Pop singer-songwriter Rachel Grae performed for a very enthusiastic crowd at The Funhouse. Despite being briefly cancelled due to the heavy snowfall enroute, the show proceeded as planned with tour-mates Andi Mitchell and Lisa Heller. Rachel and I took a few minutes after her set for some casual photos outside the venue.
Reggae songstress HIRIE and her band played a sold-out show at Neumos. The Seattle stop on her headlining tour highlighted songs from her recent album, Mood Swing. The high energy performance – start to finish – kept the crowd totally engaged. Long Beach, CA based Vana Liya opened.
Connick tickled the ivories of a magnificent Steinway and crooned Christmas carols from a stool, meanwhile conducting his ensemble with just an occasional gesture. He was accompanied by a 14-piece orchestra and jazz band, boasting a fine lineup of players. The whole jazz band soloed during the set, and Connick announced their names to enthusiastic cheers. Most notable were features for New York City mainstay Jerry Weldon on tenor saxophone, Neal Caine on bass, and Arthur Latin II on drums. Connick’s concertmaster led a local string section.
Connick sang mostly holiday classics, but also included a few of his originals, some trad-jazz standards, and the career-launching “It Had to Be You” from When Harry Met Sally. “Silent Night” invited audience participation, and Connick declared that they had sung like angels. For a change of pace, he unveiled the Harpejji, an unconventional string instrument with a pedal-steel sound. Connick admitted having been recently unfamiliar with the Cajun classic “Papa Noël,” despite being from New Orleans. An extended solo-piano introduction to the Brazilian hit “Tico Tico” crescendoed to include the full ensemble, and showed off Connick’s skills at the keys. “Bourbon Street Parade” featured the front line in a NOLA-style concurrent improvisation. A round of red and green-accented applause coaxed Connick back to the stage, where he and the jazz octet closed with a cheerful encore of “Jingle Bells.”
Unsurprisingly, the award-winning musician, composer, actor, and TV host had an effortless stage presence. Connick was dressed in a snazzy black suit, but his real charm lied in his between-tune engagement with his fans. “I love your city, I love your state,” he exclaimed, noting that he has toured here frequently and usually performs summer shows at Chateau Ste. Michelle winery. Connick was gentle and witty in addressing front-row filmer “Peggy,” who gladly stowed her cellphone in exchange for a selfie and a song dedication. He wanted her to be present, he explained, so that he could be fully present to the audience and everyone could experience the moment together—and, because nobody looks good on camera at a 45-degree angle.
Detracting from an otherwise strong set was some recurrent distortion that obscured Connick’s vocals, seemingly due to over-amplification of the brass and piano during the louder numbers. Benaroya Hall was designed for acoustic ensembles, and the space can struggle with boosted acts. The audience took it in stride, offering two standing ovations.
This show was the first of two nights at Benaroya Hall. Connick’s 28-date “A Holiday Celebration Tour” supported his fourth holiday album, Make It Merry.
— Set List:
Sleigh Ride Santa Claus Is Coming to Town When My Heart Finds Christmas It Had to Be You The Way You Look Tonight Blue Christmas Silent Night I Pray on Christmas The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) (It Must’ve Been Ol’) Santa Claus Please Come Home for Christmas Papa Noël Tico Tico Bourbon Street Parade Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas Make It Merry What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve Come By Me
(Encore) Jingle Bells
Harry Connick, Jr. Merch – photo by Lisa Hagen Glynn
Japanese artists are on my mind as I post this final SXSW 23 preview. Also, some other great female musicians make themselves heard in a big way. I hope these posts have helped make any attendee decide on which shows will be fun!
Rock band with the most peculiar member names – Clams Baker Jr, Lightnin’ Jack Everett , Quicksand , Mr. Salt Fingers Lovecraft and The Witherer aka Little Whiskers – have just released a new song called “Love Strong.” A fan? Check it out over here.
Do you like some classical guitar? Alexandra Whittingham is a classical guitarist with an impressive education (Chetham’s School of Music, London’s the Royal Academy of Music in London). She has performed all over the world, and has an adorable cat.
Alexandra Whittingham – photo from Alexandra Whittingham’s Facebook
Woodes will be worth checking out just for her clothing itself, but she’s also a wonderful pop artist. Not sure if she will work some creative outfits into her set – maybe? The producer/songwriter draws from different arts, and incorporates them into her presence.
Close to wrapping up features on just some of the great bands coming to SXSW this year. Today’s list includes artists from Spain, Ukraine, Ireland and more. Electronic, rock, metal. . . whatever you fancy is there for you.
Australia’s Salarymen have four shows at this year’s SXSW, plus thee rock duo had shows in Japan last year. Renee (de la Motte) told AnalogueTrash, about their beginnings: “We started dating while Thom (Eagleton) was in bands around Sydney (several of which fizzled out sadly) and decided together that now was the time to start our own project! That way, the only way the band could break up is if we did!”
Rock group the Scratch, who are from Dublin, gamely posed with pugs one time. This is the best. They will tour the United States and Canada for the first time, and, while scratch can mean many things, I’m guessing they mean money.
Electronic duo from the Denotsk region in Ukraine. Returning for a third visit to SXSW, they’re electronic and folk (Kirill Vakare plays the flute!) Last year, the pair released an EP called Tysha, which means silence in Ukrainian. On their SoundCloud, they described the EP as “. . . songs about love, about separation of people and strong feelings that help us deal with war.”
London’s Sports Team have been around approximately 6 years and they’ve already had one Mercury Prize nomination. They’re known for great live shows and this will be their first appearance at SXSW. The rock group formed at the University of Cambridge, and I think that gives them intriguing clout. ~