Where Is Ricky Minor and the Band? Hidden Behind the American Idol Screen?

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I wondered in my recap of Tuesday’s show if the kids were singing to backing tracks, because I could not find the band anywhere on the Idol stage.

Update:   I’m not at all clear right now whether there’s a hidden band on the Idol stage, or if the kids are singing to backing tracks.   Either way, the current set up sucks.   And if there isn’t a live band? Hey, let’s party like it’s 2004!   Way to cheap-out Idol producers…

I really miss having the band front and center!   Check out this video of David Cook singing “All Right Now” from the Season 7 semi-finals.   Cook is playing guitar, and at points jams with the band.   I also really like the camera shots from   behind the drummer, giving the performance a concert feel.

After David finishes, Paula says, “The band is hot tonight!”

Now, watch this video of Stephen Fowler’s performance from Tuesday.   Where is that disembodied music coming from?   It gives the entire enterprise a cheap, clinical feel.

After Stephen biffs the performance, he confesses that he feels more comfortable singing at his keyboards, making me wonder if instruments have been banned during the semi-finals.

Well, if keyboardist, Matt Giraud doesn’t sit at the piano while he performs Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” Wednesday night (Joesplace has confirmed this spoiler!) then we’ll know something is up…Â   ETA: And now I’m hearing that Matt WILL NOT be playing piano this week.

I am so not digging Season 8 so far….

 
  • primeminister

    Oh great post mj. I had just asked about the whole instruments thing in your previous blog entry.

    Well, if keyboardist, Matt Giraud doesnà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢t sit at the piano while he performs Coldplayà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢s à ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã…“Viva La Vidaà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬  tomorrow night (Joesplace has confirmed this spoiler!) then weà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢ll know something is upà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬ ¦

    I like Matt Giraud, but honestly, I think singing “Viva La Vida” will only be a good idea (for this purposes of this show) if he plays the piano.

  • Weeniss123

    I know for a “fact” That these first voting rounds are all tracks. Once they get to the big stage is when the live band starts.

  • http://myspace.com/saltwatercures pj

    Hey, MJ, minor edit. You mean Wed, since the show has been pushed back.

    Also, I agree the AI band needs to be seen. I still wish they were as good as the Rock Star band, but hey, a band is a band! Not having one really helps the more karaoke singers and not the ones used to playing. I too think that instruments have been banned. Sadness…

    Interesting choice for Matt G!

    ETA: Weeniss123, please enlighten us on your source. Why the change from last year?

  • http://myspace.com/girlgeek mj

    I know for a à ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã…“factà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬  That these first voting rounds are all tracks. Once they get to the big stage is when the live band starts.

    What’s your source?

  • cheese

    I’ve still got my fingers crossed that someone will play guitar or piano tomorrow. Maybe Stephen just decided to go without the piano because be biffed magic rainbow when he tried to play and sing (also, if he really thought Rock With You was his best option – not a piano song)

    Is Viva la Vida really a singer’s song? I hope he doesn’t slow it down and fill it up with runs, but I have a feeling that’s what he’s going to do. The best thing about the song is it’s energy, imo. It should be more interesting than a karaoke cover of I Don’t Wanna Be or Hero at least…

  • http://www.myspace.com/gwendolyndiane GwendolynD

    Matt Giraud and “Viva la Vida”?

    If he can pull that off, I might be inspired to vote.

  • maracaibo

    FWIW I just heard that Matt G gives “Viva La Vida” his own take. That sounds so interesting.

    The song is risky but if he does it well, it will pay off big time.JMHO.
    I like Matt, he seems like a nice laid back guy with great musicality and a great voice.

    I am just worried that he will not be able to play the piano on Wed, so…Let’s just hope it works out for him.

  • 2dogs

    Playing instruments proved to be such a hugh advantage last year, that I think we would have seen at least one the contestants bust one out last round if they had been allowed to. Either that or these contestants haven’t done their homework.

    Not having the band on stage made the set look very, very cheap.

  • primeminister

    According to Leah (aka KazooKid), an IDF-er who claims to know Matt, it is confirmed that there will be NO piano. So, if they use a backing track then how the heck can Matt “change it up”?

