Aiken interacts with audience during strong holiday show
The scene couldn’t have been more fitting just weeks before Christmas. The snow settled lightly on the grass in front of Turning Stone Casino and Resort, reflecting the decorative Christmas lights. Inside, the event showroom was a full house. People of all ages sat at assigned tables looking out onto the stage patiently awaiting the featured guest, ‘American Idol’s’ Clay Aiken.
String instruments played quietly as part of the Utica Symphony Orchestra’s warm-up before Aiken’s arrival. Unlike a traditional pop star concert, families sat together and sipped Diet Coke and coffee in the elegant theater.
The poor setup of the tables, which packed people tightly together, made it difficult to hear the strings and flutes over side conversations. The orchestra continued with a combination of ‘Good King Wenceslas’ and ‘Dreidel, Dreidel,’ a nice touch to celebrate Hanukkah.
Once the last notes of ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ played, audience members stood up and began screaming and applauding Aiken as he entered the stage. Aiken’s orange collared shirt seemed more like Syracuse University spirit than Christmas spirit, but the girls and women in the front row cooed at him nonetheless.
Aiken performed a long list of Christmas songs, including ‘Noel,’ ‘Walking in a Winter Wonderland,’ ‘Merry Christmas with Love,’ ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ and ‘Grownup Christmas List.’ In between songs, Aiken interacted with the front-row fans and the loud, outspoken fans sitting in the back.
After being told his zipper was down by one fan, he transitioned from pop singer to comedian, making the audience laugh about his recent encounter with Kelly Ripa on the ‘Regis and Kelly Show.’ Aiken poked fun at himself and how he offended Ripa by placing his hand over her mouth during the show.
‘Don’t put your hand over someone’s mouth,’ Aiken said. ‘It’s very rude.’
Aiken was extremely interactive with his audience members, sending them into fits of laughter, cheering and applause. He made the night for one young fan, Erin Squairs, 15, of Liverpool. The singer asked the audience what a ‘fermata’ (a held note) was, and called forth Squairs, a veteran pianist, to play a fermata on stage. Squairs, a diehard fan, couldn’t believe her eyes or ears.
‘I thought, how is he talking to me?’ she said.
The dialogue with the audience seems to be what makes Aiken’s fans come back for his shows. The show ended with an encore of ‘All is Well,’ sending the crowd to another standing ovation for Aiken. This Christmas show is part of Aiken’s third annual tour, and he uses it to help promote charities events including UNICEF, in which he is actively involved.
Aside from one perturbed male audience member who expressed his opinion that Aiken should pay attention to people in the back row, the crowd loved Aiken’s performance in conjunction with the Utica Symphony. Squairs gave Aiken ‘two thumbs up.’
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