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Story and photos by Kate SeesholtzAs couples snuggled up around the auditorium, blue lights rose on a full orchestra as Harry Connick Jr. took the stage Tuesday evening in Nashville. While he seemed uncomfortable during the first few songs, he soon warmed up to the audience, providing close to two hours of unforgettable songs and jokes.
As Connick Jr. started off the evening, he remarked that he "really had to try harder (tonight), because this is music city, and people here get it." He went on to sing "The Way You Look Tonight" before settling in at his piano for the Ray Charles' classic, "You Don't Know Me." It was at the piano that Harry Connick Jr. really captured the crowd. As he took time to speak of his hometown of New Orleans' recent Superbowl win, a very young fan came up to the stage to hand him Mardi Grad beads. As he embraced the girl, it was easy to see how much the city and his fans mean to him. He then treated the audience to some New Orleans' style piano; an impressive jazz number with self improvised drumbeats behind it. Connick Jr.'s fingers glided across the keys and sweat dripped from his brow as the crowd shouted out encouragement.
Harry Connick Jr truly let his vocal talents show through on his song, "Besame Mucho.' It was after this song that he also started to joke with the crowd. He told them that he wasn't sure what the Spanish song meant, but he knew that it sounded good. He said how in order to make a song better; one really needs to put themselves into it, calling it the difference between chicken soup and gumbo. He joked that he often over compensates by doing "bodily things" during the song. This comment of course brought ecstatic cheers from the females in the audience. Though, Connick Jr. was quick to state he wasn't sexy like Elvis, he couldn't merely shake his hips and cause frenzy. He had to instead take a note from Julio Iglesias, and pretend he was freezing (in order to sound sexy). As he reenacted the song using this theory, the audience could not control their laughter.
The jokes continued throughout breaks in songs. Most of the time the audience was charmed by his quips, though a time or two they proved to be a little too much for the southern crowd. In commenting on the twenty years of knowing his wife, he deadpanned that he "wasn't saying there weren't prostitutes." While the audience initially laughed, Connick Jr. waited just a few beats too long to add in that he was just joking, before launching into Stevie Wonder's "For Once in my Life." Another uncomfortable moment came when he apologized for forgetting to remove his hat during his singing of the National Anthem at the Daytona 500 recently. He joked that the NASCAR jacket they made him wear was more offensive. "Does it say Gucci or Prada on it? No, it was NASCAR!" Not the best joke to make in a city mere miles from a NASCAR speedway.
It seemed all was quickly forgotten when soft blue lights filled the stage, and Harry Connick Jr. led into an emotionally broken version of "And I Love You So." As members of the Nashville Symphony played, famed trombone player Lucien Barbarin joined the ensemble to help finish out the set. The strong dynamic of Barbarin and Connick Jr. was undeniable. They played off each other beautifully, providing not only captivating music but also hilarious comedy. As Barbarin started on a solo, Harry Connick Jr sashayed up to the piano and climbed upon it, reclining as if he were a lounge singer. As Barbarin's portion of the set ended, the two literally shook their butts across the stage to exit, inciting more cheers.
While listening to Harry Connick Jr's soft voice sing the classics of years gone by, backed by an incredible orchestra, it was easy to feel transported back in time. Sitting in the historic auditorium it felt as if one was once more in the days of big bands, where, with the help of an easygoing bandleader, the music could truly make you feel alive.
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