The iconic singer’s tour was the perfect start to Thanksgiving week
Harry Connick, Jr. kicked off the Christmas season in Washington, DC with his signature charm and warm vocals at The Kennedy Center Monday night (Nov 21st) on his Holiday Celebration Tour.
Taking the stage in a classic all-black suit and white shirt, Connick began the evening with two classic Christmas tunes — “Sleigh Ride” and “Let it Snow.” He then sat down to play the elegantly appointed Steinway & Sons grand piano for the first time that evening on “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
Connick mixed in a few non-Yuletide numbers. Early on in the set, Connick performed the Sinatra standard, “It Had to Be You.” The song has become somewhat of a signature for Connick, as it launched him to fame when it was featured in When Harry Met Sally.
The NOLA-native’s roots were also on display. A new number, “Papa Noel” is a new number from his fourth Christmas album, Make It Merry, out November 26th. The cajun-swing number exudes the jubilance of a Christmas day on the bayou. The wonderful horn section of the 12-piece orchestra shined on an extended rendition of “Bourbon Street Parade,” a tribute to the iconic street in the legendary French Quarter of New Orleans.
“(It Must’ve Been) Santa Claus” is a fun addition to the tradition of mischievous songs about trying to catch Chris Kringle in the act. And “The Christmas Song” — another new recording for Connick off of his Make It Merry — had a wistful sincerity that was refreshing.
The 12-piece band consisted of five string musicians, four horns/wind players, an organist, a bassist and drummer. The latter two, Neal Caine on Bass and Arthur Latin on drums, have been with Connick for decades. The 10 other musicians–contrary to what most composers do on the road–are not local musicians. They tour with Connick and play with him year-round.
Connick’s voice is simply timeless. His light, yet emotional style could fit any era of music. His acting chops are also on display when he sings. The aching on “Please Come Home for Christmas” and the innocent desire on “What Are You Doing New Years Eve?” elevated the songs to hopeful mini-journeys on which the audience went with Connick.
As a piano player, he effortlessly guided the evening’s proceedings, queuing the band with a flick of his wrist. There was an instrumental–a recognizable song of which this reporter could just not pin down the name–that showed off Connick’s true skill on the ivories. The number earned the entire band a standing ovation. Oh, and there’s a funky little instrument that he plays masterfully as well, but why spoil a surprise?
Of course, it takes a certain voice to be able to pull of traditional pop and easy listening music. Harry Connick Jr. has that voice. He also has an encyclopedic knowledge of music. He introduced most numbers by describing what drew him to it, or how he recorded it in the studio.
For example, Make It Merry was recorded with each musician coming in and recording multiple parts, as opposed to gathering a big orchestra in a massive studio to record altogether. This was something Connick had never done before, forced to adapt thanks to the you-know-what.
It is this attention to detail, and pure love for all music, that assures Harry Connick, Jr. will be a standard bearer for the Great American Songbook (and Christmas Songbook) for years still to come.