The latest prize to come out of Wynn Las Vegas’ partnership with AEG Presents, in the Encore Theater; Harry Connick, Jr’s residency is just marvelous; with the fifty year old multi-hyphenate fully utilizing the intimacy of the venue, to draw the entire audience into his show.
A heady combination of charm, talent, charisma, and innate musicality; Harry Connick, Jr. is just one of those entertainers who people cannot help but love. Effortlessly shifting between Dixieland boogie-woogie and jazz standards, interspersed with anecdotes from his life and career; Connick has the audience from the get, and keeps them enthralled until the final bows.
Until you actually see Harry Connick, Jr., perform live, in a setting like this, you have no idea of just how prodigious his talent is. I mean, it’s one thing to see a guitarist play the banjo; or a saxophonist play the clarinet. It’s a logical, albeit impressive, leap. It is something else, entirely, however, to see one person play the piano, the drums, the guitar, the bass guitar, the trumpet, the alto saxophone, the tambourine, the trombone, and yes – sing! And all while immaculately dressed, in a three-piece tuxedo.
But wait… There’s more! He also writes a number of his songs, many of which are odes to his wife of more than twenty years, Jill Goodacre (the Texan beauty who – alongside Stephanie Seymour and Frederique van der Wal – was one of the original Victoria’s Secret models).
And while there’s no doubt that you’re there to see Harry Connick, Jr., his band is worth its weight in gold; because they are fan-friggin-tastic! Throughout the evening, Connick brings each and every member of his band, onto the stage, and plays with them, off of them, and opposite them. Horns! Strings! Keys! Percussion! They all come off the risers, and play alongside Harry.
One of my favorite members of the Harry Connick Jr Big Band (which has been touring since 1990) is Jonothan Duboise, Jr. (bass), who does one of my brother’s favorite guitar “tricks” and lip-syncs along to the sounds emanating from his instrument. The other is the amazing Lucien Barbarin (trombone), who not only slays everyone with his fabulous horn-work, but – in one of the highlights of the evening – plays alongside Harry, while Connick plays one very (very) long note on the trumpet, expelling all of the breath from his body, until he’s lying down on the stage, drained, alongside Barbarin; before the pair pick themselves up, and shake their money-makers for the audience. Good times!
Then, to make sure the audience is soaking in the Big Easy-ness of it all, Connick and his band reenact a New Orleans funeral; beginning with a dirge (“How Great Thou Art”), before segueing to a march (“When the Saints Go Marching In”) – that found the entire band making its way from the stage, up one of the aisles of the theater, then back down the other – with their instruments, and Connick bringing-up the rear, on bass drum.
Later, Connick really let us have it; and played a bunch of instruments at once, in what is among the only instances of a headliner performing with his back to the audience. Talk about eye-hand-coordination! I have trouble getting a meatball from my plate to my mouth without dropping it; and this guy is playing not just a keyboard and a drum, but two of each!
I’ll leave you with this bit of HCJ trivia… Connick came into the world on the same day, fifty years ago, that The Carol Burnett Show debuted on CBS – and if that isn’t a case of being born under a good sign, I don’t know what is.
Harry Connick, Jr.
Wynn Las Vegas | Encore Theater
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