Becoming the latest act to perform on NPR‘s “Tiny Desk” series today last week, Hanson played an intimate set that shows why the three brothers still have a dedicated fan base in 2017 — as NPR notes, the group played a sold out set the night before at the 2,000 capacity Fillmore in Silver Spring, Maryland.
The setlist was as tiny as the desks, as they played three tracks off their newly released greatest hits album, Middle of Everywhere: “Thinkin Bout Somethin’,” “This Time Around” and “I Was Born.” The acoustic set up with Taylor’s piano, Isaac’s guitar and Zac’s cajón gave the performance a bit of a saloon meets jam band vibe.
“Thinkin Bout Somethin” proved to be a twangy pop-rock jam instilled with the kind of hooks that made them famous — at the bridge, Taylor even managed to get the packed NPR office to clap along. “It’s OK to clap if we ask you to clap,” he said after the song ended.” I love how you guys were like, [whispers] ‘Can we clap?’ You are the most obedient audience we’ve ever seen.”
This year is a nostalgic one for Hanson as 2017 simultaneously marks their 25th anniversary as a band and the 20th anniversary of their smash hit “MMMBop” — but youngest brother Zac is all about looking forward. “This is our 25 year anniversary, but we can’t do anything without thinking about the future,” he said. “People ask us how we stayed together as a band, and that’s really the whole source of it. The future, the next thing, the next song, the next project — that’s our game. That’s what we’re in it for.”
“This Time Around” highlighted the three members’ vocals as they launched into a soulful a capella breakdown. Their voices sound much more lived-in, devoid of the glossy pop sheen of their earlier years — not to mention, the former child stars have long been free of the voice changes that come with puberty.
“A lot of people know the song ‘MMMBop,’” Taylor said. “But the song that we really think of as the defining moment for us in connecting with our fans was a key song on our second record, ‘This Time Around,’ because it’s sort of about fighting for things and caring about things — because we’ve had this incredible connection with a lot of fans all over the world for 20 years.”
“This Time Around” peaked at No. 20 on the Hot 100 in 2000 — their third and last song to land on that chart, which followed “MMMBop”’s 1997 appearance at No. 1.
Their last soft-rock jam, “I Was Born,” propelled their setlist into the present. “When we went to do the greatest hits and do this tour, we had to do one new song,” Zac said. “And this is a song we had written a few years ago, and it just seemed like the perfect message for our band, for this time in our career, for this time in the world.”
The message of the song is that everybody was born with their own purpose in life. “Sometimes you need to hear it from someone else, be reminded you were born to do something no one else is gonna do,” said Taylor. “So that’s a good way to start our next 25 years.”
In other news, 98 Degrees isn’t the only ‘90s boy band coming out with a Christmas album this year — Hanson will drop Finally It’s Christmas on Friday (Oct. 27) followed by a string of holiday concerts in Toronto, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
Watch Hanson’s Tiny Desk Concert below.