Paradise Rock Club, 12/17/2016
Ushered onstage by the melodious tones of Leslie Knope, backed by a paper winterscape of nighttime Christmas trees, the Oh Hellos charmed the Paradise audience with two hours of expertly orchestrated songs and holiday cheer. It’s difficult not to fall head-over-heels for the Oh Hellos at any gig, let alone one where a rock club is turned into a veritable echo chamber as the audience sings along to the entire show from every dark corner. The nine-piece outfit is almost too large for many stages, and then they start playing. Calling them energetic can smack of understatement; viola player Matthew Hagerman is one to watch in particular, as he jumps around the stage and head bangs with the percussion.
The setlist ran the gamut from serious to downright silly, as frontman and guitarist Tyler Heath warned the crowd early on it would. They started with a cover of “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5 and peppered the performance with notable earworms from A Charlie Brown Christmas. There were also, of course, a lot of Christmas carols; most of which the band had arranged and woven together on their 2013 EP of Christmas songs titled The Oh Hellos’ Family Christmas Album. (For those not in the know, Tyler Heath and his counterpart, Maggie, are siblings.) The album is a tapestry of sorts, and packs in a lot more Christmas standards than it’s four-song tracklist would suggest.
The Oh Hellos rendered “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel” particularly minor and haunting; their rendition of “A Coventry Carol” raucous and fun. Some of the more somber moments came from the Oh Hellos’ own music, with songs like “Dear Wormwood” and the penitent and hopeful “I Have Made Mistakes.” These and their more exuberant tunes, such as “Bitter Water” and “Exeunt” were met with as much enthusiasm and audience singing as the carols.
Being an extravaganza, the Oh Hellos succeeded in making the night a memorable one. Running with the family Christmas theme, Tyler Heath introduced a Heath family tradition of playing Christmas songs on hand chimes. Four audience members were invited onstage, given chimes and music, and helped lead the crowd in “Up on the Housetop” and “Jingle Bells” as an intermission of sorts. They closed the main part of the show with a jubilant “Auld Lang Syne” with snow machines (Air blowers loaded up with foamy, white soap that two band members joyfully sprayed all over the crowd.) To top it all off, the band encored with their signature song, “Hello My Old Heart.” “Hello my old heart / It’s been so long / Since I’ve given you away,” Tyler Heath sings in the melancholy anthem. The Oh Hellos gave it away in spades in their Christmas Extravaganza.