Kelly Clarkson at Star 94.1 Xmas concert: fun, festive with horns!

Kelly Clarkson did an abbreviated 14-song set for the Star 94.1 Christmas concert at the new Coca-Cola Roxy December 12, 2017. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Posted Wednesday, December 13, 2017 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Kelly Clarkson, with a new album on a new label, is doing just a handful of Christmas dates before a full-fledged tour in 2018. Star 94.1 was lucky enough to get her Tuesday night for its annual holiday concert at the new Coca-Cola Roxy. The now veteran pop singer was as ebullient and bubbly as the name of the venue.

Perhaps in honor of the radio station, she chose a dress full of stars and in a nod to Christmas wore a necklace of blinking lights. Her 10-piece band – including two back-up singers and a trombonist, saxophonist and trumpeter –  donned Santa hats and gave her a “tease,” as she said, of the future. “I can’t wait to tour!” she told the crowd.

Her new album “Meaning of Life” is packed with R&B touches and far less of that Max Martin pop sound that has followed her through her RCA years. She inserted four songs from the record over a tight 14-song, one-hour set. She was sinuous during her hit single “Love So Soft” and energized on “Whole Lotta Woman,” her fantastic second single. She said she was debating two songs for the third single and tried both out live: “Medicine” (prognosis meh) and “Heat,” which smoked.

Her voice sounded as strong as ever though she did skip the high note on “Behind These Hazel Eyes,” opting for a lower register.

She also infused some of her now classic hits with brass notes and a more soulful punch, including “Miss Independent” and “Walk Away.” Her takes on “Breakaway,” “Stronger” and “My Life Would Suck Without You” were more conventional but still fetching. And she threw in a song she did for her second children’s book, a sweet “Christmas Eve,” which brought a ’60s throwback feel to the occasion.

A highlight of the final season of “American Idol” on Fox, Clarkson broke down emotionally for a moment last year while singing the lovely ballad “Piece by Piece.” On stage at the Roxy, it was deja vu. Her emotions overcome her once again and she had to stop and restart partway as the crowd cheered her on. It’s that type of tune, which is a rebuke of her father but a celebration of her husband Brandon Blackstock. (It was clear given the short set, she wanted to focus on upbeat because this was the only ballad of the night, with just a piano accompaniment. It also meant she omitted the somewhat similarly themed but just as emotionally effective “Because of You.”)

And Clarkson being Clarkson, she complained about a piece of hair going down her throat and proudly proclaimed this was a no-heels night. “I hate heels,” she said. “They’re supposed to show off your curves more but I have enough curves. I don’t need heels!”


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