By Philip Cosores, Contributing Writer - The Orange County Register, July 11, 2015
Even at 47 years old, Harry Connick Jr. can’t shake the boyish, misfit qualities of his youth.
He began playing keyboards at age 3 and first recorded at age 10, so for a long time, Connick was a child among adults. Even as he rose to prominence in the 1980s, memorably with his work on the “When Harry Met Sally…” soundtrack, he was a young man of 20 years playing the standards or leading a New Orleans big band of people often three times his age.
As Connick’s youth now fades and the grey five o’clock shadow becomes harder to hide, the question of how he handles looking out in the audience and now seeing contemporaries was answered on Friday night at the Hollywood Bowl, the first of two headlining gigs there.
He’s going to be the same old Harry, and audiences will continue to love him for it.
Musically, Connick has long shown a maturity beyond his age, but it was when the music stopped and the New Orleans native took a role as entertainer, doing warm stand-up bits, that his personality shone through. Connick complained about being forced to take an intermission by the Hollywood Bowl, ate an audience member’s popcorn, and recalled a previous night in San Diego avoiding ComicCon attendees and crashing his drone in the middle of the city. Connick even seemed uncomfortable having to wear a suit, showing off his remarkably huge socks for the audience and losing his jacket for the evening’s second set.
Despite his movie star status and his 28 million career records sold, Connick’s personality remains more suited for a lively bar than a buttoned up, massive outdoor stage. But the years have allowed him to turn his fish-out-of-water sentiments into an asset. In short, his attitude makes him more relatable.
And it creates a dichotomy, because once Connick’s band gets going, it thrives on the spotlight, drawing energy from engaging the fans. Connick surrounds himself with longtime companions and musical wizards, including trumpeter Leroy Jones, who opened the concert with a reverent performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and trombone player Lucien Barbarin, who often took over songs, including a captivating solo during Connick’s 2001 track “There’s Always One More Time.”
Connick saved gospel guitar master Jonathan DuBose Jr. for the evening’s second set, with the pair dueting for “Jesus on the Mainline,” and DuBose still standing out even when relegated to the shadows, his seemingly uncontrollable tendency to vocalize whatever notes he was playing on guitar consistently getting a laugh out of the crowd.
But no one could overshadow the grace and talent that Connick displayed on stage. Whether causing the couples in the audience to share knowing glances during “It Had to Be You,” showcasing a strong aptitude for the trumpet when playfully dueling Jones on “How Come You Do Me Like You Do,” the night’s main set closing piano clinic of “Come By Me,” or the encore of “Mardi Gras in New Orleans” that found Connick and much of his band putting on a New Orleans dancing display – Connick’s performance equaled the maturity of his years, while maintaining bits of his personality that makes him more than respected.
This combination makes him beloved.