I attended the July 31, 2011, St. Louis, American Idols Live concert. To begin, I’ll say that I am probably not a typical fan. I have never seriously followed American Idol before this year. In past years, I stayed only informed enough to discuss the performers with my eighty-year old mother, who has loved the show from the start. However, this year, as I viewed some auditions online, I was introduced to Casey Abrams and was immediately hooked. Since that time I have viewed every piece of programming, and news available on Season 11 to learn more about Casey’s future career. I have followed MJ’s online blog for every concert along the tour, so feel honored to now contribute my concert experience.
Since the nearest concert to me in any direction was a six hour trip, at first I despaired that I’d not make a concert. But, that spell Casey cast early on in the season had to be satisfied, so I made my plans to travel to St. Louis and bought my tickets the day they went on sale. I began planning the sign I’d make that very day.
On Saturday, my 28-year old son, Jon, and I travelled from Arkansas to St. Louis to enjoy the weekend together. After a lovely evening enjoying the vibe along Delmar Loop and going to a musical performance of Little Shop of Horrors at the MUNY Theater at Forest Park, we went back to the hotel and worked on completing my sign I had planned for a couple of months, but had never completed. I was amazed that my enthusiasm was infectious enough to ensnare his involvement, albeit with droll sarcasm, in what my entire family has thought to be an over-the-top response to this wonderful and funny young performer.
After a late breakfast, we caught the local subway to the Scott Trade center, sign and gifts in tow, to learn the way around the arena and determine where the barricades were I’d read about. Upon finding them and settling in to wait in the hopes of meeting my Idol, my son left me to enjoy the sights in hope of also finding a cooler way to spend the afternoon as the temperatures were soaring into the high 90’s. Equipped with the necessary water to stay hydrated, and of course sunscreen, I settled in with approximately forty others hoping to meet the young stars. I did note that there were few my age in this group but we connected by our common desire, and they were very accepting of this old lady hanging out with them. Once they learned I was from Kris Allen’s hometown, that made them even more excepting.
Around 3 p.m. we learned the busses were arriving and the security people, who had tried to encourage our wait in the high temperatures, had us move back a bit so they could aid the busses in backing into the parking garage. Four large busses soon arrived and backed into the structure. The windows were darkened, so it was hard to know if those on board were looking down on the heat weary fans waiting for them. However, in hopes they were I held up my sign we had labored over and hoped my guy would come out so I could give him the gift I’d brought along for both he and Haley. Upon arrival a couple of staffers did make their way out with bottle of water to give to those waiting who had exhausted their supply in the oppressive heat. Soon, Scotty’s mother, Judy, came out alone and walked quickly by to explore St. Louis. Later, we learned when Scotty tweeted that they were going into sound check and on to a meet and greet and were not going to make their way out before the concert. So the weary waiters gave up and went to find some cool air and food before going into the concert.
Once refreshed, and meeting back up with my very patient son, we entered the throng waiting to find their seats. I’m uncertain the capacity of Scott Trade Center, but it was very near capacity with only a few seats in the section immediately right of the stage and in the top upper three rows available. I had been told earlier in the day there were around fifty seats remaining, but this did seem to be a few more than fifty. Perhaps for some reason, all weren’t available though.
We found that we did have nice, plaza level seats with a good view and settled in to wait the start of the concert. Thanks to MJ, I had already pieced together a playlist on my Youtube account of the entire concert and knew exactly what to expect from the concert having viewed it many times since it began in Salt Lake.
The concert began in a timely manner and the staging is fabulous, though not elaborate. I was a little concerned that the sound was going to be poor, due to the pre-videos and advertisements being difficult to hear. But once the real show began, I never again was concerned about the level of the sound either not being loud enough or, conversely, too loud.
I loved the start of the show with the idols pictures coming up on the very large screens and hearing the crowd’s response to each performer. Of course some received greater responses than others and I realized at that moment, I’d probably have little voice the following day. Of course, Naima comes out first to hail the crowd and start Born This Way for the girls group number. I think they do a great job on this, but think that Naima and Haley particularly shine on this one. Costuming was lovely.
As the song ends, Lauren walks out on the central projection of the stage and welcomes the crowd to the St. Louis concert. While this is occurring Pia, on the upper level is removing her jacket and passes it to Haley as she departs the stage. Pia remains on the upper deck of the stage (2 levels) to begin Empire State of Mind. I was never one to understand why the uproar over Pia’s early departure because she simply does not connect with the crowd as well as many of the other top 11 do. However, her vocal ability and beauty cannot be denied and she sang that song very well. She’s just so stiff, rather like the problem Al Gore had during his Presidential run, they just don’t connect with the crowd as well as others do.
Pia remains on stage and is soon joined by Stefano for California King Bed. I do think she is somewhat looser performing with someone, though with some of the more natural ones on stage she still comes out as awkward. They sound super together and look good performing with each other.
