American singer Harry Connick Jr performed with his big band to a packed crowd at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition's (Adnec) Abu Dhabi Hall on Sunday. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: True to his tabloid! interview promise, Harry Connick Jr delivered a night like no other when he performed with his big band to a sold out crowd at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition’s (Adnec) Abu Dhabi Hall on Sunday.

“Hello Abu Dhabi! It’s a dream come true that I am performing here and it’s my first time in the UAE!” Connick said excitedly.

“When I was about 12 years old, my sister, whose a doctor now, had an exchange student living with us from the Middle East, because she wanted to learn Arabic. I though the student was so fascinating and I’ve always been interested in the region since,” he added.

Thousands turned out to watch, and listen, to the multitalented Connick Jr perform a selection of songs from his latest album, Your Songs, such as Besame Mucho, All the Way, Smile and Mona Lisa. The audience was also given a treat in the form of purely musical performances, both by Connick Jr on the piano and trumpet, as well as by the Harry Connick Jr Big Band.

“Whew, I feel like Kenny G. Now if I can hold that note for another 46 minutes, I could break the world record,” Connick Jr joked after his solo trumpet performance.

It was during those moments when the true range of the band’s musical talent was revealed, especially during spirited solos and impromptu jam sessions on stage by several key members of the group, Roger Ingram on trumpet, Jerry Weldon on tenor saxophone, Lucien Barbarin on trombone and Ben Wolfe on double bass.

Throughout those sessions, the Abu Dhabi Hall was transformed from a semi-warehouse to a music hall in New Orleans, complete with the spicy jazz the city is known for.

“I love the layout of this hall! It looks like a convention centre…that brings back some memories,” Harry said, grinning.

“You know, sometimes it doesn’t show how much fun a band is having on stage and you’re not sure if they’re having as much fun as you, lemme tell you, we’re probably having more fun than you are,” he added, laughing.

Surprisingly, it was the male fans that were more vocal in showing their appreciation of Connick Jr and his band, especially during their performances of wildly energetic New Orleans jazz numbers, such as Bourbon Street. But, as the saying goes, time flies when you’re having fun, and it was soon time to say goodbye.

“So, how do you want us to end this evening? With a soft, intimate style or to go out with a bang?” the singer and performer asked.

When the audience unanimously voted for the latter, the band launched into a final, frenzied performance that led to a well-deserved standing ovation. A truly enchanting musical evening.