CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Thursday night, Bob Thompson proved once again why his annual "Joy to the World" has become a tradition during the holiday season in Charleston.
As always, it was a festive affair at the Culture Center Theatre. A bustling crowd, wearing Christmas sweaters and heavy coats, came in from the cold to celebrate with the show and wish the piano man and jazz bandleader a happy birthday.
Before the first song was played, the audience sang to him and stagehand Lance Schrader presented Thompson with a cupcake and a single candle to help commemorate 71 years.
Thompson told the crowd there was no place he'd rather be on his birthday than there, playing with friends, in front of an audience.
For quite a few people in the nearly full house, there wasn't any place else they wanted to be either. During producer Adam Harris's warm up, he asked how many had come to see "Joy to the World" before.
It seemed like there were a lot more hands up than hands down and a few among the seats said they'd been to all 21 shows.
"Back when they were free," someone shouted.
People laughed. It was a joyous occasion.
Thompson and his band turned in yet another fine addition of their Christmas show with a mix of well-known seasonal classics, as well a couple of obscure tunes and one original song, "Mittens," brought to the stage by this year's guest vocalist, Heather Masse.
"Mittens" was a delight and had a kind of roadhouse blues quality to it.