Annual Alice in Winterland concert showcases diversity and talent


James Bay performing at Alice in Winterland 2015

Nicholas Abraham, Staff Reporter

The lights dim down until the stage goes dark. Out come four men to the middle of the stage, one with distinctively long hair. This man is James Bay. Suddenly there is a surge of bright lights, as Bay begins shredding on an old school red Epiphone guitar. The crowd goes completely wild. This was one of the magical sights and sounds of Alice in Winterland, the annual Christmas concert put on by Alice 97.3.

I sadly missed the first act of the show, up and coming dance-pop artist Zella Day with a growing fanbase. The second artist was Michael Franti, singer of the Billboard Hot 100 hit “Say Hey (I Love You),” bringing his reggae-pop sound with a joyful message to the show.

He came out with the bassist and guitarist from his band, Spearhead. The three started out with “The Sound of Sunshine,”  which began with a calm fingerpicking verse. He stopped after the first chorus, then plunged into the full version of the song, strumming away on his road worn acoustic guitar, and spreading smiles all over the crowd. It seemed as if Franti was treating the stage like his living room.

After a few more light tunes, Franti set a more serious tone, speaking about the San Bernardino shooting.

“I don’t endorse political candidates, but I do endorse ideas,” he said. “I endorse the idea that peace is not just achieved through thoughts and prayers, but from millions of people doing good deeds every day.”

He introduced a new song to the crowd, dedicated to the victims of the shooting.

Towards the end of his set, Franti brought out a young boy named Ben out to sing his

biggest hit, “Say Hey (I Love You),” with him. Ben has a brain tumor, and was brought to the concert by Franti’s “Do It For The Love Foundation,” which gives people with terminal illnesses and wounded veterans the chance to attend any concert they want in the country. Ben came out onto the stage, and the crowd cheered the loudest they had all night for him.

In his almost hour long set, Franti showed his ability to unite a crowd with his joyful music and message, setting a high standard for the rest of the night.

Next up was Harry Connick Jr., who was the replacement for soul crooner Leon Bridges, who cancelled due to his Saturday Night Live appearance two days after the show. Connick was an impressive replacement, one of the most well known jazz singers today, and known by a larger audience for being a judge on American Idol.

Connick was able to grab the crowd’s attention by playing a solo medley of traditional New Orleans jazz, showcasing his impeccable piano skills with skillful solos throughout the song.

Connick then played “Silent Night” and “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” treating the auditorium like Central Park on Christmas Eve.

In a surprisingly short set of about 30 minutes, Harry Connick, Jr. was able to bring a traditional skillset to Alice in Winterland, further showing the versatility of the lineup.

The final artist of the evening was James Bay, who was nominated on Dec. 7 for two GRAMMY awards, and brought his folk-rock brand to the event.

He opened with “Collide,” a foot-stomping tune immediately investing the crowd in his passionate performance.

After a few more cuts off of his debut album “The Chaos and the Calm,” Bay turned to his newest hit, “Let It Go,” a slow song which showcased Bay’s raw vocals.

Bay then delved into the highlight of his set. He started out playing a simple but somber guitar solo. He then dove into the song “Scars,” which gave him a chance to shine without his band. A radiant spotlight gleamed over him as he cut soundwaves like a knife while using the sweet spot of his voice. His solo performance had the same power of a dominant rock ballad, but was packed into Bay’s subtle guitar playing and emotional vocals.  

In his final song, Bay played his biggest hit, “Hold Back The River,” and the crowd sang along at the top of their lungs.

James Bay’s approximately 50-minute set was short but substantial, as it gave him the chance to span the many styles present on his debut Grammy-nominated debut album, “The Chaos and the Calm.”

The styles present at Alice in Winterland this year ranged from dance-pop, to reggae, to jazz, all the way to rock. Considering the consistent talented lineup and the intimate feel of the Masonic, this concert will be a must-see in the years to come.