    Looks like the producers aren’t letting the contestants play instruments for at least the semifinal rounds. (Which probably means Jesse Langseth can’t bust out her blues guitar to set her apart from the rest of the girls. Boo.)

  • http://myspace.com/girlgeek mj

    ETA: Weeniss123, please enlighten us on your source. Why the change from last year?

    Weeniss123 is a friend/relative of Joanna Pacitti, and probably mad at me, so I’m not expecting further verification. ;)

    HOWEVER, since this person does have a connection to a former contestant, the information may be correct.

  • http://myspace.com/saltwatercures pj

    Thanks, MJ. :-)

    I’m really upset that they can’t play during these rounds. It’s a huge step backwards, IMO.

    Does anyone know if Adam plays an instrument?

  • leome

    This really doesn’t make much sense. If they could play instruments in Hollywood, if they will be able to paly instruments during the finals, why not now too?

    And I would’t be surprised if there isn’t a live band. I don’t remember Ryan even mentioning Ricky or the band, and he usually does it.
    It just really makes the show more Karaoky!

  • elisad

    Matt is singing Viva La Vida? I didn’t really like him before. But now, go Matt go~

  • movin2thabeet

    The band’s invisibility was one of the glaring omissions and problems with last weeks’ show for me. It seemed like the performers had a hard time syncing to the band – was it live or Memorex? So it threw the kids off their ‘A’ game. Even Michael and Carly had problems with it. And to make matters worse, they seemed to have banned the kids from playing instruments, at least so far. That was one of the improvements made last year.

    The producers at least are being consistent. One bad choice after another. The show was already going in the wrong direction when they started separating the band from the performers last year. Now they’re gone altogether.

    I agree this is making the show more karaoke and less musical. Note how much people responded to the Oscars last night and how they had brought the orchestra up front and center. Made the music come alive. AI seems intent on crushing music and concentrating on drama and the cult of personality instead.

    Bravo! (not)

  • widz

    I had to find this post on TMZ, but here it is.
    They had someone at the dress rehearsals for group one last week:

    According to our mole, Anoop had to restart his song 4-5 times because the band kept messing up.

    http://www.tmz.com/2009/02/17/american-idol-tmz-mole-strikes-again/

    So I’m assuming the band is behind the AI screen, but it still sucks because that prevents the contestants from interacting and syncing correctly with the band. Guh.

  • http://myspace.com/saltwatercures pj

    I remember thinking Cookie had the best package that night. I loved that he wasn’t racing cars, etc. Thanks for the vid, MJ

    ETA: Good find, widz. Plus, Joanna was disqualified, so her contact might not be in the know for the first set of 12 (or bitter).

  • http://myspace.com/girlgeek mj

    I had to find this post on TMZ, but here it is.
    They had someone at the dress rehearsals for group one last week:

    Widz, you’re awesome. I really want to get to the bottom of this band business…

    ETA:

    so her contact might not be in the know for the first set of 12 (or bitter).

    Or trying to eff me up. LOL. I just shot an email to the reader who contacted me about this originally.

  • sparklesgirl2

    I am SO excited about Matt G’s choice. I hope he pulls it off. It makes the competition interesting – definitely a better, more current (in Simon’s words) choice than like all of last week!

  • anijsch

    I think I read somewhere that the reason that they aren’t aloud to use instruments are the backing tracks.
    With the backing tracks it would be very difficult to stay in sync for the music of the track and the instrument, where a band have just can go with the flow.

  • widz

    It’s so bizzare – they had a band (not Ricky Minor, but still a band) and allowed instruments for Hollywood Week, but not for the Top 36 rounds?

  • bjames

    what the heck is up with this season?? the producers have totally screwed things up and took away all of the actual good changes that have happened lately on the show.

  • Grammie Kari

    If they had the live band, Ryan would have acknowledged it. We didn’t see Ricky Minor, so I am assuming it was backing tracks. The sound mix was not good.

    Do the producers realize how lousy their decisions have been thus far? I want the old format back. We would have seen a few performances of Ricky Braddy and Anoop would have easily been in the TOP 12.

