Oh what a beautiful night it was Saturday as budding and veteran artists made waves at Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford for the All-Star Christmas concert.
A couple musicians with Connecticut ties returned to perform among six acts bursting with talent at 96.5 TIC’s annual holiday concert – Nick Fradiani and Rachel Platten. Charlie Puth, Nate Ruess, The Band Perry and Rob Thomas were the other performers.
These days, things are looking up for Nick Fradiani – American Idol to the nation and one of our own living the dream to a Connecticut audience. He opened the show and had a smaller time slot, but he didn’t go unnoticed. He performed with a smile and the ease of someone who had been a star all along before “American Idol” voters crowned him so. With signature ab-bending bops, Fradiani had dynamic energy and used the whole stage as he filled the auditorium from the floor to the balcony with the music of a champion. He gave us a sample of his upcoming album with some of the newer songs he’s been working on and closed with a crowd favorite and his “Idol” coronation song, “Beautiful Life” with his Beach Avenue buddies, Nick Abraham on guitar and harmonizing vocals and Ryan Zipp on percussion among those backing him. The song has a “carpe diem” vibe to it, reminding us to seize the moment because we’re never promised tomorrow.
Like a small boat on the ocean, Rachel Platten, a Trinity College ’03 graduate, has spent 12 years cultivating her music career and chasing a dream. But after writing “Fight Song” about pressing forward in her pursuit on song-writing and musical success despite obstacles, she is sending big waves into motion as she rises in the vast music scene. That song has become my anthem because it’s about more than pursuing a music career, it’s about fighting through life no matter what has you down. It brought me to tears on Saturday night and it’s the only song in a concert that has ever drawn that much emotion out of me. She also played music from her upcoming album, “Wildfire,” which is available to pre-order now. I also love her upbeat song “Stand by You” about standing by your love with faith no matter the hardships you face. She was so genuine in her inter-song monologues and I see Taylor Swift passion and positivity in her. We can expect great things and she was one of the main reasons I wanted to go to the show.
I was familiar, as most people probably were, with Charlie Puth from his song featuring Meghan Trainor – “Let’s Marvin Gaye and Get it On.” He said he tried to get Meghan to come with him, but was unable to bring her, however, the song worked as a solo when he performed it. The 24-year-old was the youngest singer gracing the stage at the concert, but his talent and range was impressive. Puth is a singer who excels at falsetto and I appreciated the opportunity to see his music stripped down to him and the piano. He was Marvin Gaye meets Michael Bublé meets Ed Sheeran in his songs of soft, jazzy pure emotion. I really enjoyed his song “Suffer” about a girl who messed with his head for a couple weeks and appreciated his relatable candor. He also played a song I didn’t realize he sang and it turns out it’s one I harmonize to often in the car – “See You Again,” normally featuring Wiz Khalifa. Congratulations to Puth for his Grammy nominations for that song! After this show, I’d really like to follow his music.
The only musician I wasn’t familiar with going into the concert was Nate Ruess, who it turns out is the lead singer of the band Fun. I actually recognized a few of his songs and would like to hear more.
The Band Perry was another reason I came to this concert. I didn’t realize until they were telling the audience that they are siblings. The band features Kimberly, Reid and Neil Perry, often with Kimberly on lead vocals. “If I Die Young” is the song I know them for, but I enjoyed hearing their other music that I had never experienced before. They played one of the only traditional Christmas songs in the show and I would have liked to hear different artists takes on the classics in a concert dubbed as a Christmas show. For siblings to be able to share the gift of music together, that’s the ultimate Christmas present.
Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty was the headliner. He had 20 years or so of music to choose from in designing his set list for the show. “Smooth” was one of my favorites to hear, which was originally a collaboration with Carlos Santana. Thomas really worked the crowd, even venturing out into the audience. My favorite moment was when he stopped mid-song in one of his pieces and said “something’s missing.” And he brought out Nick Fradiani to help him close the show on a song. I would have liked to see more of the artists jamming together on stage because collaborative music is trendy right now and makes the songs we here frequently more fresh. They were kept very separate with 20-minute breaks or so between each set, losing fluidity in the format of the concert, but allowing the audience time to mingle and buy food and beverages in the lobby.
Fighting the traffic getting out of the Oakdale afterward was worth it because these were some exceptional artists. And I hope I see them again.