Well, you knew this was going to be a strange little show as soon as it was announced – a holiday concert featuring the Jerry Douglas Band with Maura O’Connell and John Oates.
Yes, John Oates. And, yes, the mustache is back. And bigger than ever.
Here are just a few of the strange things that happened at The Egg on Friday evening:
John Oates and Maura O’Connell were in the middle of singing the Hall & Oates’ classic “She’s Gone,” when just as the song was approaching the big, dramatic key change, a low-end rumble in the sound system grew so loud that the band completely stopped playing the song. “Boy, that’s a groove-buster,” Douglas noted with wry understatement. They picked the song back up from the bridge and finished it out, but the momentum – and the moment – was lost.
Just as the band was about to wrap up the first set with a rousingly intricate “Who’s Your Uncle?,” power went out on the sound system and most of the stage. Fortunately, Douglas & Co. forged on with an absolutely acoustic rendition of the song, and it turned out to be the evening’s best performance.
In addition to “She’s Gone,” John Oates performed only one other H&O song, and out of the massive catalog of H&O hits, he picked the duo’s most cringe-inducing selection, “Maneater.” After finishing the song, Oates remarked, “How did a song like that sneak into a Jerry Douglas Christmas show?” I dunno. Seriously.
Oates also sang two tunes from his solo album, “1000 Miles of Life.” The less said about them the better.
So who would have guessed that John Oates best performance of the night would be a tribute to Dave Van Ronk. No, I’m not kidding. He delivered what he described as “an old folky blues/ragtime” version of “He Was a Friend of Mine.”
There were only two real vocal duets during the show: O’Connell and Oates on “The Blue Train,” and for the first encore of the night, O’Connell and Douglas singing “Mo Sheamuseen” a cappella…and in Irish.
Teenage fiddle phenom Alex Hargreaves – one of five musicians in Douglas’ back-up band – stepped up to the microphone to growl through a creepy, thoroughly disturbing rendition of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” that sounded like it came from Danny Elfman’s soundtrack to “The Nightmare Before Christmas” or maybe an outtake from a Tom Waits holiday album. During the song, Douglas left the stage, sat on the steps in the aisle and laughed.
On Jerry Douglas’ new holiday album, “Jerry Christmas,” Maura O’Connell makes a guest appearance on only one song – singing the lovely Boo Hewerdine tune, “New Year’s Eve.” But for some reason, that song was left out of Friday’s concert.
“Christmas songs are sacred to me,” dobro master Douglas explained while introducing “Do You Hear What I Hear?” “You don’t mess with the melody because then you’re messing with people’s memories.” And for the most part, he kept to his word, allowing the melodies to do the heavy lifting – especially on such classic ballads as “In the Bleak Midwinter,” “Christmas Time Is Here” and “O Holy Night.”
And on those few occasions when Douglass and his band cut loose with one of their self-described “1,000-notes-per-square-inch songs,” they made the most of it, especially guitarist Guthrie Trapp, who was devastatingly good.
THE JERRY DOUGLAS BAND SET LIST
The First Noel
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
River w/Maura O’Connell
Trouble in the Fields w/Maura O’Connell
The Christmas Song w/John Oates
She’s Gone w/John Oates
The Blue Train w/Maura O’Connell and John Oates
Do You Hear What I Hear?
All Through the Night
Who’s Your Uncle
In the Bleak Midwinter
Maneater w/John Oates
I Found Love w/John Oates
Christmas Time Is Here
My Favorite Things w/Maura O’Connell
Spinning Wheel w/Maura O’Connell
O Holy Night
He Was a Friend of Mine w/John Oates
1000 Miles of Life w/John Oates
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
Beautiful Star of Bethlehem
Mo Sheamuseen (Jerry Douglas/Maura O’Connell a cappella duet)