The Luhrs Performing Arts Center was transformed into a Winter Wonderland on Saturday, Dec. 8, as Clay Aiken brought singing, laughing, impromptu duets, and the favorite Christmas classics to Shippensburg during his Joyful Noise tour.
Clay Aiken’s performance at the Luhrs Center Saturday was a show to remember right from the opening number. As the lights faded out and a spotlight was brought up on the curtains, Aiken walked on stage to the beat of applause and began to sing his opening song, “All is Well;” except that no music came out.
Standing in silence with his hands clasped around the microphone, Aiken looked side to side to see if someone was fixing the issue. After two to three minutes, he finally walked off stage as the audience burst into laughter at the unexpected situation.
Re-emerging with a new microphone, Aiken laughed with the crowd and began again; this time with full sound and a booming voice. The curtains rose, revealing a full orchestra with Christmas trees and presents aligning the stage. It was a genuine scene of Christmas celebration.
When he finished his opening songs, Aiken approached the crowd and delivered jokes about Pennsylvania being the heart of America.
He praised the energy of Northern fans, saying that Southern fans were usually quite reserved and respectful, but that he enjoys the crowd being excited. From there he led into his rendition of “O Holy Night” and a medley of other popular songs.
Working his way through his favorite Christmas songs and tracks off of his own album “Merry Christmas, With Love,” Aiken put his unique style to each song and showed off his large vocal range. Aiken explained that he has done multiple Christmas tours over the years and that “it doesn’t feel like Christmas without doing these shows.”
He complimented the Luhrs Center on its beauty and noted that the acoustics of the theatre were doing wonders for his voice.
“I’ve waited 35 years for this. There’s so much bass in my voice,” Aiken joked.
Later in the show, he said that the Luhrs Center reminded him of his time on “American Idol” because the rooms looked similar, and the Luhrs Center had a similar sound to the area that Aiken used to practice in for the show.
He went on to talk about the amount of sponsorship that went into each part of the theater, poking fun at each part having a different “donor.” He thanked the “donor” of the toilet in his dressing room and joked that there were still “sponsorships available.”
The most impromptu part of the show came when Aiken addressed his mother in the audience, who was in Lancaster the day before to see a performance at the Sight and Sound Theater.
Aiken talked to his mom about the show, as if there weren’t 200 strangers surrounding them, and discussed a talented woman Aiken’s mom met at Sight and Sound. Aiken called Sarah Timm to the stage and asked her to play a game. She would pick a song title out of a bowl and try to remember the lyrics.
Timm selected “Up On the Rooftop,” and proceeded to stun the crowd with her vocal ability. After a strong urging from his mother, Aiken asked Timm back to the stage to sing a duet. Flawlessly, the pair joined up and sang “Silver Bells” in perfect harmony, causing the audience to erupt in cheers and applause.
After Timm left the stage, Aiken explained that the past two shows he has “lost complete control” of where the show was supposed to go.
“I’ve lost control of the ship, no pun intended,” Aiken quipped.
Getting the show back on schedule, Aiken spent the rest of the show praising his orchestra, chatting with audience members and picking out specific people to talk to. He then turned the crowd’s attention to his drummer, who has a challenging last name: Joe Choroszewski.
Aiken brought a folded sign with the drummer’s last name boldly written across it, and he challenged an audience member to say it correctly. To the amusement of everyone in attendance, she failed and Aiken refused to say it correctly for fear “it would leak to YouTube and his game would be ruined.”
Throughout the show, Aiken made it feel more like a gathering of friends than a performance with strangers. He singled out the male audience members and a few women sitting in the front row; his humor never faltering throughout the show.
In a more personal, intimate ending, Aiken reminisced that 10 years ago this week was his time on “American Idol” and the first time he met his fellow competitor Ruben Studdard, who would go on to win the show that season. Aiken continued to thank his fans for all that they’ve done.
“I thank you for allowing me to do this for the past ten years,” Aiken said to his dedicated fans, known as “Claymates.” He went on to say that he is thankful for the kindness and compassion his fans continually show not only to himself, but to fellow fans and others.
He closed with some inspirational words and encouragement to continually be kind to one another and faded into his last song, “Don’t Save It All For Christmas Day.” It was this perfect ending that earned the singer a standing ovation.
When the applause died down, Aiken returned for the encore just like the show had started: a single spotlight on him in front of closed curtains, and nothing more, as he sat and sang to the audience in Luhrs.
He worked his way up the aisle and finished by exiting out the side door, leaving everyone to feel like the Christmas spirit had arrived.
Clay Aiken has had a busy 10 years with tours, albums, a role on Broadway and his work with the charity UNICEF. Throughout those 10 years, one thing has remained consistent: Aiken remains a talented and kind person who genuinely loves what he does. Saturday night was no exception.