Nobody would have blamed the ticket holders for Harry Connick Jr.'s Friday show at the Colonial Theatre if they bowed to the weather gods and stayed at home to avoid facing the storm head-on. Heck, Connick himself admitted that the reason he came on stage 20 minutes late (singing, ironically enough, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year") was because he'd just arrived from New York, having ignored his manager's advice to leave early in the morning to beat the snow.
But, as the singer graciously acknowledged, people spent their hard-earned cash on those tickets and he was determined to give them their money's worth even if the weather outside was frightful. Whether he and his 10-piece band really exhausted themselves enough to leave little for his Saturday and Sunday shows was a question for those audiences to answer, but Connick was worth braving the elements for.
The show was billed as "A Holiday Celebration," and that it was, ranging from classics like "Blue Christmas" (which had the after-midnight feel of the last dance) and a swinging "Sleigh Ride" to Connick-written material like the cheery, up-tempo "The Happy Elf." "The Christmas Waltz" was as elegantly melodic and gliding as Vince Guaraldi's Charlie Brown scores, while "Frosty the Snowman" was attacked with such gusto that the song raced ahead of the beat.
There was a secondary New Orleans theme, though, that even seeped into the holiday material like "(It Must've Been Ol') Santa Claus" and "Santariffic," which put the light Louis Armstrong voice of trombonist (and Connick foil) Lucien Barbarin to good use. Starting with a solo barrelhouse piano version of "Come Rain or Come Shine," Connick took a seven-song detour to the city of his birth. His fiery organ work boosted the gospel-with-a-taste-of-the-Meters "Didn't He Ramble," while the zippy "Bourbon Street Parade " featured fierce, intertwining solos between Barbarin and trumpet player Mark Braud.
The warmth and charge of the playing came despite Connick's seemingly lackluster showmanship during the songs proper. He wasn't dull or uncharismatic in the least, as proven by the freewheeling, improvisatory charm that he displayed whenever he spoke to the audience between songs. It simply seemed as though Connick realized that given the choice between providing a feast for the eyes and one for the ears, he'd pick the music every time.