Monday, March 17, 2008

High on Harry

Many people first fell in love with Harry Connick, Jr. upon listening to the soundtrack of the classic late 80s rom-com When Harry Met Sally. But the first time I heard his voice was on a laser disc (kids, that's the gargantuan predecessor of the DVD), in a Disney music video, singing a delightful cover of "Bare Necessities" from The Jungle Book. Even at a young age, I was struck by the appeal of his distinct crooner style, and it was because of Harry that I began to cultivate an appreciation for jazz and the master vocalists who came before him: legends like Armstrong, Holiday, Fitzgerald, Darin, Sinatra, Martin, et al. I think it's not too much of an exaggeration when I say that Harry introduced an entire generation to the magic of jazz. Long before acts like Michael Buble and Corinne Bailey Rae were even heard of, Harry Connick,, Jr. was making standards, swing, big band and New Orleans jazz cool again.

I admit it helps tremendously that Harry's hella hot, with that disarming aw-shucks grin and heaps of Southern charm (that presumably helped him win a Victoria's Secret model wife). He's also ridiculously multi-talented; not only is he a wonderful vocalist, he's a superb pianist, a remarkable composer, and a pretty good actor to boot. Most recently he starred in P.S. I Love You, but I've also seen him in older movies like Memphis Belle, Little Man Tate, Copycat, and Independence Day (he was Will Smith's sidekick), as well as playing the role of Grace's husband Leo on the now defunct sitcom Will and Grace.

When my sister (who's a far bigger jazz buff than I am) and I found out Harry and his band were coming to Manila to perform at the PICC, we were thrilled to bits. While the rest of the city was flocking to go watch Neyo or Maroon 5 or Incubus, we were probably among only a handful of twentysomethings flipping over Harry Connick, Jr.
The evening of the concert, we got all dolled up and arrived at the PICC super early. Our front row seats in the left section of the Plenary Hall turned out to be too far off to the side of the stage, so that our view was of Harry's back as he played the piano. Luckily though, there were 2 vacant seats in the front row of the center section, and we transferred there for the latter half of the concert. The show was kinda short, about an hour and a half only, but it was thoroughly entertaining from start to finish. Harry's band was awesome, particularly slide trombonist Lucien Barbarin.

But of course the star of the show was Harry himself, and he kept things going, whether he was playing the piano (his fingers are jaw-droppingly nimble), singing (absolutely pitch perfect, sounding even better than he does on his CDs), or dancing (the man can shake his booty!).

And Harry's rapport with the audience was just terrific. He razzed the people at the back for not clapping in time with the music ("You're wonderful people, but you sure don't have a sense of rhythm!"), he heckled a guy in the second row returning from the washrooms in the middle of a song ("How are you, sir? Everything come out all right?"), he flattered the crowd ("Your country has the most number of beautiful women per capita I've ever seen!"), and he mock dissed Filipino food, from claiming to not understand the variety of ingredients in halo-halo ("Why is there corn in this thing?? Corn is not dessert!") to actually eating a balut onstage and declaring it "gross!"

Afterwards, he and some members of his band pelted some balut out into the audience, while the rest of the band played "Take Me Out to the Ballgame". Hilarious.

Hanks and I had hoped to get a photo op with Harry, so we hung around the PICC lobby after the concert, but while his band filed out that way, he took the VIP exit along with his daughters, who had come to Manila with him.
We felt a teeny bit deflated, but that letdown notwithstanding, it was a fantastic, memorable evening for the 2 of us, and we're definitely Harry Connick, Jr. fans for life.

Check out our pix from the concert here.


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