Country Star Shines at the MAC

As the holidays inch closer and closer, I’ve been in my room grinching away with my pup. In a desperate attempt to cheer myself up, I went to the Martina McBride “Joy of Christmas” Tour (which involves 16 charity performances) this past Sunday night. Did her cheerful and upbeat collection of Christmas beats make my heart grow three times its size? Realistically, no, as that would lead to a boatload of medical problems.

McBride has been awarded “Top Female Vocalist” by the Academy of Country Music three times and received “Female Vocalist of the Year” from the Country Music Association four times. She is a Grammy-winning artist who has sold more than 18 million albums throughout her career.

Emotionally, I’d say it got me feeling considerably better. I was very happy to hear that the concert donated five dollars for every ticket sold to the New Jersey Hometown Heroes, a group dedicated to helping those devastated by Hurricane Sandy. They were founded in 2008 to support families facing sudden crises, and they’ve been a major presence in the past few weeks, though they also help the elderly, the disabled and victims of domestic abuse regardless of natural disasters.

 Given the huge amount of people that showed up for the concert, that generosity had already put me in a good mood.

I actually went into this concert not knowing much of anything about McBride, other than that she was a country singer who has won many awards for her talent. Going in thinking that she had a strong following was my second biggest understatement of the year.

The first thing I noticed was that the stage designer went all out to make the set as colorful and holiday filled as possible. The person in charge of the lights also caught my attention with the choreographed movements and colorful synchronicity.

The concert started with more slow paced Christmas songs like “White Christmas” and “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)”. After a few songs, McBride walked through the audience and talked to several fans.

It was at this point that I started to realize how enthusiastic the audience was. The only way they could have shown more excitement was if they brought vuvuzelas.

Another part that made me feel good was a montage of soldiers stationed in various parts of the world wishing a happy holidays to those of us at home. It’s just one of those things that make me so grateful that brave men and women like our friends in the armed forces exist.

After an intermission, McBride sang more fast paced songs that you’d hear in movies (like “Home Alone”, like “Run Run Rudolph”).

McBride even did a cover of the ever-popular “Mr. Grinch” song while former NJ Devils player and active participant in the Sandy relief effort Jim Dowd (who, as a member of the Devils, won the Stanley Cup in 1995) did a reading of the Dr. Seuss story that inspired it.

McBride closed the concert with a few more slow songs like “Silent Night” before wishing everyone happy holidays. As I left the concert, I was hard pressed to be in a bad mood. As McBride said in her concert, “If I can’t help you, then there’s no hope.”

I have to say that country and folk aren’t my preferred types of music, nor are Christmas tunes, sadly. While this wasn’t my favorite type of music, the concert left a much better impression on me than my last concert outing.

I wasn’t the only one who left the concert in better spirits. Dave Rasmussen of Nazareth, Pennsylvania has been to her concerts three times thus far and said, “Her voice shines above everything else.” Luann Aschettino, another attendee of the concert, liked how McBride had a little bit of everything, and how the acoustic of “Silent Night”, “Made my hair stand on end.”

Martina McBride should give herself a pat on the back. She managed to convince a grumpy Grinch like me to venture through the rainy night to catch some holiday joy.