Next up is Paul, who works hard to get the crowd on its feet. His experience touring is to his credit and his unique voice is just so much fun to listen. He was successful in getting the audience on its feet and grooving to Maggie May. And the crowd loved him. Too bad, he didn’t get to do one more. This old body was up and swinging to his number.
Thia is next and suffers a bit of the same problem Pia has. She too sounds great though. I personally thought wardrobing should have dressed her in something more youthful and fun instead of that dress with the long train thing. Who Says was a good song for her.
Thia sheds her train and is back out with Haley, Naima, and Pia to perform Tightrope. I didn’t know this song before the tour began, but find I am enjoying it. I particularly enjoy Naima’s rap portions as well as Haley hitting that “high or low” with such an interesting twist to it. Their dresses were very nice and Thia’s looked so much more youthful sans train. I again enjoyed dancing to this one and found the crowd around, even those who didn’t dance tolerant throughout the evening.
Next up is Stefano with Grenade. I love this song and he does this justice, I just can’t get past the personality of this guy, particularly off stage. And, though he has committed a great deal of time to toning his body, I personally could have gotten by without the raising of his shirt to reveal his abs. He did keep the shirt on this time though. The crowd, as a majority, were much more accepting of the shirt raise than I was and cheered loudly. In spite of my personal feelings about Stefano, I found myself dancing to both this and his next number with the girls.
Stefano’s performance of DJ’s Got Us Falling in Love, with Haley, Thia, Naima, and Pia is good. He definitely has a great voice as all of the top 11, and even beyond do. It was a good performance and again well received.
The boys all come on next, for Animal, and I get my first live glimpse of James, Casey and Jacob. I like this number and the boys are so comfortable with each other. They are just loving each other and having a great time. Of course, I love Casey’s contributions to this piece, but everyone is good, though it seemed Stefano’s mic was turned off or something. He was really hard to hear when he came out.
Naima is amazing. How she can dance with the zest she gives it and still be able to sing is hard to comprehend, but she does it by golly. Her strength in doing the one handed cartwheel and then going into a full split is beautiful. She truly does appear to be an exotic flower, and as I’ll mention later on is strikingly beautiful.
Having danced through five numbers straight this old girl was thankful to see the concert wind back down briefly with Pia’s, This Time and then Lauren, Pia, and Thia’s Firework. These were probably my two least favorite performances of the night, though I was entertained by all of the performances.
Finally it’s time to see the one I had followed all season, and listen to daily, perform and I was not left wanting. Casey bathed in red light on the upper tier begins with his double bass, frequently acappello, he begins Smooth. I’ve been listening to him do this on the Pierce Abrams Channel, on YouTube, from a pre-idol video in which he plays three different roles, and enjoyed it. However, this performance was so much better. He has become so relaxed on stage and either because of this, or because he no longer has to pack everything into 90 seconds, he no longer storms across the stage, but rather saunters drawing in the entire audience as he covers every inch of it. I’m again up and dancing and waving my sign, demanding the Jazzheads to unite. Though Casey is not the first of the night to draw the crowd to its feet, it should be noted he is the only one of the night who raises them to do so without commanding it verbally. They arise of their own desire to be on their feet.
Not to be disappointed the jazzheads do unite on the next number. Casey goes right into Moanin’ now bathed in blue light on the lower level of the stage. Soon Haley joins him and they perform the Season’s best number IMHO. They are so brilliant in their scat which is different every single time, and always entertaining. And, they look so natural together on the stage.
I’m a bit sad, he only has one more solo, but he gives it his all, and it is very satisfying, singing Harder to Breathe while I find after all this dancing and the long wait outside pre-concert I am indeed finding it a bit harder to breathe personally. Casey’s live performance is perhaps even more satisfying than his TV performances perhaps because we don’t have the close up shots that some seemed to not like because of some of his facial expressions they perceived as angry, which never bothered me in the least. He is indeed gifted and a funny entertainer and I truly look forward to following his diverse career. I have waved my sign throughout his entire set and at one time, I thought he read it.
The first set ends with the Forget You group number. Casey has a very small window to change into the red duds they all wear for this and suddenly appears on the upper level stage between Thia and Naima just as his first solo part is due. They all sound great on this number with stand outs for me being Paul, Haley, Casey, Jacob, Naima, and James.
Intermission and I rest having danced through the greatest preponderance of the first set. Jon and I discuss the performers and our opinions of the performers and agree except for Stefano, who Jon is able to see past the personal flaws which cloud my judgment. I confess he has done a good job in his performance (much more so than on the show). Again, without the close-ups the lip licking and squinted eyes do not bother one so much.
