|Vince Gill was joined by wife Amy Grant for a holiday show. (rose lincoln for the boston globe/file)|
WORCESTER - For many in the crowd at the DCU Center Friday night, thanks to a crippling ice storm, the weather outside was beyond frightful. But many did have a place to go and country crooner Vince Gill and Christian pop star Amy Grant did their best to distract the assembled from the winter freeze.
Backed by a crackerjack 11-piece band, the married couple's warm, nearly two hour performance was a cozy reminder of the joys, and occasional melancholic pangs, the holidays can bring.
Instead of a night of duets, the pair - who boast six Christmas collections between them - mostly engaged in an easy give-and-take on favorite carols, poignant original songs, and traditional hymns that touched on just about every emotion evoked by the season.
Grant drew smiles and cheers by dedicating the poppy plea for salvation from the holiday shopping-cooking-hosting hustle "I Need a Silent Night" to the women in the roughly half-capacity crowd. Gill broke hearts and reminded all of the empty places at this year's table with the ballad "It Won't Be the Same This Year," written in the wake of his brother's death. Grant sent out a tender "I'll Be Home for Christmas" to the troops serving abroad.
Of the few shared tunes, the couple could've thawed an icicle on the lone holiday song they penned together, a wishful thinking vision of a grown up Christmas Eve called "Baby, It's Christmas." And when they took it to church, they did so with breathtaking vocals - Gill's flawless high notes on "O Holy Night" - and touching humanity - Grant's exultant and searching "Breath of Heaven (Mary's Song)."
The duo's most impressive feat was the ability to toggle between sweetness and reverence without ever tumbling into schmaltz. Instead of saccharine they went for cinnamon-dusted with jaunty arrangements of tunes like "Sleigh Ride," "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree," and a snappy instrumental take on "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" that let each band member shine.
Gill and Grant also leavened the proceedings with humor. Grant confided her daughter's wish for a "real live fairy" with a mix of wonder and terror about future therapy bills. And Gill explained his epiphany that even though he and his future bride began playing music around the same time in different venues - he in bars, she in churches - they were actually playing to the same audiences. "I'd get 'em all liquored up on Saturday night, and she'd save 'em on Sunday morning."
As the show drew to a close, it was hard not to feel a Grinch-y twinge of regret that neither would be singing any of the terrific nonholiday songs from their repertoires. But in the spirit of the season we happily received the gifts in the heartfelt manner they were offered.