I don’t think I’ve ever left an auditorium feeling all at once inspired, giddy, heartbroken, and moved. Audra McDonald’s concert at Hill Auditorium Friday night was honestly the best musical performance I’ve seen in a long time. Her voice is one that hits you so hard you just sit there in awe, letting it swell in your heart and resonate throughout your entire body. Yeah, to say she’s got pipes barely skims the surface.
My friend Gina and I squeezed our way through the massive herds of people as we finally found our seats up in the mezzanine. I was thrilled to see how few empty seats remained in the gigantic auditorium. Dodging canes and tripping over wheelchairs, I was immediately surprised by the amount of elderly people occupying a majority of those full sections. Audra McDonald seems like a very current artist to me, with the musical theater performances of hers I first fell in love with; however, after this performance I understood the appeal for that particular audience: her repertoire for her concert drew largely upon older shows and jazzy 1930s and 40s songs! This was definitely one of the most surprising yet superb aspects of her performance. As if we weren’t already aware of how amazing McDonald is, she was able to wield even such classics as “I could have danced all night” with a nuanced, stylistic approach. A newer song she did include in her performance (and one that was probably my favorite moment of the concert) was when she sang “I’ll be here” from the musical inspired by the tragic events of 9/11, Ordinary Days. It was a tear-jerker to be sure.
One of the many great things about McDonald is she isn’t just a singer – she’s an entertainer. Between songs, she would give stories and background information that seemed all at once personal and professional. From what she orders at Chipotle to the tragic death of her father, she shared details of her life and experiences as if it were just her and I in the room. It felt so intimate – and to pull that off in a room that sits over 3,000 is really something to be marveled at.
After the performance, Gina and I walked back humming “Stars and the Moon” and gushing over all our favorite parts of the concert. We spent a good two hours once we got home looking up all the songs she sang and buying them on iTunes. Audra McDonald’s concert was above and beyond my expectations, and I hope everyone gets the chance to experience her uplifting and heart-warming vocal talents. To say it’s hard to convey passion in music is an understatement, but McDonald makes it look easy.