Knowing that I’ll not try to leave the concert early, because I don’t want to miss a minute of Casey being on the stage, I drop my gifts for Casey and Haley by guest services and am assured that they’ll be delivered to them. We are now ready for the second set which is opened by Lauren.
Lauren seems to be the performer whose voice is most taxed at this point in the tour. I’m not certain if it’s from the problem she had at the finale or just the continuous demand being placed upon her by both the tour and recording for the album. However, the only song it seemed to cause any problem with was Firework in the first set. She performed Flat on the Floor and had a great time doing it. The crowd was up with her and rocking it.
Lauren then does her single, Like My Mother Does, or for tonight, Like My Momma Does. The crowd loves this song and many sing along with her. Kristy Suddeth, in the floor audience, is given a shirt by some fans during the song. The crowd sits through this and the next song. I think more because they aren’t dancing songs than a reflection on the crowd’s reception on her.
Lauren is now joined on stage by Thia, Stefano, and Haley for If I Die Young. I think Lauren does this song very well. Lauren is comfortable and very natural on the stage and has a great stage presence, with only Haley equaling her comfort level of the remaining girls. The backup singers do a great job in supporting her on this number.
Having followed the tour from the start, I knew to expect James to enter from the rear of the auditorium and had already spied him waiting on the left side on the arena to make his appearance. The crowd is immediately on its feet as James commands us, and is rocking it out. He makes his way in a meandering fashion through the arena to the stage and comes back off the stage during his first number. At some point he gives away one of his tails to some fan in the floor audience. James is as gifted on the stage as he is lacking off in responding to the fans. If the masses can come to terms with his Asperger’s and accept he simply cannot help the social awkwardness that causes this, this gifted performer can be successful. I wish him luck in achieving this incredible feat, as it seems so many are intolerant. I like Sweet Child of Mine much better than his Uprising. The octave raise on the end chorus is simply too much for me, and I find it deafening. However, I’m up on the floor for both songs of his set. And, only Scotty draws a louder response from the crowd.
Jacob is up next. I have read many who are feeling sorry for Jacob as the crowd indeed sits down, but again, I’m not certain it’s because the crowd is not enjoying his performance. I don’t see people leaving the floor during his performance as I observed with a couple of the performers in the first set. Jacob does a great job with both numbers, but I like his second one, You’re all I Need to Get By better than, the first, Never Too Much (which I didn’t know prior to the tour’s start). He works the stage well, and seems to be having a great time up there.
My girl, Haley is next. I wish one of her numbers could have been something new. In fact, I’m hoping if they’ve identified her first single, they’ll add it to the tour, as they have Pia’s. Her two numbers, both of which I personally love, are just feeling a little tired now, which is through no fault of her own, as she does both justice. She looks great, as she has all night, wearing her hair loose and natural tonight and is working that stage hard. I love Haley’s unique voice and will definitely purchase anything she puts out, hopefully some of which will be with my boy, Casey.
House of the Rising Sun is first, and it is even better live than it as on the show. The only change I hear, is for the first time she says “It’s been the ruin of many a poor girl”, instead of boy. I’ve always loved this song and can only imagine how New Orleans responded to it live, though I’ve heard the video recording from New Orleans.
Haley starts Bennie and the Jets seated on the edge of the stairs center stage and is soon up working the entire stage to its full advantage. It’s every bit as well received by the crowd as it was when she performed it twice during the show season. The crowd loves Haley, I believe she’ll have a great career.
Now you can feel the pent up energy of the crowd as Scotty McCreery has still not shown his face. As we sit through the revealing of each winner, since the show began, and finally, see SCOTTY spelled out in giant letters across the middle screens the roar goes up for the Season 10 Idol.
The stage goes dark as the band strikes up the opening chords of Your Man. Though the roar was loud when his name appeared on the screen, now the roar is deafening as the audience rejoices in at last seeing their new found celebrity. Scotty is also quite natural on the stage and works it to his advantage. His comfort level is exceedingly beyond his tender age of seventeen.
This is followed by Are You Going to Kiss Me or Not, which the crowd also loves. Amazingly, though neither of these, nor his next song are great dance numbers the crowd remains on their feet, only sitting for his and Lauren’s duet throughout his entire set. Scotty is dressed like any good old southern boy might be in jeans, boots, and a plaid shirt.
I Love You this Big is next. Scotty does a good job of announcing it as one you might have heard on local stations and the crowd is certainly ready for it. It sounds so much better now, and he is much more comfortable with it than he was on the finale shows. It’s growing on me, folks.
The duet, You Say It Best , done with Lauren is next. Lauren’s voice problems seem to have made this one hit and miss throughout the tour, but tonight it sounds good. Though their chemistry (perhaps due to their youth) is not as good as we’ve seen with Pia/Stefano and Haley/Casey they do pretty well with this number.
