For ’90s kids, Mariah Carey is arguably more Christmas than Santa Claus. There’s no need to run through her full list of qualifications — it’s enough that “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is the most-downloaded holiday song ever, even though it dropped when the concept of on-demand digital music sounded straight out of a sci-fi movie. And so every November, as shopping malls dust off their North Pole sets, Carey slips into red heels and prances onto stages to perform an arsenal of moving tunes from her two holiday albums, Merry Christmas (1994) and Merry Christmas II You (2010). The result is a lot of festive moments, as Carey calls them — and EW was on hand to witness the magic at All I Want for Christmas Is You, her Citi-sponsored Live Nation concert at the Beacon Theatre in New York City on Tuesday. Before Carey’s sleigh rolls into Las Vegas at Caesars Palace’s Colosseum next week, read on for what you should expect at the Christmas spectacle.
1. Bryan Tanaka dancing
Snowmen! Elves! Bryan Tanaka! Yeah, Carey’s boyfriend is a backup dancer in her show. With his grand guidance — this guy escorts her around the stage, up mini staircases, and through the woods — Tanaka is constantly in Carey’s spotlight and smiling about it. If you dance in the production, you envy this man, especially when they dip.
2. Santa Claus dancing
Listen, Carey’s got costume changes and the show must go on. Insert Jolly Old Saint Nicholas, who looks more than happy to be sweating in a Santa suit in the warm venue. We speculate that the temperature is good for Carey’s voice, which leads to the next observation…
3. Great vocals — no, really!
Carey has long battled complaints that her live performances don’t live up to her work in the studio. “She’s performing with lackluster and no f—s given, and it’s taking away her star,” said Anthony Burrell, Carey’s former choreographer and creative director, in an interview with Complex in August. That was not the case when she performed Tuesday night. There were several moments when her voice soared through crescendos and those signature high notes, leading to “she’s still got it!” remarks in the audience. Indeed, she does still have massive talent — though it’s undeniable that her voice in 2017 is more suited for live performances than live television.
4. Diva moments
What, you thought Mimi would chill a little after that New Year’s Eve incident? “If this ear comes out of my ear one more time,” she said, referring to her earpiece. It’s like she knows audiences want to see her unleash her inner diva.
5. Non-Christmas songs
Taking breaks from the expected fare, Carey performed her hits “Hero” (1993), “Emotions” (1991), and “We Belong Together” (2005), which have nothing to do with Christmas but seamlessly fit into the show and were applauded by the audience.
6. Mariah the Mom
“Look at ’em — so tiny, Dem Babies!” Carey said when her children, 6-year-old twins Monroe and Moroccan, were brought out on stage. Yes, everyone was excited, but Moroccan seemingly yawned, and Carey was soon jokingly over it. “And I’m gonna walk them this way,” said Carey, moving to the side of the stage. “Follow me. Sashay.”
7. A religious experience
When Carey belted “Christmastime Is in the Air Again,” it felt like it was. You may have felt like Scrooge when you showed up, frustrated that it was raining and the subway took forever, but you left uplifted by all the beautiful melodies, campy ensembles, and elaborate decorations. The key is to take a cue from Carey and lean into the cheesiness.