  • justantonio

    there is a live band playing. On Tmz the day of the first performances they said that Anoop was having problems with the band and they had to restart his song 5 times…also in his live performance that night you can hear when he starts singing he is off beat (slow) and the drummer picks up the tempo for him. Ryan may have no acknowledged him..but the contestants have and Simon of course looked over to his right when he trashed them after an arrangement he didnt like

  • justantonio

    i meant during rehersal they restarted

  • widz

    ^Yep, and Anoop gave credits to “Ricky and the band for making us sound good..” after his performance in the Coca-Cola room with Seacrest.

    I know too much, don’t I? Heh.

  • flicker

    On Idol Wrap, Justin Guarini said that they are using tracks instead of the live band. He looked at the camera and said “budget cuts”!

    It doesn’t make sense to me — like widz, I remember Anoop talking about the band. Maybe they pre-record the tracks? Why would that be cheaper?

    On another note — Man, I hope Matt G can pull off Coldplay.

  • dcisluv

    It really feels like they’re going back in time to when the show was at it’s MOST cheesy and suckfestacular.

    WHY?

    WHY?

    WHY?

  • St.Lucia

    I want instruments back!

    AFter I watched David Cook just rock out I want my instruments back!!!!

    That make this season less sucky!

  • Grammie Kari

    We need to find someone who was at the LIVE show! I need answers as to why it sounded like it did.

    Guess we have to wait until TOP 12 for the instruments, since Alexis does play the guitar.

    > I know too much, donà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢t I? Heh.

    That’s cool…. please share, everyone.

  • widz

    It doesnà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢t make sense to me à ¢Ã¢â€š ¬’  like widz, I remember Anoop talking about the band. Maybe they pre-record the tracks? Why would that be cheaper?

    Why would AI need budget cuts in the first place?
    They have Disney paying promotional considerations this year as well (not just iTunes, Ford, Coca Cola) so they should have more money this year, right?

    I still believe that the band is behind that ugly AI wall..Hmph.
    This band problem is making me frustrated.

    MJ, I loved that clip you posted – makes this year’s Top 36 or Group 1 look very karaoke..Heh :D

  • savgal

    ^Yep, and Anoop gave credits to à ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã…“Ricky and the band for making us sound good..à ¢Ã¢â€š ¬  after his performance in the Coca-Cola room with Seacrest.

    Thanks for this reference, because I thought I remembered a shout-out last week like this.

    But as far as the contestants themselves not getting to play an instrument, agree this is a big mistake for AI. Makes the performance far less interesting, they don’t get to showcase their skills, and some have probably never performed much without their instrument. Who can forget Jason’s breakout “Daydream” performance with the guitar, and of course Cook was mentioned–made the (tm Randy) “emo”-style “Hello”, would not have been nearly as cool without the electric guitar. I also cannot imagine Scott not sitting behind the keyboard now. Also, will he be assisted up and down the stairs of doom? Maybe AI never though they would be dealing with ADA requirements.

  • t2

    If ai was a true singing contest, they would go back to having the semi’s with piano only, or a capella. Since ai is a big ole circus this year, what with crazees and comedians, I’m surprised they don’t have the full Brian Setzer orchestra backing the contestants.

    And if that was backing tracks last week, they were the worst backing tracks EVAH! The backup singers sounded horrible.

  • bean99

    I’m more confused than I was before, lol. I would say if they were using backing tracks then there’d be no reason why the wildcards couldn’t change their song.

  • Suzanne

    That’s definitely a track. Stephen’s song–that violin/violins at the beginning–the pared down band in the semis last year didn’t have strings other than guitars. (I don’t think.) If there were a band there, that violin bit at the beginning of stephen’s song would have been from an electronic keyboard or a horn.

    This is an interesting string, MJ. Last week, watching the show, I didn’t notice the difference, but with some performances back-to-back between the two seasons, the difference is obvious. Last year was so much more alive with the live band there. You can really hear the hollow of the drums in songs from last year.

    No instruments for the contestants plus no live band equals karaoke. (Maybe that’s why the contestants can’t play instruments–because there are no other instruments there.)

  • Suzanne

    Ià ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢m more confused than I was before, lol. I would say if they were using backing tracks then thereà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢d be no reason why the wildcards couldnà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢t change their song.

    maybe they don’t want to make a new track for anyone. (how cheap can they be?)

