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One (very long) night with Hanson and a stranger I met at Nando’s

To celebrate 25 years of making music together, former child band Hanson played a single concert at Auckland Town Hall. Madeleine Chapman went along with a stranger she met while eating dinner.

Despite my outsized confidence in the reliability of my friends and family, on Tuesday night I found myself eating at Nando’s, about to attend a Hanson concert by myself. I had a spare free ticket and literally couldn’t give it away to anyone I knew. The excuses included, but weren’t limited to, “I have work”, “I have an exam tomorrow”, “I’m playing basketball”, “I’m watching a friend play basketball”, and “I just tried to cook some eggs but two of them smashed on the floor so I think I need an early night.”

When I picked up my tickets, the young man asked if I needed two. I looked that young man directly in the eye and lied. Yes please, because of course I have at least one friend. Then I walked across the street to get a chicken wrap and brainstorm how to not waste a ticket to Hanson. I just needed to find a fellow loner on the street and give it to them. But giving away free things is harder than it sounds because people are suspicious and it’s a cold world out there. While I was waiting for my chicken wrap to arrive, I spotted a young woman also sitting alone waiting for her meal. My aversion to letting anything that costs money go to waste far outweighed my suspicion that this might be a super weird thing to do so I walked over and asked her if she was a Hanson fan. She said yes in a way that meant she only knew “MMMbop” but that was more than enough for me.

“Would you like a ticket to their concert? It starts in an hour.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah I have a spare”

“Uuuuhh yes please!”

Done. I had successfully not wasted a free ticket. I’d also successfully forgotten that the tickets were seated and we’d be sitting next to each other for the whole show. She must’ve figured that out too because she soon came to sit next to me so we could eat our Nando’s together instead of awkwardly meeting again in an hour. And so it was that Kayla – 21, psychology student, had an exam the next day – and I attended the pumping high school reunion that was the Hanson concert together.

Hanson as I remember them (Photo by George De Sota)

The first thing we noticed from our balcony seats was the crowd demographic. Overwhelmingly female, 25-45 years old, majority white. While we quietly waited for the brothers three to come onstage, I played a game of Where’s Wally where Wally was any man. I found five, not including the town hall workers. Looking down at the crowd below and the sparse stage set-up (literally just a ‘Hanson’ banner at the back) only supported the theory that maybe we’d wandered into an all-girls high school reunion. But a high school reunion filled with tweens because when they did eventually emerge the squeals were deafening. What a moment to witness: a thousand grown women screaming over three men who still looked extremely young but in fact are all married and have 12(!) children between them.

I hadn’t listened to Hanson much and didn’t even know that they had so many albums out (seven), so went in just hoping that they could at least still hit the high notes of ‘MMMbop’. Well, colour me shook because their voices are still, if not more, beautiful. I’m a sucker for harmonised singing so although I didn’t recognise most of the songs, their sheer musical ability was enough to keep me entertained.

Did you know that Taylor is great on the piano? Because I didn’t. Did you know that Isaac is great on the guitar? Because I didn’t. Did you know that Zac is great on the drums? Because once again I did not. But I soon found out. They even had a set of bongo drums on stage. An hour into the show, Kayla leaned over and muttered “If they don’t play the bongo drums, I’m gonna be real disappointed.” I assured her they would because what show would it be if they left bongo drums on the stage and never played them. They never played the bongo drums.

High school reunion Hanson are somehow better than ever (Photo by Dave Simpson/Getty Images)

If there was one negative for a casual fan, it was the sheer length of the show. Clocking in at over two hours of near non-stop performing, I was exhausted by the time Hanson took their final bow. A lot of people there (myself and Kayla included) were holding out for ‘MMMbop’. When they did finally come out with the historical banger, we were 90 minutes in and I thought it was a perfect ending. Except it wasn’t because they played for another half hour even as small groups of people started to leave. But the real fans stayed, with one woman getting a shout out for attending her 150th Hanson concert. A feat I have still yet to comprehend.

Despite it feeling a little long at times, Kayla and I both agreed that Hanson knew how to put on a show. The fact that we both knew only one of their songs and yet enjoyed listening to 140 consecutive minutes of their music shows how listenable their catalogue is. As I write this, I’ve been listening to some of their earlier albums and I’ve come to realise that Hanson’s music is the exact type of music I like. I’m genuinely surprised I haven’t heard more of them until this week.

As we walked out of the Town Hall, I asked Kayla what she should have been doing instead of going to the Hanson concert with a stranger.

“Probably studying or procrastinating… but it’s Hanson!”

For me, a successful concert gives the diehard fans what they want while also prompting lesser fans to go home and explore their music further. Hanson did just that.


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