San Diego holiday concert guide: Harry Connick Jr., Jody Watley, LeeAnn Rimes and more

Jody Watley, Pride festival, June 12, 2022 in Washington, D.C.
Singer Jody Watley will perform as part of the Dec. 10 Freestyle Explosion Holiday Jam at Pechanga Arena San Diego.
(Brian Stukes / Getty Images)

Other options include performances by Storm Large, Mrs. Henry, Berkley Hart, Randi Driscoll, Jonathan Karrant and Jake Shimabukuro


Why are there more holiday concerts than ever this year? The main reason may well be the still-ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

With so many concerts and entire tours canceled or pushed back over the past two years, performers and audiences alike are eager to make up for lost time. This held true this spring, summer and fall, when a record number of concert tours came to San Diego. It will also be the case in the coming month as the holiday season shifts into high gear.

How high?

Between next week and Dec. 22, the Balboa Theatre alone will host nearly a dozen different Christmas-themed performances. By all accounts, that is a record.

Here, in chronological order, are just some of the many holiday concerts headed this way.

Debbie Gibson at the 2022 International Tennis Hall of Fame Legends Ball in New York
Debbie Gibson will perform Saturday at Viejas Casino. She is shown here in concert at the 2022 International Tennis Hall of Fame Legends Ball in New York City.
(Roy Rochlin / Getty Images)

Debbie Gibson’s Winterlicious

Onetime teen-pop star Debbie Gibson is now 52 and on tour in support of the first holiday album of her career. It includes what is being billed as a new “holiday anthem” called “Heartbreak Holiday,” a vocal duet with New Kids On The Block veteran Joey McIntyre. The no longer new kid will, presumably, not be present for the concert but Gibson may elicit some screams from fans on her own. 8 p.m. Saturday. Oak Ballroom, Viejas Casino 5000 Willows Road, Alpine. $30-$35 (must be 21 or older).

Jack Tempchin and Mrs. Henry
Singer-songwriter Jack Tempchin, center, and the members of Mrs. Henry will perform with an array of artists Saturday at The Magnolia in El Cajon. Their concert will be an homage to “The Last Waltz,” The Band’s legendary all-star farewell concert, which took place on Thanksgiving day in 1976.
(Andrew Huse / Courtesy Sideways Media

“The Last Waltz,” featuring Mrs. Henry, Albert Lee, Scarlett Rivera, Jack Tempchin and more

On Thanksgiving night in 1976, the pioneering Americana-music group The Band performed its farewell concert in San Francisco with such guests as Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Neil Young and Eric Clapton. That concert, the subject of a Martin Scorsese-directed film, will be re-created Saturday, song for song, by award-winning San Diego band Mrs. Henry. The list of guest artist includes such illustrious collaborators as former Clapton band guitar wiz Albert Lee, former Dylan violinist Scarlet Rivera and noted North County troubadour Jack Tempchin. 6 p.m. Saturday. The Magnolia, 210 East Main Street, El Cajon. $26-$30.

Jake Shimabukuro, Bomhard Theater, Nov. 9, 2018, Louisville, Kentucky.
Jake Shimabukuro will perform a Hawaiian Christmas concert Wednesday at the Balboa Theatre.
(Stephen J. Cohen / Getty Images)

Jake Shimabukuro’s Christmas In Hawaii

How does a Honolulu-born ukulele virtuoso who doesn’t sing perform such holiday music favorites as “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “We Three Kings?” By bringing along veteran vocalist Justin Kawika Young. The concert, which will also feature some of Shimabukuro’s original compositions, also teams him with fellow ukulele wiz Herb Ohta, Jr., and bassist Jackson Waldhoff. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Balboa Theatre, 868 Fourth Ave., downtown. $36.50-$66.50.

Randi Driscoll at Matthew Shepard Foundation benefit, Westside Theatre New York City.
Now based in Nashville, former San Diego singer-songwriter Randi Driscoll is returning here to perform her annual holiday concert with a bunch of her musical pals.
(Paul Hawthorne / Getty Images)

Randi’s Damn Jingle Ball

Now based in Nashville, erstwhile San Diego singer-songwriter Randi Driscoll returns for her annual holiday concert. She’ll be joined by Noah Heldman and Eve Selis, the latter of whom is another erstwhile San Diego singer-songwriter now based in Nashville. The talent-packed lineup also includes Lisa Sanders, Berkley Hart, Ashley E. Norton, Story & Tune, Ashes & Arrow, Roni Lee, and some surprise guests. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Musicians on Call, a nonprofit that provides free performances for hospital patients. 6 p.m. Sunday. Normal Heights Church, 4650 Mansfield St., Normal Heights. $20-$35.

