My Jackie concert experience at Detroit

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I cannot express enough how much I enjoyed attending the Jackie Evancho concert in Detroit this past Sunday (April 13, 2014).  This concert will have been the 5th time that I had the privilege of seeing Jackie Evancho perform live in concert.  All week the excitement about going to this concert was building up.  When the day of the concert finally arrived, I was bursting with anticipation.  I knew that this day was going to be fantastic!  After-all, I was going to see Jackie Evancho perform live at the Fox Theater in Detroit, Michigan.  For me, attending a Jackie concert is an experience wrapped in many other experiences.  There are so many wonderful things that occurred on that day and I cherish each and every one of them.

So, without further ado, here is my account of the day… I departed for Detroit on Sunday, April 13th, 2014 – the day of the concert.  My 3.5 hour drive to Detroit was very tranquil as I listened to several Jackie CDs to prep me for the concert.  The weather was great!  It was warm, some clouds with temps in the 70s.  The weather was a welcome sight considering the harsh weather that we had been experiencing earlier in the week.  Traffic was mild.  I arrived at 2:00pm at the hotel where most of Jackie’s fans had arranged to stay.  I knew that if there were Jackie fans within eye-shot of me that I would soon be recognized as a fan because I was wearing my Jackie Evancho t-shirt.  I was right.  Immediately I was approached by several Jackie fans who recognized me.  I was unable to check-in to the hotel right away, so I hung out in the lobby and talked with a few fans.  It took awhile for some of us to connect and determine how we knew each other.  Most of us have only had conversations online and have never met personally.  That would all change today.  We would now be able to tie in the faces to the screen names and have real one-on-one conversations.  Personally, I believe that you can never really know what a person is like based on what you see in the text that they post.  You have to meet them, talk with them, and get to know them.  I must say that I met some really nice people.  It is so gratifying to be able to have actual face-to-face conversations with others who “get it” when it comes to Jackie.  Jackie fans come from all walks of life with various diverse backgrounds, but we all have one thing in common, and that is our love and appreciation of Jackie.  It is that common bond that joins us as a fan community of some really caring people who understand each other well.  It is very special! 

Soon my hotel room would be ready, so I checked-in, got cleaned up and changed into my concert attire.  Around 3:15pm we started gathering in the lobby again.  Transportation was arranged for several cabs to take us to the restaurant where approximately 50 fans had planned to meet before the concert.  As we were waiting in the lobby, in walks a man who just arrived from France to see Jackie perform.  We were all pleasantly surprised to see him!  He made a last-minute decision the day before to go to the concert.  So, he hopped on a plane and here he was.  I also believe it was his first time in the US.  Now that is some real dedication if you ask me!  He was so excited to meet other fans and get his picture taken with us.

Pre-concert Fan Gathering

Soon, the cabs had arrived to take us to the Rub BBQ Pub where we would enjoy a delicious meal and each other’s company prior to going to the concert.  The restaurant had the whole upstairs reserved for all the fans.  It was a great space for all of us to meet!  There was a lot of fellowship and Jackie discussion going on.  As is customary at Jackie fan gatherings there were plenty of Jackie buttons handed out.  The staff was very friendly and they even allowed Jackie’s music to be played over the speakers in the restaurant.  Speeches were given and blessings were made.  It was a great time had by all!  

At around 6:00, we started to make our way to the Fox theater.  It was only a short walk from the restaurant.  The weather was very pleasant.  Although there are some depressed areas of Detroit, the part of the city where we were at was fairly nice.  As we walked toward the theater we could see Jackie’s name on the marquee.  I stayed outside with a few well-known Jackie fans to enjoy the weather and to talk with others who were arriving at the concert.  People would ask us where we got our Jackie buttons.  We told them that it was common for Jackie fan club members to gather before the concert and exchange buttons.  As I was talking with a fan and her 99 year-old grandmother, a little girl (about 11 or 12 years old) with her mom and dad approached us and asked about our buttons.  I had an extra button and gave it to her.  Then, the fan I was with told them that she had an extra ticket for 4th row and wanted to know if they wanted it.  The father was a bit taken back by the offer.  I think he thought she was trying to scalp the ticket.  He said he couldn’t afford a ticket that close to the stage (thinking that it had a high price).  I told him that maybe he misunderstood that the ticket was being offered for free (which I knew was the case).  He then realized that she really was giving it to them if they wanted it.  The daughter really was excited about sitting that close, but unfortunately it was only one ticket.  I told them not to worry because I was sure that there would probably be someone who had extra closer tickets too.  Jackie fans are known for their generosity and acts of kindness where they will upgrade someone to a prime seat for no charge if they have extra tickets.  Turns out her whole family was able to get within the Pit section within the first 4 rows thanks to a another generous fan who did have extra tickets.  So it all worked out.

