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Tonight was a first. First Idol concert, first visit to Summerfest. The concert was the more impressive of the two. I’ve always wanted to see the BoDeans there, and they play every year, and maybe I’ll still go one of these days. But they’d better be really really good. Overall, it’s just an insanely crowded Renaissance Faire with people in modern clothing. Not enough focus on the music, and too much focus on wandering around drinking beer, eating fried things, and buying noserings.
So let’s focus on the music.
I was originally planning to go to both this show and Chicago, to see how much they’d improved after they’ve been on the road for two months. To be honest, I don’t know if I need to do that, because they all looked like they’d been up there since forever. Very comfortable, confident, talking to the audience like we were all together in someone’s living room. I was impressed first of all with that.
I loved the graphics on the screens at the top and bottom of the stage. It was cool how each Idol got their own signature design, and the pics they chose to introduce each performer were cute. The audience was receptive and gave everyone a warm welcome. Lee’s cheers were by far the loudest, but that may have been because this was surely a “home crowd” for him. I’m guessing more than one person in Chicagoland (besides me) drove to Milwaukee rather than endure the suckfest that is the United Center.
Didi did start off a little low-key, and the sound mix did neither her nor Andrew any favors. The treble was cranked up so high, it completely destroyed every unique nuance in their voices. That was a disappointment. But her voice was stronger than I expected, and she was adorable with her banter. She seemed very much at ease up there. Cute giggle! The bright-colored bubbles on her video screen added to the bounciness of the set.
Andrew’s entrance was really cute. He sauntered in from the wings, and I do mean sauntered. I thought he was going to start throwing gang signs. “Straight Up” had good energy, but sounded too high. He was straining more than I wanted him to. My 18-year-old daughter said, “He’s shouting at me.” “Sunday Morning,” was much better. I enjoyed that one a lot, even if it was nearly note-for-note to the original. He switched it up a little just before the bridge and I liked that. His vest was cool. He looked like he was heading out fly-fishing after the show.
Katie. Whoa, Katie. Quite the outfit, and she had ‘tude to match. Powerful voice. I couldn’t remember the name of her first song, so I asked the daughter, “Do you know what that song is?” She said, “No, but she’s sure angry about it.” It was good, whatever it ended up being, but I hated the second one. It went on for. e. ver. But she’s cute, with her little pep talk, and it would seem the pageantbot has been tossed into the landfill with all those Stepford Wives. (That should tell you a little bit about my demographic.)
Tim…WTF did he do to his hair? Daughter said, “He has a mullet!” then she decided he’d tucked it behind his ears. I dunno what happened. It was weird. But he sounded good, even if his graphics (which I think were supposed to be clouds) looked more like a trip through someone’s intestines. I really enjoyed “Better Days,” and he did “VlV” his own way. I liked it. Caught some nice guitar pickin’.
Siobhan. Her opening graphics and music were definitely the best—I was waiting for Harry Potter to turn up on his broom, ready for Quidditch. Either that, or Tim Burton to pop out of the wings. But it was Siobhan, wearing a cake. The light show kicked up a notch, and so did the energy level. Her ending scream on PIB was perfectly on-key, but I was still distracted by the dress. “Spiderwebs” was interesting, tho I’d never heard it before. Got a little monotonous. The Muse song was a yawner. I’m guessing that was the closest Idol has let her get to the person she was with Lunar Valve, but the song was just too damned long for me, and never went anywhere.
Overall, Siobhan is someone I want to like. Hell, I *do* like her a lot as a person—she’s hilarious, and fun, and goofy. But as a performer, she leaves me the coldest of the ten. This performance was a great improvement over what I saw from her on the show—every time she sang, I expected to see them filming her through those vaseline-coated lenses they always used on the Lawrence Welk Show. But she has a lot of convincing to do if she wants to win me over.
