Story & Photos by Andy Lyons, Editor-in-Chief
For many, the Christmas season has become less about giving, spending time with family, goodwill amongst men and more about the stresses of traveling, sharpening claws for shopping deals on Thanksgiving, and being inundated by Christmas-themed products beginning at about 10 p.m. Halloween.
Violinist Lindsey Stirling is seeking to inject some of the magic back into the holiday season with her “Warmer in the Winter Tour,” in support of the Christmas-themed album of the same name she released in October.
The tour stopped at the beautiful Lied Center of Kansas Friday night, and wasted no time getting the sold out crowd into the holiday spirit. The duo Alexander Jean, made up of Stirling’s partner from “Dancing with the Stars” Mark Ballas and his wife BC Jean, kicked the night off with a mix of classic Christmas tunes and originals.
Ballas and Jean performed by a double microphone stand, with Ballas playing guitar and working a bass drum with his foot while Jean sang, played tambourine, and danced and gyrated to the music. The two played through some Christmas music, covered Frankie Valli in tribute to Ballas’ stint in “Jersey Boys” on Broadway, and originals – including the touching song “Roses and Violets,” which Jean told the crowd was based on Ballas’ proposal. The two only played for about half an hour, but it was plenty to get the crowd primed for Stirling.
The YouTube-famous Stirling didn’t disappoint in her show. She took the stage in what seemed to be doll boxes, flanked on both sides by dancers with the tour’s name across the tops. Her show was a flurry of choreographed dance, a backing band, and an orchestra made up of Lawrence-area high schoolers.
The production quality of her show was top notch, with a laser light show and props throughout, as well as multiple costume changes as Stirling performed songs from across her Christmas album. Parts of the set included “snow” and a light pole at stage left a la Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” The crowd was extremely receptive to the show, cheering and smiling and having a seemingly good time.
During breaks in the set, Stirling would stand next to the light pole and chat with the crowd, talking about what the Christmas season means to her – remembering good times with her father who passed away this year after a battle with cancer, performing incognito in subways and people avoiding her so they didn’t feel obligated to tip her, and her personal battles with anorexia. Stirling’s message was hope, and believing in yourself to accomplish your dreams, and she consistently invoked the story of Jesus Christ and the Christmas spirit. It was really touching for Stirling to be so open about her struggles, and her message of hope truly embodied the forgotten aspects of the season.
The show wasn’t all serious, however. During the first set change, Stirling took the stage in front of a curtain with her band and the five of them played for the audience on extremely small children’s instruments, including a tiny violin (named “Pickles”), tiny drums, tiny piano and kazoos. Her drummer bet her she couldn’t play the Charlie Daniels classic “Devil Went Down to Georgia,” and Stirling nailed the intro to the song as the crowd exploded into cheers.
As the show kicked off again, Stirling played a haunting cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” after telling the crowd about filming a video for the song incognito in the subways of New York City with only a couple people stopping while many ignored her completely and walked completely out of their way to avoid her.
The show was surprisingly touching and truly displayed what it means to be in the Christmas spirit. Stirling’s message of hope and the sheer production value to her show made for an enjoyable night to the sold out crowd of families – fans both young and old packed the Lied Center for a night that kicked off the Christmas season on a night they won’t soon forget.