PHOENIX — There is an age-old argument over when exactly the Christmas season starts. Some would say that the day after Halloween is the official date that you can start preparing for Christmas, and others argue that the day after Thanksgiving, and not a day before, is the proper date to throw some Christmas music on and start feeling festive. It should be postulated that neither of these are correct: The first day that it officially feels like Christmas is the day of the first concert in Lindsey Stirling’s annual winter tour.
The tour is in its third year now, first named “Warmer in the Winter” in 2017, “The Wanderland Tour” in 2018 and now “Warmer in the Winter” again. Stirling, an Arizona native, noted during the show that the name came from all of the warm winters she spent here in Arizona. “The Wanderland Tour” bypassed Arizona, which may possibly explain why the tour changed names last year.
Arizona winters are indeed warm, and this one was no exception up until earlier this week. As the doors opened and the public began pouring into Comerica Theatre in Downtown Phoenix, there was a chill in the air, one that announced that winter actually does come to Arizona. In the moments leading up to the first wisp of smoke from the machine on stage, the audience filtered into the theatre and found their seats with a growing buzz of anticipation, as excited conversations built toward a crescendo as showtime drew closer. All ages had come out to see Lindsey Stirling, from the wide-eyed young girls who wore dresses that looked much like the dresses that Stirling wears in her music videos, to the older fans who looked like they were ready for a Sunday morning church service. For the young, they had come to see their hero. For the older, to see an artist who has redefined what it means to be a violinist. No one left disappointed.
The “Warmer in the Winter” tour was a delight in every way possible. From the first few moments after the smoke machines kicked on to announce the start of the show until the final notes of the last song, “I Wonder While I Wander,” each and every second was packed with magic. Stirling and her dancers moved effortlessly through incredibly difficult maneuvers, drawing the crowd in. She is well known for her violin skills and her dancing, but she is also an incredible singer with a wicked sense of humor. Backed by a talented band including Kit Nolan on the keyboard and Drew Steen on the drums, Stirling danced, sang, and cracked jokes throughout the night.
The production includes special effects, props, and costuming that inspire awe and joy. The backdrop was a massive screen, which was one of the key elements to the show. Throughout the night, it would be used to show a clip of Stirling’s alter ego Phebla, become a backdrop of the universe while she played “Between The Twilight” from her newest album Artemis, and finally to have us fly through a field of mushrooms as a nod to Alice In Wonderland during “Carol of the Bells.” She explained that she named the album after Artemis because Artemis is the Goddess of the moon, and the moon brings light into the darkness.
Her concerts are always an inspirational and moving experience because heartfelt speeches in between songs are a regular part of the show. She told the audience, “I want you to think about how amazing you are, because I think that’s something you may not tell yourself enough…every single person in this room is incredible and powerful…as I play this song, maybe even close your eyes and see yourself for how beautiful you are and for your own light, because the world needs every single person to shine.” As she started to play “Between The Twilight”, the spotlight turned off, and the screen behind her showed the universe, or the stars in it at least. The ethereal sound took the audience on a journey of light, of sound, of beauty.
Stirling is also a fierce advocate for her fans. After a visually stunning “We Three Gentlemen,” She gave an emotional speech, talking about her journey to get where she was. She then told the audience “Nobody else can write your story. Never let anyone else tell you what you can do, what you can’t do, what you’re good at, what you’re not good at — because you’re the only one who knows what you can do, what’s inside of you.” She admitted that her insecurities had not changed from before she found fame until now.
Stirling spoke at length, her voice quivering a bit as she talked about losing her best friend to cancer 4 years ago, and her dad 3 years ago. It was an emotional, vulnerable speech. She spoke about angels and how she felt they surrounded her. This led into “Angels We Have Heard on High,” during which she stood at the top of the stairs in front of the screens with a mesmerizingly beautiful light that followed her every move with her bow. It was the most impactful song of the show.
She spoke with gratitude of how much she appreciated the shows in Arizona, saying that she looked forward to them because, “I feel like this is my family.”
“Thank you guys so much for coming! It’s only because of you guys and the support I had from home from the very beginning that I am here. Thank you.”
During Stirling’s “favorite song to play,” “Hallelujah,” the tone switched away from happy, jovial, and infectious. The entire venue was utterly captivated by the otherworldly beautiful sound of the violin and backing guitar. There were some in the audience wiping away tears as the last notes faded away and Stirling again thanked everyone.
There are those that dedicate their life to the mastery of the violin, and others who train to lead the dance troupe at the theatre. To be able to do both at once – and do it well – is rare indeed. As the show started it became apparent the immense amount of planning and attention to detail that went into each and every step of this spectacular display. Each costume change was so well-planned that it would not be noticed or delay the show, and each dance move was tightly choreographed. Stirling has a zest for performing, a love for the fans, and a respect for her craft that lends itself to a show that would be hard to equal.
Everyone had gathered for a concert, but those in attendance received so much more than that. Viewing the show through the eyes of one who has seen many, it was an incredible, exciting show — one that lingers in the back of the mind. She is a wonderful role model to the young that view her as a giant. They aspire to one day reach her greatness after witnessing the impact of her beauty and grace.
Stirling has a self-awareness that gives strength and power to those around her, saying what people need to hear before they even know they need to hear it. She is, in a word, rare. She is a once in a generation talent who has captured the imagination of the young, inspires the broken and gives peace to all who hear her. As the show ended and we walked into the cold night air of her hometown, it was hard not to feel refreshed and ready to celebrate the season. And that, in the end, is the magic of Lindsey Stirling.
Photographer: Mark Greenawalt
Lindsey Stirling – Comerica Theatre 11-23-19
Photography © Mark Greenawalt
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