Mariah Carey, the unofficial First Lady of Christmas, kicked off her eight-night run at Manhattan’s Beacon Theatre Tuesday night with a massive holiday performance. The pop star pulled from her two holiday albums — 1994’s Merry Christmas and its 2010 follow-up Merry Christmas II You — to open the second annual All I Want For Christmas Is You concert series underneath a monogrammed “MC” wreath and flurry of fake snowflakes.
Carey incorporated a gospel choir, cast of children, and, of course, the man of the season, Santa Claus, into her 14-song set that spanned 80 minutes. Though the Long Island native declared halfway through the evening, “I can’t banter back and forth. It’s gonna take all night,” Carey continued to chat up the crowd between sips of eggnog.
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She also constantly reminded concertgoers that Christmas is her favorite time of the year and took a break to ask the children dancing by her side what they loved most about the December holiday. “Santa’s coming!” one young boy yelled enthusiastically, cuing Carey to belt “Oh Santa” off Merry Christmas II. The children’s segments were better suited for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, but they did serve to fill the space when the extent of Carey’s dance moves consisted of the occasional hip pop.
The 45-year-old singer also teased that she’d like to write more Christmas originals because “they make me happy.” She continued, “They’re some of my favorite work that I’ve ever done.” But she also peppered in some of her non-holiday classics on Tuesday night.
Despite straying from the sleigh a bit, Carey delivered a truly festive kickoff to the holiday season. Here were the night’s merriest moments:
9. A truly powerful cover of “Silent Night”
After her first outfit change, Carey emerged in a champagne gown and sparkled under the dim amber lighting as a gospel choir backed her version of “Silent Night.” By the end of the classic carol, the singer was surrounded by the children and choir, all in white robes holding candles, as she filled out the cover with soul.
8. Mimi made an appearance
Carey teased the Lambily with a break in the night’s regularly-scheduled programming when she asked if they’d like to hear some of her “other songs.” Though she seemed adamantly against it, Carey rocked “Emotions” before diving into a sassy performance of “We Belong Together” from 2005’s The Emancipation of Mimi. All iPhones were up capturing the moment — and then Carey promised to go “all the way” with the old favorites (See: No. 4).
7. Santa stopped by
It’s not a holiday show until The Big Guy shows up, and he sure did while Carey sang “Here Comes Santa Claus.” The star was too busy throwing teddy bears from Santa’s bag to the audience to mime the lyrics, but Carey made time to reference a fan favorite Christmas movie. “Santa, I know him!” she said, quoting Elf, as the bearded man arrived on stage from the aisle.
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6. Carey brought the night “Home”
Arguably the most-popular Carey holiday cover, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” off her first festive album, appeared early on in the night to a theater-wide sing-along, as Carey walked back and forth pointing to fans who should “be here with me” on Dec. 25. The child backup dancers remained absent for the intimate performance, but enthusiastic front row fans kept their hands in the air throughout the entire song.
5. The queen of pop kept things “Holy”
Carey recessed from the stage’s edge to take her place in front of the Christmas tree as she reached out to the crowd and dipped into her lower register to bestow chills on the audience. She teased her range throughout “O Holy Night” before hitting the last “oh night divine” with the high note everyone came for — the night’s best reminder of why the term “Mariah Carey high notes” exist. When the A Christmas Melody actress concluded, she slowly backed away from the mic.
4. Carey rewarded longtime fans
During her three-song hiatus from the jolliness, the mother of two belted her 1993 hit “Hero,” briefly uniting everyone in the theater over classic Carey. She scatted her way to the top, as the crowd sang and swayed along. Carey knew exactly how happy she made everyone, and a few fans shed tears during those four and a half minutes.
3. Mimi closed the night with a fan favorite, “All I Want For Christmas Is You”
While religious carols have centuries worth of Christmas ties, Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas” is undoubtedly the modern “Jingle Bells.” She ended the night with the holiday hit, natch. Watching Carey shake in a sparkly red gown surrounded by dancing nutcrackers, a snowman, and teddy bears, with a staggering tree in the backdrop, sure does put you in the holiday spirit like no amount of eggnog could.
2. Charlie Brown came to Christmas
Carey reinvented “Charlie Brown Christmas” on her second holiday album, but the cover came to life when the pop legend took center stage to sing it as fake wind blew in her hair. One of her “guys,” as she called her helpers, took her hand and rubbed her shoulder as Carey brought the crowd back to their childhood with her slow, sultry version of the timeless melody. Plus, Carey led into “Charlie Brown Christmas” with a montage of clips from the cartoon and children dancing along to the Peanuts theme.
1. “Angels” opened the show
The night started off on a high with a slow, emotional version of “Hark The Herald Angels Sing/Gloria (In Excelsis Deo).” Beginning with just Carey’s soulful voice and piano backing, the singer proved she shined at making hymns sound heavenly. The crisp finish to her voice signaled the joyful set to come and made sure the crowd wasted no time remembering why Carey still reigns as Christmas’ queen.
The All I Want For Christmas Is You concert series continues at Beacon Theatre through Dec. 18.