Back in 1972 on their debut LP, Whole Oats, Hall & Oates were already expressing their impatience at not having made it big and gotten out of town yet, in a song in which they proclaimed, "Don't wanna spend another fall in Philadelphia."
And yet, here were Daryl Hall and John Oates on a Thursday night 43 years later, a rainy October evening that felt very much like fall in Philadelphia. The returning Rock and Roll Hall of Fame heroes - the soul-pop duo were inducted last year - headlined opening night at the sold-out Fillmore Philadelphia, the new 2,500-seat Live Nation concert hall in a former metal factory.
"We're in Fishtown, right?" the towheaded Hall, 68, said a few songs in. "I used to be scared to come up here." He and his curly-haired partner, a year younger, had christened the building with "Maneater" and were about to offer a soulfully smooth take on Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil's "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling."
The Fillmore shows off an exposed-brick industrial-chic look and is part of a 141,000-square-foot, $31 million complex that will eventually include an Italian restaurant. It also sports a 450-seat-capacity venue-within-the-venue called the Foundry, where DJs were spinning Supertramp and the Bee Gees before Hall & Oates hit the stage at 8:07 p.m. (The first official Foundry show Oct. 11 will be Questlove as DJ.) The club complex is the seventh Live Nation-owned Fillmore in the United States, all rather lamely named after the original Fillmore founded by Bill Graham in San Francisco in 1965.
The Fillmore Philadelphia milks that hippie-era association, with artwork featuring acts that have played at various faux Fillmores over the years. A flower-power-painted Volkswagen bus served as a merch mart in the spacious lobby. The complex is a potential capstone to the makeover of the formerly residential neighborhood into a dense entertainment district. That began when humble Johnny Brenda's opened in 2003 on Girard Avenue.
The Fillmore has local beers on draft from brewers Victory, Dock Street, Yards, and Troeg's. It also aims to keep the concertgoer from going hungry with food offerings - divided into Fingers, Hands, Fork, and Share categories. Bratwursts sell for $9 a brat from a cart just off the dance floor. A promise to have free earplugs available at all bars was not met: None that I checked had them.
The sightlines are superb. The 48-foot-wide stage stretches nearly the entire width of the room, and if you were willing to take in the extended-set jam of "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)" or the Oates-sung deep-cut "Las Vegas Turnaround" from a side angle, it was easy to move up to prime Instagram picture-taking distance even after the sold-out show had begun.
Like nearby Union Transfer but on a grander scale, the Fillmore has horseshoe-shape balconies that allow fans on either side to get close to the headliners while looking down from above. I couldn't tell you what it looked or sounded like from up there, though: Those areas are reserved for VIP ticket-holders.
The sound, by state-of-the-art Lititz, Pa., outfit Clair Bros., was top-notch. The room sounded surprisingly warm, considering that once away from the wooden dance floor, the sound has plenty of hard concrete and brick surfaces to bounce off. That dance floor, by the way, will get its first aerobic workout when British electronic dance act Flux Pavilion headlines Sunday, for a crowd much younger than Thursday's. There is an issue, however, of people chattering under the balconies, creating cacophony in areas where the sound from the stage tends to get muffled.
The headliners were preceded on stage by Mayor Nutter, who touted the "tons of jobs" (actually 200) created by the venue, on Canal Street across Delaware Avenue from SugarHouse Casino.
Hall & Oates were a hit machine in their 1970s and '80s heyday, so it seemed a bit stingy that their show, including two two-song encores, lasted only 95 minutes. Still, neither performers nor audience went home unhappy. The duo - the biggest-selling in pop music history - fronted a six-piece outfit that has an easy, confident way with a dance-pop groove. And Hall has a remarkably well-preserved and agile voice. It sounds as effortlessly relaxed four-plus decades on as it did in the group's early-'70s beginnings. And both he and his partner, who called the venue "amazing," seemed genuinely enthralled by the Fillmore.
"This is a great place," Hall said. He called Philadelphia "our musical home" before the final crowd-pleasing encore of "Kiss on My List" and "Private Eyes."
"I'm glad," said Daryl Hall, "this place exists."