A few takeaways from Harry Connick Jr.’s concert Thursday night at the State Theatre in Minneapolis:
- He opened with a handful of standards, some of which Tony Bennett had performed on that very same stage six days earlier. Bennett sounded like a trumpet, Connick like a tuba.
- This was the casual Connick – no tie or jacket, shirttail hanging out, five-day beard.
- Connick and his fine ensemble (it wasn’t his big band) were at their best on New Orleans’ flavored material, including “Take Me to the Mardi Gras,” James Booker’s piano tune “Junco Partner” and a funky rendition of Allen Toussaint’s “Yes We Can Can.” The bandleader was very generous with solo opportunities for his players, especially playful trombonist Lucien Barbarin and animated guitarist Jonathan DuBose Jr.
- Connick offered a few original love songs, including “That Would Be Me,” that, frankly, were underwhelming.
- The women of all ages in the audience were just wild about Harry. The 48-year-old father of three girls was a charmer -- from asking the 8- and 11-year-old girls in the front row why they were there to using concertgoer Karrin’s small mirror to try to put his contact back in his eye. His attempts to address the contact issue dragged on for a good 10 minutes. And, as it turned out, he was a pretty effective one-eyed organist.
- A spur of the moment kind of guy during his two hours onstage, the New Orleans native showed a great sense of place. He told a story about playing the original Dakota club in St. Paul at age 19 or 20 when his luggage got lost and he had to buy a suit, shoes and socks before the show. Connick also saluted Prince, saying he admired the Minnesota music maker’s ability “to be free of inhibitions.” He encouraged young musicians to follow that approach.
- Connick understands how to plug his projects. He mentioned “American Idol” (which is over), his new daytime TV talk/variety show “Harry” (coming this fall on Fox) and his latest album (2015’s “That Would Be Me”).
- The chatty Connick told many stories but the one that sticks with you is about how someone at a New Orleans grocery recognized him and asked for his autograph. However, the cashier didn’t know Connick so she asked him: “Who you is?”