There’s a phenomenon that’s all too familiar to those who wake up on December 26 — or January 1 — feeling a little deflated, and that sunken feeling of awkward sadness can only be described as the Holiday Hangover. Auntie Barbara’s spiked egg nog doesn’t have to factor into the equation in order for a bit of a headache or grumpiness to linger after strips of torn wrapping paper have been discarded or the Christmas tree’s made its way to the curb. The excitement of the holidays and the adrenaline rush it inspires leaves a “Aw, okay — next year” kind of aftertaste, a sensation of disappointment and even a bit of mourning for the good times that’ve passed and the 350ish-day stretch until the next holiday season begins. All of that hype, and then it’s over and done with like that? That’s the Holiday Hangover.
It’s no surprise, then, that the end of Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You concert series at the Beacon Theatre is drawing nigh, and our lady in red (and white, and tawny gold) is starting to show that, yeah, maybe it’ll be a bit of a bummer when these eight crazy nights come to a close. Mariah sounds like a goddess, sure, but she’s a mere mortal, and she’s not immune to this Holiday Hangover situation. She clearly loves doing this, and who can fault her for that? This mini-residency is bursting at the brim with synthetic snow, tiny sugar plum faeries doing pointe routines, a small army of burly dancers in white tuxedo jackets and fingerless gloves and all of the pop, R&B and jazzy grooves an audience could hope to find in a modern holiday revue. It thrives on positive vibes, unpredictable banter and off-the-cuff improvisations; it feature Mariah and her iconic whistle register at her very best at a time when all her fans want to hear is “O Holy Night” and “All I Want For Christmas Is You” on repeat.
So the fact that last night, the seventh of these eight shows, was just fine — not her best, not her worst, wholly acceptable and … fine — isn’t that earth-shattering of a conclusion to come to. The witty repartee between songs was abbreviated; she didn’t bust out the high notes on “O Holy Night” or “Joy to the World” with all her might as she had for her prior engagements. But a Mariah concert is as dependable as those posters you see hanging in a guidance counselor’s office: If you shoot for the moon, you land among the stars, and Mariah’s performances adhere to that logic. While the uninitiated may brush off last night as a mediocre set or see it as Mariah phoning it in, there’s more to it — and that’s where this hangover effect comes in, as it’s impossible to separate the emotional investment Mariah’s made in this kind of project from the musical quality of it. You have to really love the ever-living shit out of Christmas songs to subject yourself to a program of this nature, especially one as ambitious and taxing on Mariah’s vocal level, and vocal chords are fickle things that never strike the same note the same way twice. Mariah’s “O Holy Night” on its most lackluster night is still a revelation when compared with nearly every other recording of it in existence. She still hit a handful of high notes last night — that whistle register cannot quit, that’s for sure — but something felt off or slightly less shiny, and that something has to be the result of a Holiday Hangover. That’s all. The talent and the drive are there. The spirit was a 10 instead of an 11 — and one can only assume it’s because her grand finale will hit a 12.
And hey: I’m not immune, either. At the start of this crazy marathon, I assumed that I’d be ripping my hair out by now, that I’d give up on ever enjoying “All I Want For Christmas Is You” or that I’d scream and shove earplugs in my ears if the faintest strain of gospel music wafted in my direction. Nope. I can’t get “Oh Santa!” out of my head for the life of me, and I legitimately look forward to hearing that and “O Holy Night” every single night. Maybe that’s why last night felt off: I’ve been granted a nearly daily dose of Mariah holiday magic, and now that I know it’s almost over, and Christmas will be over soon after that, and New Year’s Eve will be here soon after that, my Holiday Hangover is kicking in early. I DON’T WANT THIS TO END, OKAY? IT’S WEIRD FOR ME TO REALIZE, TOO. So yes, Mariah, I will take your nightly serenade of “We Belong Together” personally and pretend like you’re singing to me because we’re on a first-name basis and stuff now. I’ll also enjoy it when I can, because baby, it may not be cold outside, but it’s a bummer that this’ll all be over soon.