Then came little Aaron. Heh. He knows exactly what he wants to be when he grows up, and he’s well on his way to getting there. He worked that stage like a Nashville pro. He sounded great, and his song choices were wonderful, even if the split screen they used for the graphics caused it to look as if Elvis’s head was detached from his body in the home movies. There was footage of The King on a horse, and my daughter the equestrienne was totally freaking out: “Ohmygod, Mom, that horse is going to send him flying in about 4 seconds.” Fortunately, Elvis stayed on board Old Dobbin and Aaron turned me into a fan. On the show I thought he was cute, but meh. I’m now ready to plunk down cold hard cash if he ever plays anywhere near me.
#6-10 did a better job on “The Climb” than Miley ever could. For one thing, they sold it. And Didi’s boho dress was lovely. During the intermission, TPTB made us watch commercials. Not pleased with that, except it made me realize that Casey is a real natural in front of a camera. Dude, if you decide that guitar thing just isn’t your cup of tea after all, you may have a second career ready & waiting.
Big Mike brought us back from intermission, and like the show’s opening, I wish he’d been a bit higher energy. But “This Woman’s Work,” was lovely, and he can handle the falsetto just fine… even if there was a *lot* of falsetto. He got a very warm welcome from the audience, and his voice was the best so far. (As the night went on from this point, I decided a different guy must be on the mixer board. The Top 4 sounded much more balanced than the first half of the show.)
I wish he’d gotten down with his bad self a little bit more on the JT song. It had potential. I may have whispered an internal “Awwwww” when he talked about his little girl before “Ready For Love,” which I’d never heard before and which was, in a word, gorgeous. It was quiet, and slow, and long, and exactly what a lot of people undoubtedly hated about Season 9, but I loved it. Nice job, Mr. Lynche!
Another big cheer went ‘round the theatre when Casey’s name popped up on the screen, but little did we know what that blue-eyed charmer had in store for us. He tore the place up. Whooooo!!!! From where I sat, he was about ¾ of an inch tall, so I wasn’t exactly down front. But I could *feel* his joy radiating toward me in waves. I haven’t been in the presence of that much love for the craft since the last time I saw The Mavericks. I just leaned back and let it wash over me. When he finished “I Got Mine,” you could hear the audience thinking, “Jeez. I knew he was good on the show, but…holy f*cking shit. That was…wow.” Who cares how stiff he is onstage when his fingers can fly like that? Lordy, can he play the guitar. We’ve all said that. We all believe ourselves when we say it. But trust me, you don’t really know it until you’re there. He was the first one to get the audience on its feet, and they stayed there.
His voice was fantastic. No ifs ands or buts. What some folks call “goaty,” I call “Lonestar Twang,” and I love it., even if I’m an Okie. I assume he’s still sick, but you would have never known. He sounded great, especially on “Don’t,” which was one of my favorite performances of his during the season, but I was surprised to hear he was doing it on the tour. I guess that means he likes it too. The applause was even louder when he finished than it was when he was introduced. I suspect he made some new fans.
The duet with Mike was so pretty. The harmony they screwed up on the show, was perfect. They looked at each other before the final few notes, and from their reaction once they’d sung them, I’m guessing those notes have given them trouble in the past. Tonight, no trouble at all.
After seeing Casey live, and watching him interact with the band’s guitarist, I really think he’d be best fronting a band. He glows all by himself, but he *really* glows when he has someone else to play off of. As we were leaving the show, I asked Daughter (who mooned over Lee all season) who her favorite was tonight. She didn’t even hesitate. “Casey.”
I didn’t envy Crystal having to come on after the Texas tornado that had just torn through the crowd, but was I worried? Nope. And I had no need to be. She wandered onstage like she’d been doing this all her life, and launched into a song that is a real bitch to sing as if it were some little ditty she dashes off while vacuuming. She made it to the second verse before I started choking up just because I was so happy to see her down there, doing what she loves and has worked so fucking hard to have a chance to do for crowds like us. I’m getting misty all over again just typing this up.
