I’ve never been a Harry Connick, Jr. fan, but after last night’s (Thursday, March 1) concert at the Asheville Civic Center’s Thomas Wolfe auditorium, I kind of am. I just can’t help it.
It doesn’t hurt that Harry’s a hottie. He looks better in person—more real, super-tall, wearing a great suit—and even though I find the lazy drawl to be rather suspect, it’s actually charming.
And then there’s the matter of his band. A 12-piece backing band would make pretty much anyone look good. Case in point, local musician Lynn Lewellyn made the grievous error of showing up late, trying to duck into a third row seat, and then had the nerve to talk back when Connick stopped his show to question her. Implausibly, she told him she played ukulele. His response? He sent her back to her car to fetch it, and then jammed with her on stage. And—this is what I was getting at—with the standup bassist and Connick on keys, Lewellyn got a standing ovation.
Connick is on tour in support of a double CD release (Chanson du Vieux Carré and Oh, My Nola), a percentage of the sales of each going to the New Orleans Habitat Musicians’ Village which houses the city’s displaced musicians. Connick and jazz artists Branford and Ellis Marsalis conceived the project in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
So, that being the point of the tour, there was a definite note of New Orleans nostalgia about the show. A huge French Quarter backdrop, two street lamps lighting the stage, song selections like “Jambalaya (On The Bayou)” and “Going to New Orleans” verged on corny, but the thing is, Connick can really play. How many musicians could hammer out Professor Longhair’s wildly syncopated drunken-sea-shanty-meets-barroom-brawl “Tipitina?” Connick can do it. He’s more than just pretty—he’s got chops.
And wit. While I’m gushing, I might as well add that. The guy is funny. He did what amounted to standup about towel lint and old-guy belches and then threw down some impressive jazz riffs and managed to be, above all else, highly entertaining.
A couple songs into the concert I realized I was completely at ease—an experience I’m not used to when it comes to live music. Indie rock and alt-whatever can require so much energy, so much involvement on the part of the listener. Sometimes it’s nice just to laissez les bons temps rouler.
—Alli Marshall, A&E reporter