perfect rigor, it sounded tepid. Sure, faulting Hall & Oates for sounding light and airy is kinda like faulting Dick Cheney for being, well, a Dick. But, decked out in our best sweaters, we expected something a little less ... perfunctory. We expected to see a pair of old white guys with great hair nailing a Temptations impression, or something. Instead we got a mostly immobile Hall & Oates rehashing their hits in a way that failed to mask that it's their 3,637th time doing it. The band sounded good — perfect even. So that kinda made it feel mostly like a noncommittal round of live-band karaoke. Sure, the hair was indeed great — Hall's exquisitely sculpted, golden mane was, per usual, a glorious sight to behold.

Aesthetic letdowns aside, we tried to remain undeterred from our quest to embarrass ourselves by dancing idiotically and singing atonally along to songs that once set the soundtrack to our progenitors' coke parties. But the Boomer-laden crowd was having none of that. And by the second chorus of "Maneater," our buzz was effectively killed, summarily executed from behind by the violent salvos of uptight elders yelling at us to "SIT! DOWN!!"

What happened to all that excitement that was filling the room a mere moment ago? How can anyone sit down when, onstage, the world's most enthusiastic auxiliary percussionist is kicking his foot up and punting an imaginary soccer ball with each passing downbeat? Sit down? Uh, no. It's Daryl Hall, not American Legion Hall. You're not the boss of us. Also, you're making it easy for Hall & Oates to lazily slog their way through this shit. We'd phone it in for you assholes, too. What kind of parallel counter-culture is this where blue-haired fogies in pleated pants are yelling at smartly dressed nice kids like us for getting too into Hall & Oates? It was like we were 15 and our parents were banging down our doors and telling us to turn down the Suicidal Tendencies. Well, Hall & Oates crowd, we're not crazy, you're the ones who are crazy. Daryl Hall is up there singing an underwhelming-but-good-enough-for-twistin'-and-shoutin' "Maneater," and as long his hairline is demonstrably (and demoralizingly) more robust than ours, you're not gonna take that away from us.

And so, that was the first three minutes of the show.

"Maneater" was swiftly followed up with an equally temperate but all-too-appropriate "Out of Touch" and a continuing onslaught of soulfully blue-eyed soft-rock classics that included "She's Gone," a hyperextended "I Can't Go for That," "Rich Girl" and The Spin's hands-down favorite, "You Make My Dreams Come True." Unfortunately, the ultimately pretty fun 14-song set did not include "Adult Education." Bummer.

Things did pick up a bit as the relatively short show went on. Hall looked a little less like he was collecting a paycheck when passionately breaking out into soulful non-sequiturs during the breakdowns of ballads like "Sara Smile," while Oates channeled his passions through a series of shred-worthy guitar solos. And by the time duo and band were kicking out a second encore of "Kiss on My List" and "Private Eyes," the audience was actually back on its feet and doing the latter's chorus double-claps on cue.

It wasn't even 9:30 p.m. when the lights came up, the house music came on, and the crowd exited the auditorium to the sounds of Goo Goo Dolls' "Iris" ... which (and we're not even kidding) people were singing along to. In an even stranger and more poignant postscript, we soon found ourselves over at Mercy Lounge, where a crowd our age was giving an infinitely more enthusiastic response to a local-rock production of Les Miserables.

We hope we die before we get old.

A sworded affair

Well, that wasn't what we were expecting at all! We were expecting a badass show on Monday night when Austin, Texas' The Sword stopped in at 12th & Porter — we've seen The Sword enough times to know what we were getting into. What we didn't expect was a packed house on Monday night, especially considering there really wasn't a whole lot of promotion. And usually when The Spin is like "Let's go to a metal show," the crowd consists just of us, our intrepid sidekick/photographer "Porkchop" and six scraggly heshers from the outer counties. Especially on a Monday. Except this Monday, which was packed with the greatest assemblage of double-denim and black hoodies we've seen in ages. It totally ruled.

It could have ruled more, however, had we done our due diligence and memorized Young Widows' catalog beforehand. We're kicking ourselves for only being sorta familiar with their output prior to arrival — the Louisville trio's take on post-hardcore aggro-beauty is right up our proverbial alley. At times sludgy, others soaring, Young Widows evoke the classic Midwest post-punk era, which makes our scruffy nogoodnik hearts go pitter-patter like the paws of puppies across freshly fallen snow. Yeah, that might be a weird metaphor considering The Spin's usual curmudgeonly demeanor, but there was something about Young Widows that warmed our heart. We also put up our Festivus pole on Monday, so we're just brimming with good tidings and cheer and shit like that.

And The Sword definitely didn't harsh our mellow, that's for sure. The four-piece trad-metal outfit ripped through an hour-and-a-half of pure riffage, leaning heavily on 2010's hard sci-fi-themed Warp Riders — our personal favorite in their exceedingly badass catalog — before pummeling through classic cuts from 2006's Age of Winter and Gods of Earth. The crowd — who, again, we totally weren't expecting to be there — was lively, excited and full of energy, but not so much energy that they felt like participating in the aborted attempt at a circle pit. And that's cool, 'cause moshing in your 30s is dumb. (Lead singer J.D. Cronise agrees with us!)

And there was lots of headbanging! And goat-throwing (the gesture, not the animal ... we saved the animal-tossing for the after-party)! While our affection for the mustachioed melodicism of The Sword may not win us any cool points with the cod-piece-and-corpse-paint set — The Sword is more Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow than Reign in Blood — it was heartening to see so many people crammed into 12th & Porter on a Monday night. The heavy music scene here in town hasn't always been the most visible, but if 2011 (and this show in particular) is any indication, we'll be seeing all that change in 2012. Which is fine by The Spin — there might not be as much room to stretch out, but metal is way more fun with a packed house of excited, scraggly heshers than six or seven of them standing around looking listless.

Email thespin@nashvillescene.com.

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