By Chaz Lipp
The first of two sold-out Harry Connick Jr. concerts at Woodinville, Washington’s Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery was a two-hour revue of New Orleans jazz. Backed by a ten-piece band, most of whom were spotlighted throughout the evening with generous solo spots, Connick was the consummate entertainer. Those seeking the crooner ballads that made him a star over a quarter-century ago were placated early with swinging renditions of “It Had to Be You” and “The Way You Look Tonight.” But the July 18, 2015 concert was dominated by the interplay amongst Connick’s band members.
It has, in fact, been unusually warm this summer in Western Washington, and Connick’s band only served to spike the mercury with their spirited jamming. Several tributes-in-song were paid to Connick’s hometown of New Orleans, including the 1996 original “City by the Sea.” Trombonist Lucien Barbarin and trumpeter Leroy Jones not only enjoyed plenty of featured time, they also served as onstage foils to Connick during the concert’s lightest comedic moments. Perhaps second only to tight musicianship is Connick’s desire to deliver a well-rounded, entertaining show. He danced, he bounced around from piano to keyboard to trumpet to percussion, and he told stories about being a judge on American Idol. The latter led to one of the evenings bigger surprises…
FANIELS ALERT! Yes, one of the most divisive American Idol Season 14 finalists was in the house: Vancouver, WA’s Daniel Seavey. The 16-year-old ninth place-finisher bounded around the stage singing “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You).” Connick talked enthusiastically about how happy Seavey was even after being eliminated from Idol, simply because of all the experience the show had brought him. Seavey’s sister had the best seat in the house, along with Connick’s own daughter – the teens were seated right on the stage (in fact, a group of women asked Connick’s daughter to take a photo of them, and she happily obliged!).
Daniel Seavey’s well-received Motown moment wasn’t the only time Connick shared the vocal spotlight, as guitarist extraordinaire Jonathan Dubose Jr. was featured as well. With a new album due in October, Connick also treated the audience to a trio of brand-new songs: the first was a moody ballad, the second a folk-ish number dedicated to “all the married couples” (which featured Connick picking some acoustic guitar licks), and the third an uptempo groover.
The more rabid of Connick’s female fan base reared their rather embarrassing heads on several occasions. Early on, one woman was intent on delivering some kind of message to Connick. He tried to placate the situation, but once the woman had been escorted out he thanked security, calling the woman was a “distraction.”
“She kept saying she had met me before,” Connick explained, “Okay, what do you want me to do about it? I’m in the middle of a show!”
During the jam-oriented encore, another woman managed to climb onto the stage, dancing with Connick briefly and stealing a quick hug before being ushered out of the venue. On a slightly more sane note, several fans delivered snacks and drinks to the stage. One gentleman even had three mango lemonades, each labeled with a different band member’s name. “What about the rest of the band?” asked Connick, “There’s like ten guys up here!” Among the more improbable snacks: an older lady brought up a half-eaten bag of grapes. Connick cracked wise about the possibility of being poisoned. Later, slices of cake were distributed amongst the rows closest the stage to honor the birthday of Connick’s longtime audio technician.
As a matter of fact, I politely declined another concertgoer’s offer of a partially-eaten piece (he expected me to take a bite right off his dirty fork and then pass the same piece down the row). While another song or two would’ve been preferable to all the birthday shenanigans (Connick personally delivered pieces to some attendees), it was as tremendously crowd-pleasing show. Connick’s solo take on “Junco Partner” and a full-band rave up on Allen Toussaint’s “Yes We Can Can” were particular highlights.
Harry Connick Jr. at the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery July 18, 2015 Photos: Sherry Lipp