    I wonder if the contestants can perform songs with arrangements of their own making–like the acoustic version of Love is a Battlefield that Brooke did last year? Or are they forced into arrangements that mimic the original? You know, if Stephen had dumped the 80s disco arrangement of Rock with You, it could have been like Hello was for David C last year.

  • maturin

    I hope the spoiler for Matt G is right–yay for tackling cool and recent song! Though, yeah, hard if there’s no instruments or band.

    Banishing the band from sight (and/or using tracks instead): major step back. So many of the best breakout performances last year’s–Brooke’s, Cook’s and Jason’s, featured the contestants’ with their instruments and/or a unique arrangement that used the band and backing singers to great effect.

    MJ, I totally agree that both the visual AND the aural parts of the performance feel a lot cooler last year when they could integrate all the different pieces. It definitely was crucial for helping performers break out of the back in the early rounds, with Daydream and All Right Now, which made us notice Castro and Cook.

    But also some of the best numbers later in the season: I can’t imagine Jason’s Fragile with out his acoustic guitar and the neat shots of the backup singers doing that whispery chorus. Cook’s Always Be My Baby got a huge shot of drama from the way they worked in shots of the guitar player, strings, the drummer rocking out.

    If they go back to just the singer, the mike, and invisible backing music, I feel like they’re going to blandify the whole deal. I’d really *like* to hear Jesse with her guitar or Matt G at the keyboard, I think. Free Rickey Minor! Free the instruments!

  • sma11ie

    Thanks for this post, MJ. I’ve been wondering about the missing band for a while– and I’m hating it. Daydream, All Right Now, Hello, and Brooke’s Your So Vain are 4 of my 6 favorite semi performances of last year (Imagine and Love is A Battlefield the other two). I was never more than a casual Idol watcher before last season, and I really doubt I would’ve gotten so sucked in during the semi’s without the instruments and the band…

    Between the missing band and the wildcard show confusion (are they really singing the same songs again?!), the only thing I’m looking forward to is Matt G’s Viva La Vida… even though I *really* wanted it on the piano. Sigh.

  • http://myspace.com/girlgeek mj

    I would say if they were using backing tracks then thereà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢d be no reason why the wildcards couldnà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢t change their song.

    Because they still have to work out the tracks with the band, and then the band has to record them. No time for that either.

    Anyway. At this point I’m convinced the band is there, we just can’t see them.

  • kbr

    I think there’s a band as well (based on the TMZ mole) but also because during the Carly/Michael performance last week there was a definite change in tempo that made Michael have to speed up during the song. I think they may not have their “A game” band out there and perhaps that’s why they aren’t showing them. It would be a huge mistake for AI to keep them hidden throughout, and I just can’t imagine they could be that wrong so I am assuming they will be back on stage (or at least visible) with Ricky Minor and co by the top 12 night.

    Last year was my first year getting into Idol, and I agree with many of you that the use of instruments really made the show. Out of the top 5 Syesha was the only one that didn’t play any instrument, up until that point the only people sent home were those who didn’t use one.

    There certainly is a lack of energy on the stage and creativity so far, I guess we will see what tomorrow night brings. Viva la Vida is an amazing song but I fear it will be too ambitious for Matt and the band in all honesty–the strings and drums are just so important, unless he completely strips it down I don’t see how it will work. I do give him credit for tackling something more contemporary but I also think if it’s just off a bit it will crash and burn…good luck Matt!

  • http://myspace.com/girlgeek mj

    After conferring with my source I think that that Minor is DEFINITELY there, but hidden.

  • sma11ie

    At this point Ià ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢m convinced the band is there, we just canà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢t see them.

    That is so odd. I wonder if this is again budget related, and “hiding” the band helps with the cost of the episode somehow? Like union rules that the band has to be paid more if they appear on camera, versus playing behind the scenes?

  • reeboks1

    my guess is they can’t play instruments because gokey probably doesn’t play anything.

  • chicksineggz

    my guess is they canà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢t play instruments because gokey probably doesnà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢t play anything.

    LOL.

  • maracaibo

    my guess is they canà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢t play instruments because gokey probably doesnà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢t play anything.

    Ha! You hit the nail on the head. That’s exactly what I thought why they did that.
    So unfair to the people who play instruments. Oh well.