Mannheim Steamroller
Chip Davis mans Steamroller's drums.
MANNHEIM STEAMROLLER, E Center, West Valley City, Friday

WEST VALLEY CITY — Chip Davis could be known as a red-headed Santa Claus. Why? Well, he ushered in the Christmas spirit when his band Mannheim Steamroller pulled into town Friday night and played a Christmas concert at the E Center.

It's been three years since Utah audiences have been "steamrolled" into the season. The wait was worth it.

Friday was only the band's second stop of the tour. The audience and band were happy it finally returned to Utah.

"This is like our second home," Davis told the cheering crowd.

The staple Christmas Village setup was displayed in the back of the building, and the famous dinner tables were set up near the front of the stage.

And while those attractions were welcome sights, nothing was more important than the music.

The band opened with "Hallelujah" and proceeded into Davis' arrangement of "Feliz Navidad," which he did especially for his youngest daughter, Elise.

The song, along with "Catching Snowflakes on Your Tongue" and "Christmas Lullaby," written for Davis' other two children, were new, culled from the most recent Mannheim Steamroller Christmas album, "Christmas Song."

The album, which was released a couple weeks ago, has already gone platinum — selling more than 1 million copies.

The new songs were just as enchanting as the older selections. "Deck the Halls" was a crowd favorite, as was the funky version of "Faeries," a take on Tchaikovsky's "Sugar Plum Fairy." "Away in a Manger," "Good King Wenceslas" and "White Christmas" were more seasonal works that got the audience in the mood.

Also performed in the first half was the nearly acoustic "We Three Kings."

Throughout most of the show, Davis sat front and center on his electronic drum set. The other musicians — keyboardist Jackson Berkey, guitarist/lutist Ron Cooley, violinist Rebecca Vanderholm, keyboardist Almeda Berkey and multi-instrumentalist Roxanne Layton, along with conductor Chuck Penington and the Mannheim Steamroller orchestra — followed his lead and joyfully interacted with each other.

The second act featured an acoustic set featuring "Gagliarda," "In Dulci Jubilo," "Wassail, Wassail," "Carol of the Birds," "I Saw Three Ships" and "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," as the three video screens displayed scenes of a medieval feast. Then with a bang, a fuller version of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" roared out of the speakers.

The animated toy video "Little Drummer Boy" ran in perfect sync with the band, thanks to monitored click tracks, and "Winter Wonderland" led into the set-ender, "Carol of the Bells."

Also performed was a reverent version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," while old-fashioned clips of Christmases past flashed across the screen. And all was calm and bright.