Dave Koz and Friends Christmas came to town Friday the 13th, delivering loads of Christmas cheer for all in attendance at the Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, Indiana. And, 'twas a most lucky night, the timing of the show's arrival could not have been better scripted...even by Santa himself. Snow, already on the ground from a previous storm, began falling anew with blizzard-like conditions just as the venue doors opened; leaving many arriving concertgoers to remark how it felt and looked like Christmastime outside. Fans came together to celebrate, and were ready to party, let loose, and have fun. In keeping with the spirit of the holidays, Koz did not disappoint.
In his 16th year leading an annual holiday tour, Koz has kept his show fresh and included an exceptional cast of performers. He brought his friends, Jonathan Butler (singer/songwriter/guitarist), Keiko Matsui (pianist/composer) and new cast member Oleta Adams (singer/pianist) 'home' for Christmas. Yes, Koz succeeded in creating an atmosphere and ambiance of being 'home' for Christmas; instilling a sense of fellowship, camaraderie, community, and family during this memorable holiday spectacular.
Truly magical it was to be in the confines of the magnificent Palladium during his show too. The venue added to its intimacy. Koz even commented that his fans were "...in every nook and cranny in this place, it's like a 360 degree concert...I love it! How are you guys doing back there? (pointing behind the stage) [receives loud applause and cheers] Pretty good view from the back!" An intimate show indeed. And the Palladium staff was outstanding, being very helpful and cordial; adding to the family-friendly theme of the evening.
Koz presented his show in two acts, each containing over sixty minutes of music that celebrated the season and also included a few non-holiday songs. Dave Koz and Friends Christmas was quite an achievement with many memorable moments. As a holiday show, it was very festive and very well paced; flowing seamlessly from one song to the next. The first act was used to introduce the cast. The second act included more holiday music and a very popular unplugged segment. Both acts contained original non-holiday songs. Overall, Koz allowed each artist to shine separately and together. It was a notable attempt to cover much ground with a holiday show and it paid off handsomely with the superb musicianship and artistic collaborations between Koz, Matsui, Adams, and Butler. Really though, one had to witness the show first hand to truly experience all of its many nuances; large and small.
Amongst the shows biggest holiday music highlights were Jonathan Butler's soul stirring and heartfelt renditions of "Little Drummer Boy", "What a Wonderful World" and "O Holy Night". Keiko Matsui's "Carol of the Bells" and Beethoven/Chopin piano pieces, and Oleta Adams' "Let It Snow" and "Christmas Time Is Here" (A Charlie Brown Christmas) were simply dazzling.
Koz encompassed a full range of different emotions. He interjected comedy into his show at will...his most unforgettable stunt was attempting to showcase his piano playing talent. He sat down and began tickling the ivories, only to stand up a few moments later and walk away...the piano continued playing on its own. Truly a big Koz hahaha moment. He also used video to great effect. During his intro at the beginning of the show, a Benny Hill-esque video was shown of him in bed. Apparently, he overslept his call time and needed to rush to get ready, get to the venue, and get onstage. On a more heartfelt note, video was also used during Jonathan Butler's "What A Wonderful World" segment. Louis Armstrong began the song, Butler took over, then Armstrong finished.
There was also a very touching moment for everyone in attendance, but especially so for Hoosiers. Koz spoke on this night of his generosity during "I'll Be Home For Christmas", "I think one of the things we can all agree on, especially this time of year, it's a beautiful thing to be surrounded by our loved ones during the holidays at home. I think about so many people that are not as fortunate as we are." Koz elaborated that he has been involved with Starlight Children's Foundation for nearly twenty years. The organization helps kids that are in the hospital for long periods of time with their families. Koz has also been involved with his annual Dave Koz and Friends at Sea Cruise. He noted during this year's cruise, a silent auction was held and raised an astonishing $100,000 dollars. He decided to divide that $100,000 dollars amongst the twenty cities that his Koz and Friends Christmas Tour was visiting. As Koz said, "...to make an impact in each city that they go to. I am very proud to say that tonight, a $5,000 dollar gift has gone to Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St.Vincent (to thunderous applause and cheers!). And you can keep that spirit of giving going by texting the word LIGHT to 80000 sometime during this holiday and a $10 dollar donation will go to that same hospital in honor of the season."
There was also an elevated feeling in the hall that kept building as the show progressed...something special was unfolding before your eyes but you could not put your finger on it. And then it happened, in the second act, feeling satisfied and joyous in the success of the show to that point...it hit a higher note; and instantly became an out-of-this-world experience. Dave Koz began "You Make Me Smile" and his sax seemed to carry out of the venue and into the heavens. Realizing, here is a consummate professional, a true musical pioneer, and one of the founders and early supporters of the 'smooth jazz' genre. A nine-time GRAMMY nominee, who, with his extraordinarily talented Friends, showed their love and passion for their craft and gave freely on this night so that their fans could revel in the holiday spirit. What a gift was given! There really is a...Santa Koz!
Randy Jacobs - Music Director, Guitarist
Tracy Carter - Keyboards
Nathaniel Kearney, Jr. - Bass
Jay Williams - Drums
Dave Koz and Friends Christmas Setlist:
"O Come All Ye Faithful"/"Get Ready"
"Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas"
"Carol of the Bells"/"My Favorite Things"
"Angels We Have Heard On High"
"Let It Snow"
"Who Knows"/"Santa Claus Is Coming To Town"
"The Christmas Song"
"Eight Candles" (A Song For Hanukkah)
"The Little Drummer Boy"
"Circle Of One"
"Got To Get You Into My Life"
"Baby, It's Cold Outside"
"Most Wonderful Time Of The Year"
Unplugged/My Favorite Things
Keiko Matsui - Classical with Beethoven and Chopin
Jonathan Butler - "What A Wonderful World"
Oleta Adams - "Christmas Time Is Here" (A Charlie Brown Christmas)
Dave Koz - "I'll Be Home For Christmas"
Jonathan Butler - "O Holy Night"
Dave Koz - "You Make Me Smile"
Keiko Matsui - "Safari"
Oleta Adams - "Get Here"
Jonathan Butler - "Brand New Day"
Encore: "Celebrate Me Home"