“Never been enough to be standing still
Always had a taste for another thrill
When I hit a wall, when I’m put to the test
Always find it hard to ignore it
When I feel the heat, I know I’m on my way
Just a little spark that burns so bright
I’ll be on my feet until I reach the day
I’ll be searching, searching for the sound of light” – Hanson
Whether it is the opening phrases or the last notes of Hanson’s ‘String Theory’, these sentiments from their song, ‘The Sound of Light’, capture what Hanson was, is and always will be. And they capture the essence of ‘String Theory’ (their latest album and musical project) in their uncompromising declaration that Hanson are seekers of the fulfilment of their musical and personal identities. Their musical manifesto is one of self-determination, following their instincts, dreaming big and imagining the unimaginable. And whatever the sound of light is, it has the shape of something dynamic, explosive, potent and authoritative.
Hanson have been writing songs that reflect this theme throughout their career. ‘MMMBop’, talks of planting seeds, growing potential and keeping hold of things that truly matter. ‘This Time Around’, the title track from their second studio album, rejects the easy way out and looks towards courage and honesty as the answers to testing times in life.
Underneath, their third studio album is much more than a next release. It stands as the story of growing into self-reliance, making tough choices and taking control, as Hanson became independent artists. And so, it goes on, with Hanson’s musical catalogue being a picture book of their circumstances. On their special EPs available exclusively to their fan club members, Hanson have released some of their more experimental music, songs that missed the cut for major albums and songs that are more personal, but even here, the challenge in the lyrics has been to live authentically, positively and without fear.
This is the background to Hanson’s latest project and double album, ‘String Theory’. It is a musical story which follows the anticipation, discovery and realisation of a boy’s hopes and dreams. Although the boy is a character imagined by Hanson, he is the reflection of their selves and his story is their own.
So, what has a week of ‘String Theory’ concerts been like for fans across the UK and Europe?
One way to find out is to hashtag Hanson on Instagram and find excited posts from fans old, new and returning. The responses have a heartfelt exuberance and genuine love at their core:
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Completely new level of awe and totally overwelming when you bring your 6 year old daughter to see the band that have been in your life for the majority of it. 🎶🎸🎹 Especially when they sang mmmbop…the song that takes me back to being 14 again. Back then, bringing a child of mine to a #Hanson concert would have been completely inconceivable. I had to pinch myself a few times for it to sink in. Thank you @isaachanson @taylorhanson @zachanson for putting on such an awesome show that I could bring my daughter to. In particular, thank you Ike for specifically saving a plectrum to give to her! 😁 you made an already special event even more memorable and amazing. All 3 of my kids enjoy listening to Hanson but Alice is on a different level. She has been listening to Hanson's #stringtheory every night in bed for the last couple of months (she has a very active mind and finds it difficult to settle down to sleep usually so it's helped her). She has learnt all the songs and has various songs from the album stuck in her head most of the time everyday, she randomly breaks out into song all day long when she's at home, makes me feel strangely proud 😅. When I got back from the Birmingham Hanson show and showed her the videos I had recorded, it was pretty obvious that she would have liked to see them too. She has never been interested like this about anyone else before. Being a seated show it would have been the perfect introduction for her too but the next show we would have been able to go to was a sold out show!! Miraculously, I managed to get us some tickets for London last minute, the afternoon of the show. I picked her up from school and had to leave for the show almost immediately afterwards to get there on time. She was so excited to be seeing Hanson and I was just as excited too, to experience this with her. She was quite overwelmed with the new (to her) atmosphere & especially seeing Hanson right there in front of her as real people. But she truly thoroughly enjoyed herself. One thing that bothered her was that she couldn't bring herself to sing out and truly get as involved like she would have loved to do on the day due to her selective mutism diagnosis.
For some in the audience it was about seeing Hanson live for the first time. For others it was about hearing their music in a different setting, with orchestral arrangements in fabulous buildings steeped in musical grandeur.In truth, the experience was probably different for every person seated or standing in the audience. Yet it seemed that people of every age, musical taste and Hanson history came to shows with one thing in common; a great affection for three men who began a career as youngsters. Some sat waiting for their favourite songs from ‘Middle of Nowhere’, some sang every word to every song, some were unable to resist shouting “I love you” and some found new respect for a band they hardly knew. Then there were those who celebrated their journey through love, adoration, struggle and celebration alongside the band that has defined much of their lives.
‘String Theory’ is a compilation of old and new Hanson music and spans at least 22 years of their career. Songs have been woven into the story so that the lyrics paint the picture of a journey from starting out, growing and losing, to rebuilding, hoping and dreaming. The highs and lows of the music mirror the sentiments of the words and the orchestral arrangements add depth and space for reflection.
As an opener, the plaintive questioning of ‘Reaching For The Sky’ created space to allow the music to be new and approached with a different ear, whilst Taylor Hanson’s tender voice and piano playing touched many a passionate memory.
The performances of Isaac, Taylor and Zac Hanson had all that is best about their talents individually and as a trio. They brought all their energy and attitude to the songs, played multiple instruments and sang with passion, boldness and superb clarity. They connected with their audience in a way that is irresistible. Their eyes were never still, moving from face to face in the crowd, scanning for new and old friends, validating everyone’s presence and expressing gratitude.
It is interesting to learn that the first and last notes of ‘String Theory’ are the same. The first few notes of ‘Reaching for the Sky’ are repeated in the last few notes of ‘Tonight’, the final song. Musically that is possibly a moment missed by less observant individuals, but as a point of attention to detail it underlines something beautiful. Are Hanson telling us that everything is connected in their world? That beginnings and endings are all part of the whole? That their story has a thread running through it, that brings them and us back to the same place time and time again? That the story of reaching for the sky is the same as jumping in the crowd and making it count right now? That where they began is not so different from where they are now? And that everything that counts is built by growing, believing, losing, discovering, hurting, healing, hoping and dreaming. The details of ‘String Theory’, the musical composition of strings, brass, percussion, woodwind and rock music may be a beautiful revelation for all those who listen, but for those who know Hanson, the message is one we have loved since forever. It is about what is most beautiful in life and we are just so glad that others get to dream it and do it too. Thank you Hanson for bringing your story to us over the pond.
Hanson are now in Australia, taking String Theory from Melbourne to Sydney, Canberra, Gold Coast and Brisbane.
For more about Hanson visit their official website.
Many Thanks to Katia Carlo Zanotti for the pictures from Utrecht.
Many Thanks to Marie for use of her Instagram content.
Thanks to Christine Easom for this great piece!