Show Review & Photos: Harry Connick, Jr. @ Benaroya Hall

Harry Connick, Jr. @ Benaroya Hall – 12/17/22
Show Review & Photos by Lisa Hagen Glynn

Harry Connick, Jr. – photo by Lisa Hagen Glynn

Outside the snow was falling. Inside, Harry Connick, Jr. glided past Benaroya Hall’s giant Fisk organ and cued up “Sleigh Ride.”

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

Jingle Bells

Harry Connick, Jr. Merch – photo by Lisa Hagen Glynn