Holiday Pop & Rock Music

Ever since Elvis Presley put a rock ’n’ roll twist on Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas,” holiday music hasn’t been the same. Now, it seems as if every rocker tries to cash in on Christmas with a holiday album and/or tour. Even heavy metal guys sing about rockin’ around the Christmas tree and decking the halls. The selection of Christmas concerts in Northeast Ohio runs a wide gamut, from smooth jazz to heavy metal to rock. Here’s a rundown of the best. —Jeff Niesel


Nov. 29, Kent Stage

Three years ago, this Boston-based band of singer-songwriters released a holiday album of traditional tunes and put together a winter-themed tour that has become a seasonal staple. The group does versions of traditional songs like "O Holy Night" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," as well as more obscure tunes such as "Thanks for the Roses" and "Of the Magi."

175 E. Main St., Kent, 330-677-5005,

Peter White Christmas Show

Nov. 30, Tangier

This UK smooth jazz artist put together a Christmas show a few years back that has found an audience with the jazz and pop crowd. He'll have sexy sax player Mindi Abair and trumpet man Rick Braun on stage with him, and while they can deliver a high-energy rendition of "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town," expect them to stick to more pensive numbers like "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "Silent Night."

532 W. Market St., Akron, 330-376-7171,

James Fortune and Jessica Ready

Dec. 1, House of Blues

These two gospel singers will dedicate some of the proceeds from their Light Christmas Tour to the Toys for Tots Foundation. Advance word is that they'll perform some material from their respective solo albums, and then throw a few holiday favorites into the mix.

308 E. Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583,

The Ohio City Singers

Dec. 1, House of Blues Cambridge Room

Throughout the month of December, this local ensemble of singer-songwriters plays both original and traditional Christmas music at a variety of local pubs and clubs. One measure of their talent is how well original tunes hold up next to campy covers such as "Mr. Heatmiser" (from How the Grinch Stole Christmas). If you miss this afternoon matinee, you'll have plenty of chances to see them again; check the group's website for a full list of shows (

308 E. Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583,

Christine Lavin & Uncle Bonsai — The Anti-Holiday Concert

Dec. 2, Beachland Ballroom

Singer-songwriter Christine Lavin and the folk-pop trio Uncle Bonsai team up to offer an irreverent take on the holidays. Expect to hear songs such as "When You're Single at Christmastime" and "Is It Hannukkah or Channukkah?" at this show, which offers funny fare for the folk set.

15711 Waterloo Rd., 216-383-1124,

Dave Koz and Friends Holiday Concert

Dec. 6, palace theatre

Now in its 15th year, this concert is a yuletide tradition that finds sax man Koz and friends (for this tour, pianist David Benoit, singer Javier Colon, percussionist Sheila E., and singer-songwriter Margo Rey) playing Christmas classics from the three holiday albums Koz has released. He'll also include a fun medley of "Peanuts" Christmas songs.

1615 Euclid Ave., 216-771-4444,

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy Wild & Swingin' Holiday Show

Dec. 9, Tangier

This swing band from Southern California has been going strong since the swing revival started in the late '80s. Though enthusiasm for the genre has waned a bit, that hasn't stopped these guys from continuing to play a lively Christmas show for the past several years. They take tunes such as "Blue Christmas" and "Jingle Bells" and turn them into dance floor fodder.

532 W. Market St., Akron, 330-376-7171,

El Vez Mex-Mas Show

Dec. 9, Beachland Ballroom

Famous for his irreverent renditions of classic rock and punk tunes, El Vez released a Christmas album a couple years back that featured tunes such as "Santa Claus is Sometimes Brown," "Mamacita donde esta Santa Claus?" and, of course, "Feliz Navidad." Expect to hear these tunes and more at this colorful holiday concert.

15711 Waterloo Rd., 216-383-1124,

Over the Rhine

Dec. 15, Kent Stage

Cincinnati's indie folk-rock duo Over the Rhine has played a Christmas concert for the past several years that usually includes fan favorites along with seasonal songs.

175 E. Main St., Kent, 330-677-5005,

Neil Zaza

Dec. 15, Hanna Theatre

For the past few years, local guitar hero Neil Zaza has put on a Christmas extravaganza that features the kind of theatrics you get from Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Zaza's stage show may not be as extravagant, but he's a phenomenal player who can really shred.

2067 E. 14th St., 216-771-4444,

Surfjohn Stevens' Christmas Sing-Along Seasonal Affective Disorder Yuletide Pageant on Ice

Dec. 16, Beachland Ballroom

Performing under an easily recognizable pseudonym, indie singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens wins the award for the longest title for a Christmas concert. This tour coincides with the release of Silver & Gold, a five EP collection of Christmas tunes that includes an 80-page booklet of essays penned by Stevens himself.

15711 Waterloo Rd., 216-383-1124,

Mannheim Steamroller

Christmas by Chip Davis

Dec. 21, State Theatre

Mannheim Steamroller's Chip Davis has been making New Age-themed Christmas music for a quarter-century now. The live show is a multimedia extravaganza — a good thing, since the smooth jazz renditions of Christmas faves can be sleep-inducing.

1501 Euclid Ave., 216-771-4444,

Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Dec. 26, Quicken Loans Arena

This prog rock Christmas show is so popular in Northeast Ohio that an matinee performance was added to the evening concert. While the content of past tours haven't changed much, this one is reported to feature brand-new material, including the live debut of 2004's The Lost Christmas Eve.

1 Center Court, 216-420-2000,

Chimaira Christmas 13

Dec. 29, House of Blues

Mushroomhead Christmas Show

Dec. 29, Peabody's

Do the local heavy metal guys know that Christmas is on Dec. 25, or do they take the holiday off, just like normal people? Whatever the case, these after-Christmas shows promise to be deafening. Known for their crazy costumes, Mushroomhead will undoubtedly put on a visual display, while Chimaira is more about delving into its extensive catalogue of metalcore tunes. Either choice is a good one, though don't expect many Christmas tunes (if any at all) to make it into the mix.

308 E. Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583,

2083 E. 21st St., 216.-776-9999,

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