Winter Break: the Wintry Mix Tour

It seems ironic to go to something called the Wintry Mix Tour to get a break from winter, but that’s exactly how it worked out for me. Having grown up in subtropical south Texas, I never knew any white Christmases. It was a crapshoot whether it’d even be cold enough to wear long sleeves, much less an ugly sweater. At the time, it didn’t seem very seasonally appropriate, but now that I’ve known a few white Christmases, I’d love to try out a holiday in Australia. Hanson announced the tour dates and I went straight for tickets to Austin and Dallas. I enjoyed a blissful couple of days enjoying a warm Christmas just like the ones I used to know.

This tour includes songs from Snowed In and Finally It’s Christmas, a few new songs from their upcoming album Against the World, and some core standards. Having missed the Finally It’s Christmas Tour, I was glad to get another chance to hear some of the Christmas songs live. Joshua and the Holy Rollers weren’t for me — their harder metalish sound and over-the-top performance didn’t seem to go with the rest of the tour — but I always like Paul McDonald’s sets and it was great to see him again.

Some thoughts on particular songs:

Opening with “Finally It’s Christmas” felt very appropriate, especially since excessively early Christmas decorating and marketing seems to have come to a fever pitch these last few years. I’m one of those purists who doesn’t like to start until after Thanksgiving because the longer you celebrate, the less special it is. But right now? Yes, finally it is Christmas.

Seems like with every album, when the guys start playing new songs there’s one that sticks in my head off and on until the album comes out, and with Against the World, I think”Annalie” is going to be it. It’s catchy as hell, but fortunately it’s a bit of the way down on the list after some other earworms that are slightly easier to deal with at the moment.

It’s funny how I’ve been hearing “Crazy Beautiful” live since 2003 and it’s still striking just how good it is as a Taylor solo. Some things are never as vivid in memory as they are in person; this is one of them.

Hanson’s cover of “What Christmas Means to Me” only gets better year after year. Snowed In took it from something I didn’t care for to something I loved, and there is no better version than the one they’re playing right now; I need it recorded. And so does every store and restaurant that bombards their patrons with Christmas music in December.

It seems almost too obvious to follow “What Christmas Means to Me” with “Little Saint Nick,” but sometimes going in album order just works. The Beach Boys’s original is good, but Isaac’s voice makes this song great.

“Wonderful Christmastime/Come On It’s Christmas”: I’ve heard the original “Wonderful Christmastime” and two or three covers of it this year, and yes, it’s awful on its own. But as the counterpoint to “Come On It’s Christmas”? It’s so, so extremely satisfying.

“Winter Wonderland”: still possibly the most unsalvagably irritating melody ever written. See also needing a break from winter; that snowy lane isn’t any wonderland to me.

“Run Rudolph Run”: I was disappointed we didn’t get an Isaac solo, but I can sort of forgive it for getting this, “Little Saint Nick,” and “A Minute Without You.” The energy on this song is unbeatable and it was a great end to the show.

I was not in any way done when I had to go home; like Christmastime itself, the tour is special in its brevity. But if Hanson perchance adds a Tulsa show? Count me in.

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