Scotty’s last solo, backed up by Lauren, Thia, Stefano, and Haley, is Gone and the crowd adores it. He is so animated with this number and works it so well. Folks, I think we can say the masses love Scotty McCreery this BIG.
James and Lauren open the finale with a short piece of Here We Go Again. Chemistry is lacking here, but they sound well together. Lauren seems to have overcome the sprained ankle completely. Paul, Haley, and Casey do a bit of Faithfully which left me wanting more. There’s a little side glancing going on onstage between Haley and Casey, but unsure if its anything serious on not. Walk this Way is next in the medley and they all do a great job with this. Everyone is out for the end mix-up and having a great time covering the stage and interacting with each other.
Then it’s over. All are out for one last bow and we are left to digest the action packed two and a half hours.
Jon and I quickly work our way out of the arena as I’d like to try once more to meet my jazzheads. At the barricades we find the front row is already filled in and fall into line behind some on them midway along one side on the barricade and to the right of the doors we would expect them to exit from. Of course I knew from past concerts to expect an approximately forty-five minute wait as they’d have another meet and greet to get through before coming out. Surprisingly the mother and young girl in front of us decided they were not going to wait after all and we were fortunately able to move forward to be on the front of the line even though we had stayed for the whole concert.
The wait was not unpleasant as I found myself next to some teens with whom I had waited earlier in the day and we talked and had fun with the security guards who did a great job with crowd control. I never felt in danger of a panic crush during the time on the barricades though the crowd seemed enormous.
Finally, Naima, was the first to appear. She moved quickly down to the far right side of the crowd and began working her way along the barricade signing and interacting with as many fans as possible. I was struck by her stature as she always seemed so tall to me. She is not, at all, her slenderness and long legs just seem to make you think she is. She is also strikingly beautiful and very engaging.
Soon after Naima passes me on the line, the person who is responsible in casting the spell which has compelled me to travel a great distance, at some cost, to be in his presence appears at the doors. Of course there I am with my sign commanding the Jazzheads, Casey and Haley, to Unite! I find it does the trick and Casey comes straight away to me, where we have a lovely exchange of words. And, he reaches for my sign to autograph. I ask him to instead to sign the program I had purchased as I intended to discard the sign which had served its purpose. He complied and ask what I planned to do with the sign. Upon learning I planned to discard it, he asked for it! I happily complied and whether he keeps it for a momento, proposes to Haley with it, or throws it away, I don’t care. That night he succeeded in making me think it was special to him, for which I am grateful. Of course, I’d already left his hand-knit hat and a picture of he and Haley, from an earlier concert, for each of them at guest services with a note for each as well. So I just told him to look for the gift. We hugged and I kissed his beard. My only picture was taken while he talked with my new found friends beside me as I was much too engrossed in the encounter to ruin it by trying to capture a photo. He is every bit the genuine person, which I believed him to be and am convinced he could have been one of my own children, which is probably why I’m so captivated by him. I wish him much success and happiness in his career whatever path it takes after the tour ends.
Paul was out next and started somewhere down in the middle of the line to my left. He was followed by Scotty, then James. All of which also signed my program and with the exception of James, who really seems to be struggling with this aspect of his celebrity , were quite engaging.
Lauren came out and started all the way down at the far end of the crowd to the left. Other than Casey, of the ones whom I observed, she was the most engaging. Both took a great deal of time to engage as many fans as possible and had fun doing so. Scotty was nearly as warm as these two were and definitely had a greater demand for his attention than any of the others.
Jacob was also special. Joy exudes from him and it’s wonderful to be near that aura. He was also very genuine.
Stefano was then out but worked the crowd inconsistently seeing a few people and then moving farther down missing a lot to engage with another segment.
When Lauren at last, reached me after signing, I asked her if a young girl some way behind me could come up to have her picture made. She paused and looked hard at me saying, “That’s so nice of you to let her come up for one.” It didn’t seem like a big deal to me. But the little girl was happy to have her picture made, and again Lauren took at great deal of time with her. Lauren has lost so much more weight and looks amazing. She is more beautiful than I imagined she’d be. She is using that voice far too much, and needs to somehow try to preserve it for the rigors that lie ahead.
The other three girls, Haley, Pia, and Thia, all of whom are very beautiful were all out as well. Which means that in St. Louis all eleven made an appearance at the barricades after the show. However, each of them started to the far left. Because we had travelled from our hotel via the subway, whose last train would run shortly after midnight, I thought it prudent not to wait any longer. As Jon had long ago abandoned me due to the pressing crowd to wait on the sidewalks behind me, I left without meeting Haley unfortunately.
As someone who has never seriously followed the past seasons, I have found this whole experience much more pleasing than my elitist persona ever thought it could be. They are all gifted singers and I hope many have long careers in the industry, but for me my greatest hope is that both Casey and Haley can be very successful and happy.