Charlottesville, VA – This had to be the most difficult review I have ever written. Not so because of Lindsey Stirling’s performance. Honestly, I was taken aback by the experience on the night of December 14, 2019 at the John Paul Jones Arena. The difficult part of this review was because no matter what words I put to pixel, none did the performance justice.
I could have just written about how much fun there was before the show. Women donning toy soldier attire, who I later discovered were Stirling’s dance troupe, wandered the audience and posed for selfies. Two of these soldiers had tapped me on the shoulder and began hamming it up for the camera. It was a good time.
The difficulty was in writing about the genuinely warm smiles that these young ladies were sharing with the awaiting audience. It was something I had never experienced at any concert before and was truly a joy to see. The show and the music had not even started, and yet what I had experienced already did something for the heart.
I also could have simply written about the other pre-show activities, where dancers brought various individuals to the stage. I assumed they were audience members, but they may have been part of the crew. A little comic relief before the show took place as the first volunteer did what appeared to be an attempt at a Rockette line. He actually did quite well for an amateur!
Up next was a ‘guest violinist’, who I also assume he was a random member of the audience. A fun ‘victim’ that was chosen as the dancers wandered the floor. They handed him a violin and asked him to play. As he drew the bow across the strings…well, to be nice…it sounded like a pack of ‘former AGT hosts being strangled’ (not that I would know what that sounds like, I can only imagine).
Just through a few simple but playful things, Lindsey’s team had already prepared the audience for the show that was to come. It was feeling more like a Christmas gathering, where people from all over had come to visit and have a little fun. We were being entertained by the cousin who had made it big (and was quite entertaining, so we had heard). It was apparent much had gone into delivering a gift to the audience and we had yet to see the main star… so we thought.
As it turned out, Lindsey was on the stage all along, dressed in a curly brown wig and red shawl. When the ‘guest’ had stopped playing, much to the delight of the audience, the incognito Stirling took the violin and bow, and with a smile greeted a cheering audience. It was a very special beginning!
It would have been easy to write that after removing the disguise, Lindsey put on a matching toy soldier outfit and kicked off her performance with a cover of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas (Is You)”. The work that had gone into just the first song was obvious, as the choreography was done well, the synchronization between musician and dancer was awesome.
What would have been missing was how I felt at the choice of that song to kick off the show. Many were in attendance to see a Christmas show. It could be said that ALL we wanted for Christmas was to see Lindsey perform. However, what was already evident and became more so as we moved through the show – Lindsey was also there FOR the audience and to share her gift with us. In a way, our attendance was a gift to her and she was telling the crowd that ALL she wanted for Christmas was to give us a great show from the HEART.
We were treated to some more upbeat songs, most of which came from her Warmer in the Winter album. Accompanied by her drummer, Drew, with Kit on the keys, the audience heard “Christmas C’mon“, “Let it Snow” and “Warmer in the Winter”, to name a few.
No Christmas gathering would be complete without the traditional ‘gag’ gifts, the gifts that had meaning but were meant to get a laugh. This gift was no different. After a few more songs, they took a short break from dancing and serious music. Kit, Drew, and Lindsey sat on the stage with micro versions of their instruments of choice. I do not think Drew or Kit had pet names for their micro-keys and drums, but Lindsey had named her mico-lin, Pickles.
They proceeded to joke around in Vaudevillian fashion, and played (quite well I might add) some fun Christmas tunes including, “Jingle Bells”, “Deck the Halls”, and “Feliz Navidad” on the micro-ments. Kit, I believe, dared her to play the Charlie Daniels’ classic, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” on Pickles. Thankfully Lindsey and Pickles were up to the challenge. While this was fun to watch, I think it helped many in the audience relate to the show. Very few could relate to being on the big stage, performing day in and day out for the masses, but I am sure the majority of the audience could relate to a day when they all ‘struggled’ as children, trying to harmonize on Fisher-Price instruments.
I also could have just written about the transition from secular Christmas tunes to a more spiritual theme after Stirling put Pickles down and played a very emotional version of the Leonard Cohen song, “Hallelujah”. What would have been missing was how she conveyed the meaning of the song through more than just the notes – as they became one with the violin and the motion of her body.
It was a gift to see and hear. It came from the heart. Stirling played several more emotional Christian Christmas carols with passion, not only drawing her bow across the strings of the violin, but pulling at the heart strings of the audience.
The two non-Christmas themed songs of the night were “Crystallize” from her first album sharing her name and “Between Twilight“ from her most recent album, Artemis. Both pieces are powerful and made me want to close my eyes to feel the music. When I opened them, Stirling’s body language as she played was the same as I had envisioned with closed eyes. I could not help but feel that she, the violin, and the notes were one. All came from the heart.
We learned a few more things about Lindsey throughout the evening and about what makes her who she is. We learned she had a talented micro-pup, Luna, who was quite a dancer. We learned that Lindsey could sing (I admit, I did not know she sang) as she broke into a rendition of “Santa Baby“. We learned about Eric Jackson, the one who learned of his destiny to hold the “Please Don’t Leave” sign during the short intermission. Lindsey Shared a little about her life, the message being, do not let others dictate your path. “Write your own story”, which she so eloquently did on this night, putting her heart out for all to see and hear through her music and movement.
As the night concluded one theme stuck out, Stirling has a fascination for the moon. Whether it was the name of her dog, Luna, or the title of her most recent album (named after the goddess of the moon), it was present. She summed up her love for the moon when she said, “The moon brings light into the darkness”. I think it is safe to say, on December 14th, she brought much light, warmth, and joy to all those at the John Paul Jones Arena. I am looking forward to the next time she passes by.
Lindsey Stirling’s Photo GalleryWebsite l Facebook l Instagram l Twitter
Lindsey Stirling Setlist
All I Want for Christmas Is You
Let It Snow
Warmer in the Winter
Jingle Bell Rock
I Saw Three Ships / God Rest ‘Ye Merry Gentlemen
Jingle Bells / Deck the Halls / It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas / Feliz Navidad / Grandma Got Ran Over by a Reindeer / Devil Went Down to Georgia
Angels We Have Heard on High
Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy
Luna the dancing pup
We Three Gentlemen
Carol of the Bells
You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch
I Wonder As I Wander
Show Date: December 14, 2019