Daryl Hall and John Oates' return to Madison Square Garden for the first time in more than 30 years feels like vindication for the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers.

"It's the result of years and years of hard work," said Oates, calling from his home in Nashville, Tennessee. "Everything means more to us now than when we were part of a big machine. No one is pulling our strings. It's a great place to be."

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The duo known for a string of massive hits in the '70s and '80s -- from "Sara Smile" to "Maneater" -- made a concerted effort in the early '90s to take control of their careers. "We realized we would never be pop stars the rest of our lives," Oates said. "We became independent artists in 1996, one of the first major artists to go that route. In the 2000s, we rebuilt our career so that we weren't going to be driven by hits on the radio and it worked. People rediscovered us. New generations found us. The reason we have returned to these bigger venues is that we were true to ourselves."

Tickets for the Feb. 19 show are $49.50-$125 and go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday through Ticketmaster.

"We want the night to be an experience," Oates said, adding that they hand-picked openers Mayer Hawthorne and Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings to introduce fans to new music. "We're not just going to trot out our hits . . . We're going to make it interesting."