T'was the night before Thanksgiving and all through the venue, ticket holders were stirring, and cinnamon pecans were sold. Cobb Energy Centre was decked out in Christmas cheer with employees dressed in jolly red. It was like walking into a mall in October. I will admit, I am the Grinch that will only tolerate songs of figgy pudding during the actual holiday and not before, but here I was, about to embark on a whimsical winter wonderland put on by Lindsey Stirling to showcase her recent Christmas album, Warmer In The Winter. Standing in line with our Photographer, Carlie Adair, I continually bah humbugged, complaining that Christmas music should only be played after December 15 and immediately cut off on the 26th. It's not that I despise the music itself, it's that American stores everywhere have jaded me.
However, the silver and gold Christmas trees lining the halls and the smell of roasted pecans permeating the venue did have quite the warming, inviting effect. Walking in a bit tardy to the opening act, Alexander Jean, I discovered that I had been given a ticket in the box directly beside the stage, arguably the best in house. They were already melting the ice off of my cold annoyed heart.
Alexander Jean is a duo consisting of Mark Ballas and his girlfriend, BC Jean. The duo had clear chemistry on stage, Jean's look reminiscent of Stevie Knicks with her flowing black scarves and long blonde hair. Mark had just come off Dancing With The Stars alongside Lindsey Stirling and Mark's newly formed love band was now on tour with the violinist. During the performance of their recent hit, "Roses and Violets," Jean prompted the crowd to raise their phone lights and sway along to the duo's love song. It was perhaps a bit theatrical, but the effect on the balconied music hall was admittedly pretty.
As the duo left the stage, stage hands quickly erected a Christmas world, raised snow-capped houses whose doors opened to three white steps leading to stage center. Stirling's band set up camp beside the houses, leaving most of the stage open and free. I was soon to find out why. Lindsey Stirling had also recently finished performing on Dancing With The Stars, and when I say recently, I mean the night before was her finale performance. Already known for her ability to dance and leap across stage while playing her heart out on her violin, I was excited to see what all the training had done for her.
Stirling not only did not disappoint, she somehow managed to make Christmas music tolerable in November. Addressing the crowd shortly after her performance began, she admitted that going on a Christmas tour in November was risky and she apologized to all those clearly dragged here by their children or Christmas-loving significant others. Her on-stage personality was so energized and happy, I couldn't help but get into it. Then there was her dancing. Holy candy canes, this girl can leap, twirl and get down with it like nothing I have seen before, all while playing her glittering violin. She performed almost all of her songs from the Christmas album and even some of her non-holiday hits like "Crystallize" interjected with a cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah".
She addressed the crowd often, her stories ranging from innocent memories with her family during the holidays and her time on Dancing With The Stars, to deeper stuff. She told the crowd of her journey through her musical career, having gone through hopeless periods wrought with self-loathing and family tragedy. She gave unashamed credit to Jesus Christ. Yet not in a way that said "you must believe what I believe," rather in a way that said "this is what I personally believe and is the reason I am who I am." I think anyone can respect that, and with such an increasingly intolerant world where offense is taken to everything, it was refreshing to hear someone be able to freely talk about their journey that included their belief system.
Mid-show, and amidst one of many wardrobe changes, Stirling came to the front of the stage to a setup of a circle of tiny instruments. She beckoned her band forward where they proceeded to hold a tiny concert, showcasing snippets of several songs including the Harry Potter theme and the popular Charlie Brown Christmas theme. It was hilarious and impressive all at once. Nearing the end of her show, Stirling yet again came to have a chat with the crowd to admit that she had not slept for two days and was running off pure Red Bull. With Dancing With The Stars ending just the night before, talk shows to attend and concert rehearsal, she was on fumes, and yet she was still flying around stage like a ballerina with a sugar high and serenading us with flawless violin. This woman is a boss bitch.
To cap off the night, Stirling told us her story of her last Christmas and the importance of the song "Silent Night." She was at a Christmas fair with her family, and her father had fallen ill. She told the crowd that as "Silent Night" played throughout the fair grounds, she had a gut feeling that her time with her father was limited, that she needed to make the most of every moment. Sadly, her intuition was correct, and her father passed, but not without her appreciating every quality second with him. She then led into her final song of the night, "Silent Night." It was a beautiful performance and afterward as she, her band and her dancers all came out to bow, I left much less a Grinch and with full respect for this violinist and her Christmas tour. But she was the exception. No more carols for me until mid-December, bah humbug.
Photos by Carlie Adair for Bullet Music.