Saw Harry Connick, Jr. at Chateau Ste. Michelle last night, the opening show of their 2007 Summery Concert series. Before the show last night, I had only been to Ste. Michelle once, in March 2006 with my friend Matt for a winery tour. Now I’ll be watching their annual concert announcements closely because the place makes a damned fine performance venue.
Went to the show with Matt, he invited me a few weeks ago. I was a pretty big fan of Harry Connick, Jr.’s music in the early to mid-1990s, when We Are in Love and Blue Light, Red Light were among his most recent releases and I was just starting to expand my music collection beyond idiot pop and Top 40. And not that I got very far with that expansion; it’s a long slow ongoing process. For a while there those two CDs were in regular rotation in my car stereo and in my first CD changer, but after that my only exposure to the man was in the different acting roles he took.
Show started at 19:00 (actually a little late), doors opened at 17:00. Matt had to work until 17:00 though so we didn’t arrive at the winery until a little after 18:00, which meant we were at the back end of the general-admission area. That was fine; we could hear perfectly and we had a good line-of-sight view over the crowd’s heads. We were close enough to the back fence that we could stand up without blocking anyone’s views, so we ended up standing back there for the last 20 minutes of the show, which also gave us a good vantage for scanning the stage with our binoculars.
Speaking of which, if these venues are going to have stated rules regarding maximum allowed chair heights, they should enforce the damned rules. There were many people with chairs higher than 28 inches seated closer to the stage than we were, and there was no one moving them to the rear of the venue as the general-info rules indicate would happen. Didn’t cause us much trouble with the views but I’m wondering why the bag checks at the entrance didn’t also check seat sizes.
Ah well, on to the show. I hadn’t seen Connick perform live before, but I have seen bands perform in New Orleans, so I expected a pretty laid-back atmosphere. Exactly what we got: Connick, an amazing keyboardist and a talented singer, kept the show moving at a leisurely pace and in many of the songs allowed his band members to shine. Very self-effacing, and he engaged the audience in chatty banter a few times too. Toward the end he begged the staff to open the area directly in front of the stage so people could dance, and they did it. Probably freaked out the security folks but the band clearly enjoyed the bouncing and arm-waving crowd that was so obviously into the show.
Best part? I knew they’d sell wine—obviously, you can’t host a concert series at a winery without selling the place’s wares—but it never occurred to me they would sell by anything other than the glass.
They sold only by the bottle, and there apparently were no limits on what individuals could purchase. We had two bottles, the 2005 Indian Wells Riesling, that we bought one at a time over about two hours. Other people, though, were walking around with four or five bottles in hand, and there was one group of three people seated about 15 feet ahead of us where the one guy went through two bottles by himself in just the 45 minutes or so between our arrival and the show’s start.
They smartly closed down wine sales a little before midway through the show and there were no overtly drunken patrons as we all streamed out of the venue. I wonder exactly what type of liquor-license magic they had to conjure to allow such relaxed rules.
Anyway, just two things about the show sucked outright:
- I left my cell phone in the car, so I couldn’t flout the repeated warnings that photography of any kind was strictly forbidden by overtly snapping images and mailing them to the world immediately. I was most distressed by that.
- We had stopped at the Rite Aid in Woodinville so Matt could by sunscreen because he burns easily, and the entire general-admission area was in shade by the time we arrived.
Better safe than sorry, I suppose.