...and I don't know about you, but I'm still in awe of what I saw and heard last night. In one sentence:
I was blown away by Clay Aiken's "Christmas in the Heartland" stop at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie.
In the interest of full disclosure, I voted for Clay on Season Two of "American Idol." I thought he was better than Ruben Studdard. I have all of Clay's CDs, including the "All is Well" EP that dropped on iTunes last Tuesday. I told Clay all of this last week when I interviewed him, and he was very appreciative.
Sure, it comes through on CDs, but to hear him live is a totally different experience. A microphone is all he needs; his voice is his own instrument. I swear, I heard him hit notes last night that I've never heard a male singer hit. It was truly amazing.
I knew the guy could sing; but you can't appreciate how well he can sing until you hear it live in person.
Now, this wasn't just a concert (and certainly not a run-of-the-mill pop concert), it was more like what I'd expect a night at the Kennedy Center to be like: It was classy, it was elegant and it was fitting with both Clay and the music singing and the season he was celebrating.
Decked out in formal wear, Clay seemingly hovered over the grand piano in the middle of the stage (he was actually on a platform behind it, climbing several steps to get there) and was flanked by a back-up vocalist on either side, each wearing a ball gown. Wearing nice jeans and a button-down dress shirt (I'd just come from work, remember), I felt naked compared to all this!
On a personal note as a veteran of 13 years of Catholic school, I found it extremely refreshing to see a performer sing the religious songs I heard (oh) so many times from kindergarten all the way through high school. It was nice to see that while far too many artists compromise their personal beliefs to sell tickets, Clay didn't. He provided a nice mix of traditional and religious Christmas standards ("O Come All Ye Faithful," "O Holy Night" and the like) with newer, more secular songs that celebrate the holiday ("Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "The Christmas Song," et al).
The most disappointing part of the night for me was seeing empty seats. (It almost makes me feel like no one read my story in Friday's Poughkeepsie Journal!) As I'd passed along in an earlier post Saturday morning, ticket sales apparently weren't what people had hoped so they sold 2- and 4-packs for basically half-price. It's a shame because too many people missed an amazing show, the best I've seen at the Civic Center in all of 2007.
After the show, Clay finally emerged from the stage door close to 90 minutes after the show, wearing a sky-blue University of North Carolina sweatshirt, quickly walking to his bus to escape our the temps in the 20s, but kind enough to turn around and wave to the dozen or so dedicated fans who braved the cold.
As a P.S. to the story: Around 12:45 a.m., after the last fans had long departed, Clay left that bus and walked back to the other bus (the one closer to the stage door) and before departing for tonight's show at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.
As a P.P.S. to the story: As I stated earlier, treacherous weather is forecast Sunday for the Northeast throughout the day and night, so hence, I won't be driving the 3+ hours and reviewing the Mohegan Sun show.