My alarm goes off at 4:30 a.m. I’m already awake, though. I never sleep well in the rain.
A thunderous downpour complete with lightning gives me pause in getting ready for Jon Batiste’s TODAY Citi Concert.
Will the show go on with this rain?
By the time I arrive to the plaza, the rain has tapered off, thank God, and I see the band warming up onstage with live instruments. I’m talking tuba, saxophone, double bass and conga drums in addition to a drum set and a full piano.
Yes, a millennial artist who still uses live instruments. Certainly fitting for the first Black person to win the album of the year Grammy in 14 years when he won in 2022.
I know then that I am in for a treat, and the former band geek in me revels in having a front-row seat. I take it all in as fans trickle in from the long line around the corner, umbrellas in tow. The crowd livens as the band and backup singers rehearse without Batiste.
When he does take the stage, his energy erases any shred of rain, despite it returning just moments before he enters the plaza.
The TODAY rain ponchos are on and umbrellas are up. The Oscar winner is seemingly the only one not shying away from the rain. He steps right into it, eyes closed, singing his new song "Raindance" from his album that was released Aug. 18, "World Music Radio."
He seems to really be taking in each fleeting moment as it passes, attempting to experience all of its grandeur before the next moment inevitably starts.
What sticks out to me the most is how big his smile is, the joy he exudes and the gratefulness he carries himself with.
I, too, am smiling ear to ear. We make eye contact several times at the peak of both of us smiling. I think it is just another "Oh, he looked at me" moment that every fan says when they attend a concert of an incredible performer.
But on his way to Studio 1A, he holds my gaze again and fist-bumps me, and our pearly whites nearly blind each other. That alone was worth braving the rain.
Fans in the plaza agree that the trip was worth it.
"I wanted to see what Jon Batiste is about," Drew Marie, 27, tells me. "I like his energy. He came out here with good energy regardless of the sunshine or rain. He was just ready to do it. ... His voice is just amazing. He's so talented."
Some fans traveled in from New Orleans to see Batiste, who is from the area.
"We got to support Jon and the city. We got to represent. We (came) all the way from New Orleans just for 18 hours just to come to the show," Kerry Andersen, 56, says.
"In the rain," her husband interjects.
"He represents everything we are in New Orleans and music," Andersen adds.
In addition to “Raindance,” Batiste sings “Freedom,” “Butterfly” and “Worship” later during his set. Not one drop of rain dares to return.
He turns the plaza into a baby Mardi Gras. He marches around with some of his band members following him. He crawls across the stage at one point and later stomps around as freely as he shakes hands and takes selfies while performing.
Somebody get him some water!!! He is working HARD!!!!
As if privy to my thought, the Grammy winner guzzles some water after each electric performance of a song.
The Julliard grad never loses his fire, nor does the crowd, but he wants to take it up another notch.
"Where I'm from, we don’t play this kind of music and stay as still as you all are here," he says after pausing in the middle of performing "Freedom."
"I need the energy level to come up 100 times," he says.
There isn't a still body in my sight after his callout.
After the concert ends, no one is ready to go home. I can't help but feel disappointed that it is over.
What a gift it was to experience him live.
Back in the greenroom, I thank him for sharing his time and gift with all of us. I tell him that when he crawled across the stage, it was giving James Brown. He falls off the stool he was sitting on, laughing.
I give him all the flowers I can think of in the moment of meeting him — the superstar that I didn't expect to have time with.
He hugs me. We snap a photo.
And to think the performance was in doubt because of a little (OK, a lot of) rain.
His concert resets my day and I will be basking in it all weekend.