Concert

The initial impression I got when entering the Fox Theater was pure amazement of its beauty!  The theater is very ornate with intricate details everywhere you look.  A very elegant setting to showcase the elegant music that Jackie Evancho sings.  My seat was in the second row facing the violin section of the orchestra.  It is at this moment when the anticipation starts to really kick into high gear.  Holy cow!  I am really here and I am going to see Jackie perform live again!  This is when you just hope that time slows down so that you can take it all in and relish every moment that you can possibly experience.  Soon the concertmaster would tune the orchestra, the lights would dim, and the concert was ready to start.  As is typical with Jackie concerts, the orchestra played an opening piece (“Cavalaria Rusticana”) to set the mood.  It is a beautiful piece and is very fitting for the occasion.  After the opening orchestral overture was played, we would soon hear the familiar introduction to “When You Wish Upon A Star” from Jackie’s Dream With Me CD.  Then…, out she comes in a gorgeous red dress.  The first thing I noticed is how much she has grown up (just turning 14) since I saw her last year (2013) in Cleveland.  Her hair is much fuller and longer.  She seems taller (although she was wearing heels).  The child-like look that she once had is gone.  The little girl has been replaced by a young lady.  I also noticed that Jackie’s demeanor is more reserved and less animated.  She also appears to be much more serious and focused, which typically would occur when she was singing a song, but now present even before and after she sings.  I dare say that she now has the look of a diva – very confident, and in-charge.  From a vocal perspective, Jackie seems to have a deeper and rounder tone quality.  As always, she pours her emotions into the music and draws the audience in to savor each and every note she sings.  Occasionally Jackie will slowly walk the stage while she sings, going to each side of the stage to allow the audience to experience her from all angles.  Thankfully, non-flash photography was allowed during this performance, so I was able to get some pictures with my camera when Jackie came to my side of the stage.  I was about 7 feet away from her at times so I was able to get some really good shots.  Most of the time she sings with her eyes closed.  Nothing seems to bother Jackie when she is in the zone – not even a few pops from an errant amplifier fazed her.  She is solid as a rock when she is on stage.  I am also very impressed at how well the conductor (John Mario Di Costanzo) keeps the orchestra in-sync with Jackie.  Jackie takes some liberties with tempo at times; yet John Mario is able to keep the orchestra right with her and rarely does he even need to look back at her for confirmation.  There is definitely a good bond between conductor and soloist.  I know from experience that this is not easy for a conductor to do, but that is why he is where he is.  It is also very important that the orchestra members are disciplined enough to watch the conductor.  The orchestra was superb at this (considering they were likely a pick-up orchestra).  They sounded wonderful!  There were a few times where the orchestra was a little overpowering, but nothing considerable.  It seemed like in the first half of the concert  the audience applause was appreciative, but subdued.  Jackie received a standing ovation for a couple of songs (Angel and The Lord’s Prayer).  She also dedicated the song “What a Wonderful World” to her father Mike Evancho, saying that the song would bring tears to his eyes.  Jackie jokingly said something to the extent that she thought it was funny that her tough-guy Dad would get tears when he heard the song.  I’m guessing it is very special to him.

Soon it was intermission. The first half of the concert seemed to go by rather quickly, but time flies when you are having fun.  It is at this moment that the sinking feeling hits when you realize that the concert is already half over!  I had noticed that there were a few empty seats in the front row that had not been occupied for the entire first half of the concert.  I looked back from my second row seat to see where the little girl (whom was upgraded from the balcony) was sitting.  She was two rows back from where I sat.  I walked over to her and her father and told them that the front row seats were not in-use and hinted that if they wanted to upgrade again, the opportunity was there.  The little girl wasn’t sure, but the father told her that if someone wanted the seats that she could always go back to her other seat.  It didn’t take too much convincing for her to go in the front row.  The father and mother stayed back in their seats, even though there was room for all of them in the front row.  I think they were too modest to move again since they had already been upgraded from the balcony.  There is more to this story later.

Time for the second half.  Jackie came out wearing  a beautiful cream-colored dress with bright sparkling sequins.   She looked fabulous!  This dress was slightly reminiscent of a similar maroon-colored dress she wore last year that got the nickname of “The Dress” because of how stunning it was.  The new cream-colored dress was equally stunning if you ask me.  It glistened when the spotlights hit it.  Jackie seemed to be a bit more relaxed and showed more of a lighter personality than in the first half.  The audience was also much more engaged in the second half.  There were several standing ovations and more people shouting out words of appreciation and encouragement.  A few shouts of, “We love you Jackie” with Jackie replying, “I love you too!”  Jackie dedicated the song Impossible Dream to her mother, Lisa Evancho.  She also dedicated the song “My Heart Will Go On” to her fans.  When Jackie sang her last piece, the applause was loud and people were exuberantly cheering. We were treated to two encores of “O Mio Babbino Caro” and “Music of The Night.”  Remember the little girl who was upgraded to the front row?  Well, she received a special treat.  When Jackie was exiting the stage after her first encore, she walked up to the end of the stage and gave the little girl in the front row a big high-five.  The little girl was so thrilled!  It was a “feel good” moment to see Jackie show attention to a younger fan like that.  I have no doubt that Jackie made that little girl’s day.  That little girl started out with balcony seats, then was upgraded to the 4th row, then the 1st row, and topped it off with a high-five from Jackie.  I’d say she got a pretty good experience!

Post-concert

After the concert, a group of fans and I walked back to the hotel.  It was a beautiful night and I think most of us probably didn’t even feel the ground beneath our feet because we were floating from the experience of the concert; at least I know I was.  When we got back to the hotel, several fans were already there socializing at the hotel bar.  I joined them and talked until the bar closed at around 11.  Even after the bar closed, we hung out in the hallways talking up Jackie and sharing more stories until way past midnight.  We didn’t want the day to end.

All-in-all, I had a wonderful time.  I met many fans and got to see Jackie perform live once again.  I can now say that I have seen Jackie perform live when she was at the age of 11, 12, 13, and now 14.  So far it has been quite a ride!  I can’t wait until the opportunity comes about for the next concert.

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