Her banter was the most extensive, and again, such ease with the audience. The first time I ever heard “Up to the Mountain” was when I saw Kelly on YouTube, and when Crystal did it on the show I thought it was nice, but it didn’t touch me or anything. Tonight was a different story. Dammit, she made me cry again. She’s good, going from soft to soaring with no effort at all, and every bit of it as if she’s still singing back home at the Village Idiot. That is one of her special talents—she really draws you in. And “Piece of My Heart,” well, as much as I love Faith Hill, all I can say is, “Suck on that one, babe.” Janis would be proud. Crystal killed it, and then was sweet enough to introduce Lee. She is one classy dame.
The cheers were raucous for Mr. DeWyze. TBH, I was nervous for his set tonight. After seeing him at Arlington, could I hope to replicate the level of emotion I felt, and witnessed, there? In answer, the energy tonight (full band, instead of just him & his guitar) was different, but still powerful stuff. I remain proud to call myself a fan. :)
I loved loved loved “Beautiful Day.” He really knows how to make a song his own. My daughter didn’t even recognize it. He was several lines into it before we finally got a smile. His smiles are precious, not only because he means it when he does it, but also because (to paraphrase my favorite writer) “he makes himself so rare.” After that song, he mentioned that his brother was in the audience, but that we were all his family. I believed him. Some people laugh at his press release and its mention of his overflowing emotion, but I know what the writer was grasping for. Lee proudly wears his heart on his sleeve and it informs everything he does. He may not bounce around like a shih-tzu puppy, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t thrilled and grateful to be there. And he will give you 100% every second he’s on that stage.
When I first heard his set list, I commented on this blog that I was concerned about too many mid-tempo songs. Silly me. I repeat what I said about “Beautiful Day.” Given the enormous baggage that “Hallelujah” brings to the Idol arena, I was stunned that he decided to include it in his set. But it was wonderful. Powerful and loud and heartfelt and glorious. Beck isn’t on my radar. For me, that song is and will always be Cohen’s. And what Lee did with it made me happy.
“Treat Her Like a Lady” has a special place in my heart, because that was the night I thought before Simon said, “Your life may have changed forever.” Every time that song pops up on the iPod, I still feel the hair stand up on my arms. Tonight, he took the energy waiting in it, and boosted it to 15. I swear to god, I could see his heart ripped out and beating on the stage.
The audience was twinkling with cellphones and glowsticks during “Rocket Man.” It was so pretty. I hope he could see it. I could hear people singing along with “Use Somebody,” and as at Arlington, he was so sweet in his acknowledgment of the audience and everything that we’ve enabled him to do. I don’t know anything about who he is or is not following on Twitter, but I believe him when he says he loves me.
The segueway from Lee’s set to Casey opening “It’s My Life,” was so short it surprised me. The lights went dim for just a moment, then Lee had vanished and Casey was there, singing. It was really cool.
Along with everyone else, I was mildly horrified by the rehearsal footage we had a week or so back of them all singing, “MLWSWY.” But with the full band blasting behind them, they sounded awesome. I lurved it. Lee came down the middle of the stage last of all, and he and Crystal put their arms around each other for a moment. I don’t think they did THAT in Season 7 or 8!! (Did they?) ;)
Throughout the season, I’ve been vocal in my objections to those who would blow off this year as weak or “not wanting to be there.” Singer-songwriter types make up a large percentage of what’s on my personal playlist, and I don’t need lasers, backup dancers and frenetic lyrics to keep me entertained. I wallow in the glory that is Idol wholeheartedly, knowing how they’re manipulating me by making me buy into these kids’ climbs to the top, and not caring that I’m being played, because the contestants themselves make it all worthwhile. They work very had for their money, and I for one count myself privileged to have had a chance to watch them earn their keep.
May the road rise to meet you, Didi, Andrew, Katie, Tim, Siobhan, Aaron, Mike, Casey, Crystal and Lee, may the wind be always at your back. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.
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