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A Clay Aiken Christmas: Carols & Comedy

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Apparently at universities in the south, geography is not widely taught, as southern gentleman Clay Aiken has yet to discover the Pacific Northwest is part of America. Hence, if you wish to hear Clay sing, and hail from that unfortunate corner of the U.S., pack your bags, check your boarding pass, and hop on the nearest plane for the East Coast.

A Clay Aiken Christmas: Carols & ComedyClay Aiken is currently singing with several symphony orchestras as a guest artist for this mini-Christmas tour, which kicked off December 1 in snowy Illinois - necessitating a last minute change of plans to leave his 28th birthday celebration and head to Chicago a day early.

The tour will finish in Greensboro, N.C. on the 23rd, just in time to celebrate Christmas at his new home in Raleigh.

I caught up with the tour in Baltimore after a lovely red-eye flight from the Pacific Northwest. Clay is touring without his usual back-up singers and band, though he is traveling with his music director, Jesse Vargas, from his first Joyful Noise tour in 2004.

In each city, the symphony plays anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, and then Clay sings the second half with the orchestra providing the musical accompaniment. The set list comprises songs from his first Christmas CD, Merry Christmas With Love, and four lovely additions from his Wal-Mart exclusive EP, All Is Well.

Clay is in a league of his own with Christmas carols, and this tour proves as much. His range has grown each year of his career, and the finale, "All Is Well" is a how-to primer on soft, low notes sung with passion up to the soaring, glory notes well above a tenor's range.

In each city, while Clay might have crossed his fingers and planted his feet for luck in hitting that final note, the audience shot to its feet and screamed in appreciation as he hit it. Even more impressive is that for the last week, Clay has been suffering from a debilitating inner ear infection that has given him vertigo and dizziness.

Clay in Easton, Pa.
He was forced to sing an entire concert from a seated position on a stool, gripping it with both hands to keep his balance. Most entertainers would have canceled, but Clay wanted the show to continue even though he had to be helped on and off the stage by an assistant.

Now, you may be asking where the comedy part of the title plays into this review. First and foremost, Clay is an outstanding vocalist that can tackle any genre of song and make his own stunning rendition. But few outside of his enthusiastic fans know that Clay Aiken is as well-known for his rapid-fire repartee as he is for his singing.

Clay's portion of the shows only consisted of 14 songs, and most vocalists could whip those out in 30-40 minutes. Several of the concerts I attended featured Clay on stage for almost two hours! Clay truly has the gift of gab, is definitely at ease with his audience members and likes to call on the ones he recognizes.

Aiken in BaltimoreDuring several concerts, Clay had a running gag going with confiscating the cell phones he sees lit up while the owners are "cellcerting" the concerts to friends unable to attend. He then proceeds to shock the listener with a personal Q & A time - including their choice of his next selection.

Another nightly happening has been the "eye-talian" Word of the Day - highlighting musical terms that he doesn't know. The audience is encouraged to guess the meaning, and the results have been side-splitting with the back-and-forth banter flying.

I sat between two men who were not thrilled to be at the Williamsport, Pa., concert.

Both had been dragged there by family members, were apprehensive at the start, and even more astonished that I had flown across the country to see an event they didn't want to attend. By the end of the concert, Clay had completely won them over, as they roared with laughter the entire show and were in awe of his vocal prowess.

Score one for the Aiken!

At both the Williamsport and Easton, Pa., concerts, Clay came out to greet frozen fans after the show, and thrilled the two-to-three block-long line with a personal touch or handshake. The fans were elated and well-rewarded for a vigil on two very cold nights. Whether or not that personal connection with his fans was the cause of Clay's soon-to-follow inner ear infection will never be known, but it is part of the charm that keeps the former American Idol runner-up's fans forever flying or driving to see him once again in concert.

It is also important to note that during each concert, Clay stresses the need to reach out to others. He spends a few minutes talking about his work with UNICEF and the Bubel/Aiken Foundation, and encourages people to reach out and contribute any way they can to whatever organization they choose to support. He then launches into "Don't Save It All For Christmas Day," the last song of his set before the "All Is Well" encore.

If you are unable to attend any of the three remaining shows, catch Clay Friday on the TV singing a duet with Megan Mulally on her talk show, and then catch him premiering the song "Everything I Have" from his new CD, A Thousand Different Ways, the day after Christmas on Days of Our Lives.

  • Clay and a Young Admirer
  • Clay in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.

