Bryan White concluded his brief stint of 2012 Christmas shows at the Woodstock Opera House on Dec. 29, 2012 presented by Erik Borman. The intimate show was filled with many Bryan White hits, Christmas song favorites and stories of community, family and tradition. Anna Johnson opened the show with a heartwarming performance that set a cheerful tone for the evening.
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Wisconsin native and Nashville resident Anna Johnson wowed the Woodstock crowd during Bryan White’s 2011 show and her 45-minute set on Saturday night was equally impressive. Performing with her husband, David Mitchell, on guitar and her sister, Julia, on violin and backing vocals, Anna appeared a few month’s pregnant but that did not impact her voice despite her comment, “I seem to have a baby’s head in my diaphragm.”
Anna opened with a trio of songs from her 2012 indie release, “Winding Road” that included “Home,” “Getting Over You” and “Someday.” Her folk-meets-pop musical style perfectly suits her pristine vocals. The remainder of their set switched gears to the holiday season with songs from her recent album, “Christmastime with The Anna Johnson Band.” They closed with “Gloria,” an original Christmas song that clearly demonstrates the amazing strength of Anna’s voice.
The night marked the fourth Bryan White performance at the Woodstock Opera House in as many years. A seemingly match-made-in-heaven given White’s strong affinity for the Bill Murray classic film, “Groundhog Day,” that was filmed in the town a couple hours north of Chicago.
Similar to Johnson’s performance, White’s set opened with a handful of non-holiday originals before transitioning into songs that fit the Christmas-themed evening. He began with “Sittin’ On Go,” “Look at Me Now” and “Rebecca Lynn” on a stage that was adorned with snowflakes and a small Peanuts display that included stockings that referenced his sons, Justin and Jackson.
Woodstock has a love for White that is clearly reciprocated by the award-winning singer/songwriter. Shortly into the show White stated, “I have to say this is the show that I greatly anticipate every year. The excitement in just getting on the plane and coming here is awesome…I feel like I’m embraced here, I feel like I’m a transplant.”
White dedicated “Love is the Right Place” to the victims of Newtown, Conn. He later added that “songs take on a whole new meaning” around the holidays while being away from one’s family before he performed “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”
A highlight of the evening occurred when he reminisced about family and said, “When we grow up and become adults sometimes it’s really easy for Christmas to sort of lose its luster and we get caught up and buried underneath a lot of cynicism or bitterness here and there…I wrote this song because I wanted to capture the emotion [of family] and I wanted them to sing on it with me too,” referring to his sons backing vocals on his holiday original, “Finding Christmas.”
Joined by Jimmy Butler (keyboards), Monte Booker (drums), Erik Borman (guitar) and Dan Hogan (bass), the intimate nature of the show felt more like a living room with friends than a ticketed concert. White frequently joked with the audience and told his bandmates to “take five” while he went off on an impromptu instrumental jam session before playing “Christmastime is Here” and the Peanuts classic “Linus and Lucy.”
As the evening was drawing to a close, White thanked his grandfather as a prelude to “Dustbowl Dreams” and continued with “So Much for Pretending.” Family friend, Erin Borman, gave a reading of the biblical “Christmas Story” and White then finished the show with “Our Savior is Born.” Both White and The Anna Johnson Band invited guests to mingle after the show for photos, autographs and merchandise.
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