Yes, a big surprise. I was turned on to Arkenstone’s unusual foray into the world of chillout music with Christmas Lounge after his performance in San Diego on Saturday, December 18, and we’re now getting around to telling you about the concert itself. While there was a piece from Christmas Lounge performed at the concert, the set list was much more varied in terms of style and genre.
For those who missed out, David Arkenstone and his friends traveled to two different Southern California cities this past weekend: San Diego on Saturday, and Thousand Oaks on Sunday. This “Winter Solstice Concert” featured classic Christmas songs and carols alongside Arkenstone’s original compositions, which actually complemented one another quite nicely.
Hit the jump to find out what David Arkenstone had up his sleeve at the San Diego stop of his mini-tour… did he play music from World of Warcraft?
The answer is yes! While the set list from the evenings performance more accurately reflected his recent Visions of Christmas album (which I’ll naturally discuss here, since the majority of the album was performed), it was still a night with many debuts and a pretty varied set list.
Let’s get into that. I admit that I may be leaving a track or two out, but for the most part, this is what was played:
1. “I Saw Three Ships” (from Visions of Chrsitmas)
2. “Ice Palace”
3. “A Coventry Carol” (from Visions of Christmas)
4. “We Three Kings”
5. “Angels in the Snow” (from Visions of Christmas)
6. “O Christmas Tree/Il Est Né Le Divin Enfant” (from Visions of Christmas)
7. “Arabian Desert” (from Visions of Christmas)
8. “Desert Crossing”
9. “The Jumper”
10. Celtic Medley
11. “Snow Dance” (from Visions of Christmas)
12. “Pig and Whistle” (from World of Warcraft)
13. “Spirit Wind”
14. “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” (from Christmas Lounge)
15. “Gloria in Exelsis Deo”
16. “Jingle Bells”
17. “Bottom of the Punch Bowl” (from Visions of Christmas)
And how were these pieces performed? With Arkenstone on everything from guitar (for most of the evening) to keyboards to piano and to the exotic kalimba, he was also accompanied by many friends, including 2 violinists, a pianist (who often took up other instruments, including a saxophone), a percussionist, and a flautist. Quite an array of instruments for sure.
The venue itself, AMSDconcerts, is actually a Methodist church, making for a fitting albeit somewhat different kind of venue for a concert. The audience was seated in the pews, with Arkenstone and his band on the front stage. A Christmas tree lit up one side of the stage, but aside from a single light at the center of the stage, there was a certain dark and rustic quality to the setup that made enjoying this holiday music even more special.
Arkenstone often introduced the pieces, giving insight into their significance. For example, he recalled making snow angels with his mother when he was a kid, and seeing the light reflect off of them from his room that evening, which inspired the warm and tender “Angels in the Snow.” He apologized for being liberal with Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” during the second half of the show (although I loved his funky version of the classic theme). He also let us in on the fact that he’s a huge fan of The Simpsons, which gave him the idea to include the Norwegian folk tune, “The Jumper,” which was performed for the first time at this event and had everyone in the audience clapping along with the upbeat jig-like song.
Other highlights included a number of pieces from his Visions of Christmas album, taking us on a whirlwind tour of Europe with “A Coventry Carol” (England), one of the best versions of “O Christmas Tree” (Germany) that I’ve ever heard, and “Il Est Né Le Divin Enfant” (France). We even got into the arid desert with “Arabian Dance” and “Desert Crossing,” the former with a groovy bassline and enchanting woodwinds, and the latter with its impressive solos, including one on the saxophone.
“Ice Palace” was also really cool with its synthetic roots, bringing an immediate chill to the room with its icy pads. Arkenstone asked if anyone played World of Warcraft, to which a few people in the audience cheered. He commented that he’d been asked to write themes for the game’s taverns, and more so had recently worked on Cataclysm, and proceeded to play the bouncy “Pig and Whistle,” complete with accordion.
Overall, I had a great time delving into the Celtic and world music arrangements that David Arkenstone and his band provided. It was definitely a unique experience that I won’t forget any time soon. From the pieces performed to the unconventional venue, I’ll definitely be back next year of Arkenstone returns (this was his second time passing through). Given that many of the pieces were from Arkenenstone’s recently released Visions of Christmas album, I recommend checking it out if you want to get an idea of what the performance was like. Not only does it include the above pieces, but it features a number of Christmas favorites including a dreamy piano-based “Silent Night,” an upbeat “Joy to the World” that is brimming with joy, and a playful “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Deck the Halls.”
Let us know what you think of David Arkenstone’s music. Are you at all surprised by the type of music Arkenstone performs based on his contributions to World of Warcraft?