In Concert on Broadway
Harry Connick Jr.’s mid-career concert mastery is largely defined by two factors, both strongly evident throughout this 76-minute session from last summer, recorded on the final night of an extended Broadway run at the Neil Simon Theatre. First is Connick’s ability to convey a sense of artless camaraderie. Plenty of performers, you might argue, share that skill. But none, past or present, can quite match his puckish insouciance. What once hinted at arrogance now suggests lighthearted self-confidence.
Second is Connick’s programming craftiness. He can play a room—which, given the scale of his venues, typically leans toward the MOR crowd—like an angler playing a slippery fish. He lures them in with the comfortable, the familiar: a dependable romantic standard like “The Way You Look Tonight,” and a couple of well-placed selections from his recent, decidedly populist studio album, Your Songs. He layers in the jazz slowly: a blistering piano solo torching the heart of “Besame Mucho,” a sharply intuitive reading of “How Insensitive” that echoes the interpretive prowess of Sinatra or even Holiday.
Before the assembled multitude knows what’s hit them he is in full jazz mode, bouncing through a coltish “Bayou Maharajah,” paying august homage to James Booker and, ultimately, transforming an NYC theater into a full-blown Bourbon Street revelry.