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Thank you SO much for the wonderful review.
Clay will have his fans following him to Europe and any Eastern country on the globe if need be! His incredible talent, kindness, and fabulous personality are what make Clay Our Man Forever. Shari S. in Indianapolis

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What's left to say? Thanks, Clay, for all you give!

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Thanks so much for the great article on OMC or "Our Man Clay" as we Claymates call him. I was fortunate enough to see Clay at Williamsport after traveling 5 hours by car to get there. I am so glad that you "get it"!!! Clay not only sings but performs stand-up comedy during the shows and has a wit about him that is sharp as a tack. He also always stresses to his audience to give to others in need. His unselfishness (which is very uncommon in this business unless a photo-op is involved) has been shown to us many times by his deeds such as running to an ambulance that brought a fan to Wolftrap and going into the ambulance and visiting personally with the fan who was dying of cancer. She has since passed away and we only learned about it from her sister who told us--no flashbulbs, no cameras, no photo-op--just Clay doing what Clay does on a regular bases--showing kindness and caring to his VERY loyal fans who will travel great distances just to see him. We will follow his tours forever and this is the reason why. Entertainers like Clay don't come along often and I have never followed anyone's career like I follow Clay's. I will continue to go to concerts and support Clay forever!!

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Thanks for a great article on an entertainer who is so deserving of the praise. It's refreshing to read an article by someone who "gets it." Sadly, the world is full of people who don't have a clue what this young man is all about. For those of us who DO know, he never ceases to amaze and thrill us. He always keeps it fresh and new. Clay has a voice that reaches to the stars and his sense of humor is amazing, and getting sharper all the time. I'm so glad so many "first-timers" were able to see this Christmas show because it only takes once and you're hooked!

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I was elated to be at the Englewood concert and had front row CENTER. My husband and myself were lucky enough to be called on by Clay during his banter. He asked if my husband was dragged to the concert and how many we attended and how long we were married. He sang TCS to us. THOSE EYES........... OMG. I gave him a box of Mac and Cheese and after DSIAFCD he came back and scooped it up and ran off stage. It is an will be the most memorable night of my life. My husband said about a week later that Clay's Christmas CD is the only one he really enjoys. Now there is a Clayvert.
Marie

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Great article - thank you. I feel blessed to have been able to attend five of these Christmas concerts and each one was a beautiful Christmas gift. Looking forward to many more concerts in 2007.

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Great article, thank you!! Ha, Clay didn't come West, either, so we did just what you advise -- packed our bags, checked our boarding passes, and hopped a r/t from LAX to NY! Saw him at Tile Center, and couldn't believe that while gripping the stool, his eyes sometimes rolling back in his head, he gave us one of his best performances of the tour -- even a stunningly beautiful and powerful AIW!! And then had to be helped off the stage... WOW!! And he didn't hold back on the banter, either, as witty as ever and we had a wonderful time!! Then we went to West Point, and were sorry we had to get back before Red Bank... I've been lucky enough to see Clay more than once on each of his several tours -- he never disappoints; his concerts are always different, always fun, always filled with marvelous music, going to the busses for a handtouch and "thank you for coming" has become a ritual, and I've nowhere near had enough!

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Bravo to a writer who 'gets it' about why thousands of peopel love Clay Aiken. I've gone to two concerts in this Christmas Symphony series and if possible would have gone to more. As this writer points out Clay's voice is magnificent, his connection with his audience is personal and you feel that he is singing to you. His charible work is from his heart and is
touching all of us. I saw one concert in NJ where he was well and then the one in LI, NY when he first started to get sick and he gave his all both times.
I can't wait to see Clay again soon. It will then be my 14th concert.

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I was at the concert at the Tilles Center on Long Island. That was the night he had to sit on the stool because he was feeling dizzy from the ear infection. He gave a wonderful concert, was funny and sang better than I had ever heard. I was proud to be a fan. But also concerned, because he really did have to hold on to the stool a lot of the time, and needed assistance on and off the stage. But, through all that he was magnificent, never missed a beat. I will definately see him in concert again if he comes to long island. And, he's VERY easy to look at too. :-)

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I have not seen Clay in any concert, as I am a new fan seeing him from some of the videos
that his loyal fan has put in the internet, to whom I am grateful, I am amazed at how witty, quick and charming Clay is,and not to be forgotten his angelic voice that seems to come from another realm. I will make sure I see him in his Christmas concert next year whereever it is . I am from Los Angeles and cannot wait to see his concert of ATDW
Thanks for the article. You did a great job capturing the essence of Clay

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