“You guys know it's Christmas, and we make up Christmas songs when we’re in a happy, jolly mood,” she told the audience.
She then proceeded to make up lyrics to a new ditty, “It’s Christmas in New York,” an ode to champagne and presents, before cooing, “I’m freestyling, it’s not my best.”
Truth be told, Carey’s less than best is still worth the price of admission, and the second year of her Christmas residency was a delightful way to celebrate the season.
Carey’s show -- a mix of material from 1994’s Merry Christmas and the 2010 follow-up Merry Christmas II You -- is destined to become a Christmas classic as traditional as Radio City Music Hall's Christmas Spectacular and Rockefeller Center's tree.
The stage -- set against a red curtain and monogrammed wreath -- is awash in Christmas colors, trees and falling snowflakes. The centerpiece of it all is Carey herself, sparkling in three separate gowns -- white, champagne and red -- as shiny as the most splendid ornaments on any Christmas tree.
Opening with a gorgeous and uplifting version of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” the 45-year old singer welcomed the crowd, with many sipping champagne in her honor, to an evening of merriment.
“We are at the the-a-tah, dahling,” she said.
The show incorporated a cast of adorable children (when the singer asked one child what he loved about Christmas, he replied listening to her music by the fire), a gospel choir, elegant dancers, three back-up singers and the man of the hour, Santa Claus, who gifted the crowd with teddy bears. Carey even tossed a few out, specifying that the furry friends must go to a child.
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The Long Island native’s 80-minute set -- ably backed by a five-piece band led by musical director “Big Jim"Wright -- was interspersed with charming chatter, as the singer engaged with the audience while accepting Hello Kitty-themed gifts and flowers while cracking jokes and commenting on the unusually warm and rainy East Coast weather.
“I did not find that very festive, did you?” she asked.
Highlights included her cover of Darlene Love’s “Christmas, (Baby Please Come Home),” “Joy to the World” (with a smart mix of the Three Dog Night song of the same name interspersed into the chorus), a nod to the Peanuts gang with “Christmas Time Is Here” and a truly uplifting performance of “Silent Night” backed by the choir and children, decked in white and holding candles. Carey also showed that her vocals are still unmatched when she hit an ungodly note at the end of “O, Holy Night.”
As an added bonus, Carey strayed from the Christmas script to a three-song set of her own music with a spirited version of “Emotions,” the soulful “We Belong Together” from The Emancipation of Mimi, and a soaring triumph of a performance of “Hero,” a song she said may not be a Christmas song, but captured the spirit of the occasion.
She wrapped the evening, of course, with a jubilant “All I Want for Christmas Is You” amongst a potpourri of candy canes, teddy bears and the entire ensemble, clearly enjoying the moment and declaring, “We’ll see you next year,” which is the best present she can give to the city one year early.
Next stop: Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in February 2016.
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