Mariah Carey kicks off Christmas in Toronto

Tuesday 28 November 2023

Mariah Carey kicks off Christmas in Toronto |
Tis the season for Mariah Carey pleasin'. If anyone doubted the importance of the holidays to the Huntington, New York-born singer and songwriter with the five-octave range, Carey's "Merry Christmas One and All" tour eliminated all Grinchy doubts as it touched down at Scotiabank Arena Monday night.

That also goes for the estimated 16,000 in attendance who were primed for the occasion: there was a sea of Santa hats throughout the crowd and many were attired in red, green and tinsel, with blinking Christmas lights on their sweaters. There were some sexy Santa's helpers and wannabe elves mixed in for good measure, and pop music's biggest diva couldn't help but notice how everyone showed up ready to party.

"You look like fun," Carey exclaimed to her adoring audience early in her 90-minute concert, of which the first 70 minutes or so were dominated by carols, some holiday-themed originals and a surprise cover of the Waitresses' "Christmas Wrapping" that had a video of the singer with a bunch of young tykes, including her daughter, Monroe, and son, Moroccan.

That was one of many big-time production numbers designed to bring Yuletide cheer to the gathered masses, something that, at this point, is probably expected from an entertainer of the stature of the multi-Grammy-winning Carey.

There was a glimpse of the elaborate set before she even hit the stage: a collection of snow-coloured instruments; a large, circular video screen that would project Christmas-themed animations all night and two gigantic wrapped presents wheeled out by six dancing bellhops in holiday red.

When the lights dimmed, two young girls - maybe 10 or 11 years old - emerged from the boxes and performed ballet to "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy". A few bars in, sharp-eared listeners heard a high-octave shadowing of the melody, as Carey surfaced from the middle of the stage, resplendent in a short, red dress that featured glittering snowflakes that sparkled in the light.

If you know anything about Mariah Carey - holidays or not - it's all about the glam and the glitter.There was no shortage of either as she began the evening with a traditional take on the solemn "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" that melted into "Gloria in Excelsis Deo".

There were quite a few bodies onstage at any given time: six male dancers, two female dancers, four child dancers; a four-piece band under the direction of pianist Daniel Moore, a trio of vocalists, including long-time backing singer Trey Lorenz, and a seven-piece choir.

The chatty Carey - who has released two Christmas albums - spent a lot of time telling her fans her favourite things about the holidays, from taking her kids on night-time sleigh rides to the overall joy of the season. "Not only do I wish to bring you joy during this show, but also hope," she said at one point.

She also lamented the lack of snow in Toronto, but clearly she wasn't on the Don Valley Parkway about an hour before showtime when part of the city was hit with an abrupt squall. Believe me, the flakes were accounted for.

As a performer, Carey seemed a little stiff, perhaps conscious of walking around in very high heels and the possibility of falling. Instead, she left the majority of the action to her dancers while she concentrated on her vocal delivery. The only times she relaxed enough to groove to the music were during the lively "Here Comes Santa Claus" and the encore of her festive chart-topper "All I Want for Christmas Is You".

There were a few times the notes of her fifth octave disappeared into the stratosphere due to the volume of the band, but Carey fans hardly noticed.

When it came to the glam and haute couture aspects of the evening, the singer didn't disappoint: long gowns in white and gold were worn - there were six costume changes - and the only really ostentatious moment occurred when Carey donned a gold, glittery headpiece combined with a white gown and veils, like Mother Mary and her halo.

She wore this getup for her earnest rendition of "Silent Night" and "Jesus Born on This Day" - a duet with daughter Monroe, who can also sing - and if this holier-than-thou moment offended anyone in the crowd it wasn't expressed. The response instead was an ocean of cellphones capturing the moment.

A sidenote of appreciation to pianist Moore: during interludes when Carey was getting cosmetic touch-ups onstage courtesy of her "Glam Squad" or in between costume changes, he would play Christmas music and include a few bars of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" by Vince Guaraldi or Three Dog Night's "Joy to the World". They were tasteful and nicely done.

After a baker's dozen renditions of Christmas-related cheer, Carey finally rewarded her fans with some of her hit material. There was an eight-song medley of smashes that began with "Always Be My Baby" and included snippets of "Dreamlover", "Honey" and "Emotions" among others, but she performed them as if they were concessions.

The two fully unedited hits - "We Belong Together" and "Hero" - were much better efforts in terms of focus and delivery. But even with those hits, the night wasn't quite over: for her grand finale, Carey re-entered the stage aboard a miniature train, in a holiday-themed corset, and belted out "All I Want for Christmas Is You" as the rest of the ensemble frolicked around her.

It was a fun ending to a fun evening where spirits couldn't help but be lifted, with Mariah Carey serving up a memorable holiday kickoff to her most devoted disciples.

(Toronto Star)

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