By: Kevin Rolfe
The Christmas Season in downtown Salt Lake City was off to a good start this past Saturday night at the Capitol Theater. American Idol finalist and Utah’s own David Archuleta brought his Christmas Tour back to Utah. There was an audible excitement throughout the Capitol Theater. Fans were lined up to get their merch, and ushers hurried to get everyone to their seats for the 7:30 start time. I could hear people talking about how great David is, and how happy they were to be seeing him in such a beautiful venue. The Capitol Theater recently underwent some major renovations and upgrades so I was looking forward to seeing what had been done. It’s a little nervewracking to hear a historic theater is going under renovations because you don’t want what makes that place so special to be ruined by being too modernized. Well, any upgrades or changes were not visually noticeable. All of the charm and class that makes the Capitol Theater was still intact. The most noticeable thing was the new seats! They were very comfortable. I thought this was the perfect venue for David to perform.
I’m not sure if people were tired from shopping, or if it was the bitter cold temperatures outside, but the show got off to a slow start. There were definite cheers from the crowd when Archuleta took the stage and people were enjoying themselves but their energy was a little low. David however, was in mid show form from the get go. From the moment he walked on stage and was dancing and singing.
The audience finally caught up to David’s energy level when he performed his cover of *NSYNC’s Christmas hit, “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays”. He invited everyone to stand up and dance with him. People rose to their feet, danced and clapped along to the upbeat song. I think perhaps this warmed people up, got the blood moving and spirits were really high for the rest of the night. Archuleta seemed to be having a lot of fun performing this song. “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” is one of the additions to the recently released deluxe version of 2018’s, Winter in the Air. I’m sure there’s a promotional factor there, but I just think he really enjoys performing the song.
David is self admittedly socially awkward. And I’ve noticed in the past that there is a huge difference in his stage presence from when he’s singing to when he’s talking with the audience. He’s totally in his element when he’s singing. He seems comfortable and confident and right at home. When he speaks, however, he can trip over his words a little, and he can appear less confident in his delivery. But I noticed huge growth in this area at this show. David opened up to the audience when he shared how his new single “Paralyzed” came about. He mentioned that he’d been going to therapy. He seemed more comfortable in his own skin. In my interview with David, he suggested that he didn’t really get to choose this career path. He was on American Idol at a young age and as well all know he did really well. So boom! He was off and running in a career as a singer. I think he’s making his own decisions now and that has to feel great. He mentioned to me and again to the audience how much he loves these Christmas shows and that they’re probably his favorite concerts. It was good to see him so happy. He went on to play a stripped down version of his single “Paralyzed” and bled that song into his biggest hit “Crush”. He played a stripped down more subdued version of that song too and it not only fit perfectly into the show, but it was cool to hear a new twist on a big song of his, but one that he’s been playing for years.
The thing that will always stand out when it comes to David Archuleta, and rightfully so, is his voice. I know, I know, duh. But it really is a voice that has to be experienced live. He has a voice that is not only pleasant and easy to listen but it’s very controlled. His upper register is his moneymaker. Not only does he have a controlled and supported falsetto, but his high notes have way more power than you’d expect. There were times in a song where he would be heading towards a high note and I’d think, “How is he going to hit this? He’s already singing so high!” and of course, he’d hit the note perfectly.
As the show neared its conclusion, Archuleta played the lead single off of Winter in the Air, “Christmas Every Day”. People were really into this song and I could tell that David was feeding off of the crowd. He has such dedicated fans of all ages. There is still a total Teen Idol vibe coming from the fans. I could hear what I thought were girls all around me screaming for him. When I looked over many of these were adult women! It was incredible. I think it’s great that his fans love him so much. This means he’ll always have a career in music if he wants it. My only constructive criticism to these devoted fans is to know when it’s the right time to scream as if their watching David on American Idol and when to show respect to the artist you’ve come to love. There were just a few times too many that David would be sharing a personal story, or about to hit the big note in his rendition of “O Holy Night” and someone would throw out a “Woo!” or “I love you, David!”. All I’m saying is, read the room and scream where it fits. Which is most of the show.
The show ended powerfully with David taking the stage by himself after an encore break and making his way to the piano to sing his song “My Little Prayer”. A song that will no doubt pierce the heart of the deepest cynic. I felt moved when he told the story of a dream where he heard this melody and had these lyrics in mind. He dreamt that God told him to wake up and write down these lyrics and record the melody so that he could remember it. It’s a sweet and beautiful song in its simplicity, made simpler by being performed by just David and his piano. I could hear many around me brought to tears by this song.
The night concluded with “O Holy Night”. It’s my favorite Christmas song and judging from the reaction of the crowd a favorite of many in the audience. Archuleta hit every note and drew every emotion that the holiday season evokes. It was the perfect song to end the concert with.
David Archuleta has had a fanbase for over a decade now, yet I feel that he is finally coming into his own as a performer. I think understanding his worth and his place in life will allow him to continue to be the person and artist he chooses to become. I hope he makes these Christmas tours a tradition going forward. They are so enjoyable and set the tone for the rest of the season.