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This years holiday show was another runaway smash.  Attendance wise, sure, the tickets are as precious as gold, frankincense and myrrh, but also artistically the show reached new heights with stunning high concept visuals, star turns and wide-eyed surpises.

Let one moment serve as an example: Mike Doughty singing Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire," behind him a fifty foot tall projection of Mary and Joseph in homesteading attire, their faces lit by the baby Jesus floating over a haystack while the three wisemen, re-thought as cowboys, genuflect awestruck.  On stage a feast of cowboy dancers leap to the skies as the music suddenly turns Copland-esque "Rodeo" and then the dancers canter offstage, "Gangnam Style."  Here's a little smidge of the show that our friend Steven Cohen put up on Youtube.  Thanks Steven for making such an excellent document of the show each year!

'Nuff said...

OK, not quite enough.  Let's talk about that Western Nativity concept and the projections.

Taking the stage the stage, the entire band, sometimes numbering as many as 20 members at one time, were all fitted out in beautiful Western wear (The New Standards themselves got costume design help from super hip dress designer Joy Noelle).  The show was illuminated by towering color-soaked photos (by Travis Andersen, with brilliant photo composite and manipulation by Pixel Farm's Tony Mills based on The New Standards concept) that told the tale of The Nativity as played out in the Old West.  The songs of the first act were chosen to cast a light on the emotional world of the characters Mary and Joseph, with Chan, John and Steve revealed as the Three Wise Dudes who journey across the prairie  and finally finding  the blessed baby out back of a saloon.  The overall effect was a mind-boggling blend of sentiment and the kind of high culture kitsch of Jeff Koons or Cindy Sherman, but the one that worked on a variety of levels.

Besides Doughty and dancing cowboys, imagine the haunting beautiful tenor of Jeremy Messersmith singing "Ghost Riders In The Sky"

...the evocative soulful voice of Aby Wolf on a minor-key brood through "Silent Night," a honey tongued Chris Koza singing a David Lynch meets Ennio Morriconne version of "Walking In The Air" Matt Wilson stunning the audience as he hit the high highs of Roy Orbison's "Crying" and Lucy Michell presenting a song from her upcoming solo record (produced by John and Chan), "Can I Confide."  The first set wrapped up with the soulful Chastity Brown bringing it all back home with a rollicking version of her radio hit "After You."

And that was just the first set.  Here's just a "minimalist" taste of where we went in the second act.