LENOX -- After a quarter-century in the limelight, it might be natural to assume that Harry Connick, Jr., backed by his outstanding 13-member band, would put on a great show.
But taking him for granted would be a mistake, as was demonstrated at Tanglewood on a very stormy Saturday evening. The New Orleans-born and bred musician, a youthful 45, prowled the stage like a jazzy, much more handsome version of Mick Jagger.
In a seamless two-hour tour through his multi-genre songbook, Connick captivated the crowd, performed two dozen songs, displayed his chops not only on piano but also on electric organ, trumpet, Fender Rhodes electric piano and clavinet (an electro-mechanical keyboard instrument produced in West Germany from the ‘60s into the ‘80s), all while showcasing his veteran brass and percussion artists as well as his string sextet.
At one point, he mentioned that he had studied classical piano here as a teenager and had admired the Croatian pianist Ivo Pogorelich, in another example of how a classical background strengthens the work of the best non-classical artists.
With his boyish, dimpled grin and a carefully calibrated, tastefully restrained pose of mild sexual swagger, he danced, pranced and shimmied to the delight of his cross-generational fans.
He also displayed caring and concern as an intense thunderstorm erupted minutes into the show.
Urging the lawn crowd to take shelter and to stand or seat themselves in the aisles close to the stage, Connick was gently admonished by an usher who cited fire-safety regulations.
"He's really mad at me now," Connick told the crowd. "But fire safety? Come on, it's pouring out there!" Amid high-decibel thunderclaps, he continued sailing through his program of Dixieland hot-jazz standards, leavened with dollops of country, pop, Broadway and gospel-tinged numbers.
From his own "We Are in Love," Vincent Youmans' "Without a Song" and Lane & Lerner's "On a Clear Day (You Can See Forever)" -- performed with a wink and a smile as the thunder provided a heavy-bass accompaniment -- to the 1931 pop standard "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams," the old anonymous folk song "St. James Infirmary Blues" popularized by Louis Armstrong in 1928, the 1912 gospel song "The Old Rugged Cross" and a hot-flame "When the Saints Go Marching In," Connick proved his mastery of multiple musical styles.
Connick also sampled songs from "Every Man Should Know," his current album of all-original material, notably "Time to Go," inspired by a sad late-career appearance he witnessed by a fading Julius La Rosa, the bossa nova-tinged "I Love Her," the uptempo torch song "One Fine Thing" ("my wife's favorite, so I have to sing it") and, as the encore, the standout title track.
Noticing two young women camped in the aisle in front of the stage, he invited them on stage during "One Fine Thing," only to discover they were mother and daughter.
"This is extremely awkward," he confessed as he gracefully crooned the rest of the flirtatious ditty to Sophia, 15, swaying to the lightly-swinging tune with a fatherly arm over her shoulder. "This is what a guy's going to say to you in 15 years," Connick advised as he sang the lyric, "I want to put a ring around your finger you're one fine, fine thing."
A very sweet moment that revealed volumes not only about Connick's staying power as a performer beloved by his fans but also his generosity of spirit.
He also thanked the audience profusely for coming out to support live music at a time of continuing economic stress.
At the end of a summer that saw one of the most extensive lineups of popular artists in Tanglewood's recent history, this show -- despite the raging tempest outside -- ranks among the most ingratiating and memorable of the season.
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