Montell Jordan, at Cellairis Amphitheatre, June 18, 2022, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Montell Jordan will perform Dec. 10 at Pechanga Arena San Diego as part of a multi-act Freestyle Explosion Holiday Jam concert.
(Paras Griffin / Getty Images)

Freestyle Explosion Holiday Jam

If you are pining for the 1980s in general — and have a penchant for busting a move to free style R&B, hip-hop and Hi-NRG dance music specifically — this jam is for you. The lineup includes Stevie B, Lisa Lisa, Jody Watley, The Cover Girls, Sweet Sensation, Johnny O., Cynthia, Montell Jordan, JJ Fad and MC SHY-D. 7:30 p.m. Dec. 10. Pechanga Arena San Diego, 3500 Sports Arena Blvd., Midway District. $41.50-$135.00.

La Jolla Music Society presents Storm Large's Holiday Ordeal  Dec. 10
La Jolla Music Society presents Storm Large’s Holiday Ordeal on Dec. 10.
(Laura Domela)

Storm Large’s Holiday Ordeal

In what may be the first 18-and-up holiday show at the usually all-ages Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, former Pink Martini singer Storm Large will bring some bawdy holiday cheer to town. Then again, this is the same Storm Large whose one-woman musical, “Crazy Enough,” chronicled her teenage sex addiction and subsequent abortion, bisexuality, heroin use, nervous breakdown, near-rock-stardom and eventual ascent to a more even-keeled life. 7:30 p.m. Dec. 10. Baker Baum Concert Hall, Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, 7600 Fay Ave., La Jolla. $31-$75.

Harry Connick Jr. will perform Dec. 11 at San Diego Civic Theatre as part of his "A Holiday Celebration" concert tour.
(Courtesy photo by Georgia Connick)

Harry Connick, Jr.’s A Holiday Celebration

Harry Connick Jr. has at least four Christmas albums to his credit thus far. The New Orleans-bred Grammy- and Emmy Award-winner is equally talented as a pianist and singer, although it is his svelte vocals that propelled him to stardom. Usually backed by a brassy band, he can be expected to inject some swinging rhythmic pizazz into even the most staid holiday songs. 7 p.m. Dec. 11. San Diego Civic Theatre, 1100 Third Ave., downtown. $35-$75.

Jonathan Karrant, right, and Joshua White,
Singer Jonathan Karrant, right, and pianist Joshua White. left, will be joined by bassist Justin Grinnell and drummer Julien Cantlem for their two all-ages holiday concerts at The Jazz lounge.
(Rikke Photography / Courtesy Jonathan Karrant/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Jonathan Karrant & The Four J’s: To celebrate the release of his fetching new album, “Christmas Wish,” former San Diego singer Jonathan Karrant will perform two back-to-back concerts at the all ages Jazz Lounge. He’ll be teaming with three leading jazz instrumentalists — pianist Joshua White, bassist Justin Grinnell and drummer Julien Cantlem. 3 and 7 p.m. Dec. 11, The Jazz Lounge, 6818 El Cajon Blvd., San Diego.

Gary Hoey, 2022, New York City
Gary Hoey brings an electric-guitar-fueled rock power trio vibe to his annual Ho Ho Ho Rockin’ Holiday Tour concerts.
(Astrida Valigorsky / Getty Images)

Gary Hoey’s Ho Ho Ho Rockin’ Holiday Tour

For music fans of a very exacting nature, nothing quite says “Merry Christmas” like a rock power-trio. Guitarist Gary Hoey and his band’s annual holiday tour is likely the only seasonal concert trek to juxtapose “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” with the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s “Foxy Lady” and Focus’ “Hocus Pocus” (presumably minus the accordion solo). 8 p.m. Dec. 17. Ramona Mainstage, 626 Main St., Ramona. $30 (must be 21 or older to attend). (760) 789-7008.

May 11, 2017, Jeff Berkley
Jeff Berkley, above, and musical partner Calman Hart will be joined by Lisa Sanders and other guests for their annual holiday concert at the Music Box.
(San Diego Union-Tribune)

A Berkley Hart Christmas: In 2016, award-winning San Diego troubadours Jeff Berkley and Calman Hart released the album “A Berkley Hart Christmas.” Both before and since then, their annual holiday shows have featured lots of holiday cheer and an impressive array of musical guests. The lineup this year features Lisa Sanders, Earl Thomas, The King Taylor Project and Josh Weinstein. 8 p.m. Dec. 20. The Music Box, 1337 India St., downtown. $30, plus service fee (must be 21 or older to attend). (619) 795-1337;

LeAnn Rimes, Stern Grove, July 24, 2022, San Francisco
LeAnn Rimes will perform Dec. 22 at Pala Casino. She was just 14 when she won the Best New Artist Grammy Award in 1997.
(Steve Jennings / Getty Images)

LeAnn Rimes’ Joy: The Holiday Tour

Country-music vocal star LeeAnn Rimes was only 14 when she won the Best New Artist Grammy Award in 1997. Her 2020 album, “CHANT: The Human and The Holy,” is not a Christmas album in any conventional sense. But its message of emotional and spiritual healing seems well-suited for this time of year. And with three Christmas albums to her credit, Rimes isn’t lacking for a holiday-themed repertoire. 8 p.m. Dec 22. Pala Casino, 11154 Highway 76, Pala. $35-$55.