The first song ends with her arms raised high. Idina Menzel has just belted out “Defying Gravity” and there is a spark in her eyes, a spark that says, “This is what I can do. This is how I will blow you away.”
She’s showing off. A few years back “Defying Gravity” would have been the climax of her show, the highlight that send everyone back to their cars raving about what they had just heard. This was a statement, no different than opening a set with “Everlong” or “Bad Romance” or “Raining Blood.”
This was Menzel showing off the diva side of her personality, the side that isn’t afraid to curse (“If you’re here with a little one in a sparkly blue dress, just cover their ears,” she would tell the parents in the audience) or talk about how she loves how she’s performing on bigger stages these days. It’s the side that isn’t afraid to pay tribute to Ethel Merman because she can belt out those songs too. It’s the side that you expect someone who has her voice to have.
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The night wasn’t all about showing off or being a queen diva. There would be singalongs with the audience, including making a few people’s dreams come true by singing “Take Me or Leave Me” in the audience and drafting a small army of children to sing along to “Let It Go,” the song that got her to these bigger stages.
More interesting, and no less impressive, were those songs that stepped away from the diva side of the spectrum, where Menzel pulled back the curtain to show a bit of the “real” her, the one with the insecurities, the one who occasionally feels like a weirdo, the one who knows that defying gravity and letting go aren’t always the easiest things in the world.
The two sides of her onstage personality came together best, in of all things, in her cover of Radiohead’s “Creep.” The verses sounded appropriately vulnerable, while the middle section (“She’s running…” and so on and so forth) has never sounded quite as powerful as it did with Menzel’s gifted vocal chords behind them.
In the end, the performance was everything a fan — young, middle-aged or old — could want from seeing her in the flesh. Menzel is one of those rare, gifted folks that has The Voice, and given the option the crowd at The Pavilion would probably have sat for another couple of hours just to soak it in.
It might not have been Judy at Carnegie Hall or Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music, but anyone who walked away from the show disappointed is was probably impossible to please in the first place.
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Personal Bias: I unlocked the “Hear ‘Defying Gravity’ Live Without Sitting Through Wicked” achievement at this show, and I couldn’t be happier. Hate is a strong word, so let's just say that I think musicals are archaic and weird.
The Crowd: Probably the politest group of people I’ve ever experienced live music with. Just tons of very nice people who liked to sit and listen and, from time to time, clap and cheer.
Random Notebook Dump: Shout out to You Must Remember This for covering the life and times of both Judy Garland and Lena Horne. I knew marathoning the show for the last few weeks would pay off.