July 22 Philadelphia PA Idols Show
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I went to the Philly show this evening. This was my 3rd AI ‘concert’ (Don’t ask…no, I’m not “one of those”. Let’s just say that if I’m only paying for gas and tolls, and I’ve got the time, I’ll always go for some Taylor Hicks live). I was also at the Hershey and Wilkes-Barre shows, but never thought about doing any kind of recap. It was all the concern and speculation generated by the Rochester recaps on MJ’s that prompted me to write about it. My seats have been 3 rd or 4th row center, on the floor, and I’m not a screaming fanatic type, so I don’t miss much (unless someone near me becomes, uhhh, very distracting, like at one point tonight *sigh*.)
Due to horrendous weather and many accidents I arrived at the Philadelphia venue just at the end of the first half, which didn’t bother me having seen the complete show twice. Other than Kellie’s banter with the crowd, none of the early performers change anything from one show to the next except their clothes. I wish they would. And it is a given that all the little girls and Desperate Housewives heart Ace – how many ways can you say it?
I didn’t see evidence of the high security at the venue that I’ve seen mentioned elsewhere. I was allowed to park wherever I wanted and not charged for it. No one looked at my ticket. In fact, I was going to recommend this venue because it was a lax and lenient place: If you really want to see an act there, buy the cheapest seats, because all you have to do is work your way down to vacant seats, or actually, just stand anywhere you want, including in the floor section aisles and at the front row/stage barrier. Because from the time I arrived, there was no security or event staff stopping anyone from doing just that. Wilkes-Barre was a gulag in comparison.
Taylor was in superb voice tonight. The best of the 3 tour shows I’ve seen, without question. Until the TI2TS encore (and I’ll get to that) his voice was crystal clear and strong. He voice didn’t crack, he only went flat once that I could detect, he did not strain or scream, and there was none of that phlegmy sound that could be heard on GMA. He didn’t restrict his range, avoid notes, or otherwise favor his voice.
The sound mix and balance at this venue was MUCH improved over Wilkes-Barre, when many of the idols were struggling to be heard over the band and background tracks. I couldn’t help but think when at WB what will happen to their voices if AI keeps screwing up the sound this way.
The ragged quality to Taylor’s voice evident Friday morning was not there tonight, until his encore. At about 1/3 the way through ‘Taking It To..’ out of no where, he nearly loses his voice altogether. It was brief but unmistakable – and then it was back, but shaky and rougher. But then the rest of the number is dancing, harp and tambourine, so he didn’t have to deal with it for long. The crowd was so worked up at that point I’m not sure many noticed.
When he joined the others for ‘Living in America, a song he “leads” vocally, he was clearly favoring his voice , holding back. Very different from what I had seen before on this number. During parts of LIA where they all sing at once, he just brought the mic to his mouth but didn’t actually sing. When he had his solo parts, including the shout-outs, he was holding back as much as he could get away with, in my opinion.
His demeanor tonight was completely upbeat and energetic. For Taylor, he was chatty with the audience and quite interactive. Smiling, smiling a lot, and smiling some more. He saw a ‘Hicks Chicks’ sign and pointed at it followed by a thumbs up. He saw people he knew in the front floor section (where he never looks) and acknowledged them. He pointed at another sign with an ‘ok’ gesture. He spoke to the people in the back sections. He caught a baseball cap tossed at him, put it on immediately and flashed a huge smile. He even engaged in a little comic behavior a few times for a laugh: His final appearance from behind the magic doors is accompanied by smoke effects, but someone got carried away. When the doors opened a thick cloud of smoke rolled out and you see him flailing away, waving his arms, acting like he can’t see his way out to the stage. He brought out a large and clearly expensive camera and took photos of the audience while the finale was wrapping up, holding the mike in one hand saying cheese (or smile), and taking shots with the other. And so on. He never, to me, appeared to be dragging his ass or be the least bit tired.
Tonight was the opposite of Hershey, a show that really disappointed me. At Hershey, Taylor was both slightly frantic and fatigued at the same time. His vocals were less than impressive and his voice cracked several times that night. After Wilkes-Barre, an excellent Taylor mini-concert, I knew I had seen two completely different levels of performance from him. Tonight surpassed Wilkes- Barre.
His set is still fast-paced, he doesn’t pause between numbers. I disagree with those that say it took him awhile to get going tonight. ‘Hollywood Nights’ was performed at a slower tempo tonight, not a lot slower, but noticeable, and closer to Seger’s original. It was different, and most certainly intentional. ‘Southern’ boy became ‘Alabama’ boy in the lyrics. ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ was the best I’ve heard so far, with a stronger more straightforward presentation of the lyrics in the beginning. Perhaps he’s settled into it. But the “down” word is still hardly audible. He has his mouth to the mic, he moves his mouth, you hear “don’t let me…” and a little muffled sound. I decided tonight that it’s deliberate. Someone else can debate why. He inserted a good number of lines from a Sinead O’Connor song into ‘Living for the City.’ It was a less funked up version tonight… a bit closer to the AI show versions in style, and it was the showcase for most of his dancing. ‘Do I Make You Proud’ brought most of the remaining audience holdouts to their feet. He didn’t avoid the glory notes, and he did it beautifully. This was not a singalong audience (go to Wilkes-Barre for that, crazy-crazy there), but they showed their love (not mine) for the coronation song. ‘Taking it..’ was very similar in elements and intensity to the Manchester version you can see around on video. I never thought I’d get to see anything close to that performance, but tonight was it. The Mick Jagger pose/strut thing showed up several times tonight…perhaps a bit too much? He used the harmonica microphone/amplifier (the wired thing connected to it?) to actually speak/sing into briefly before playing which created yet another effect. There’s always something new in every performance.
Taylor really put it all out there tonight and the audience gave back. For those that like to score these things, the Philadelphia audience was Taylor’s crowd. Chris Daughtry got lots of love and his fans can be extraordinarily loud, but when you look around the arena you could see in number terms the greater response to Taylor.
Chris was also in excellent voice tonight. He CAN sing without screaming. Clear and strong and vibrant tonight, even nuanced in a couple of spots (really). The tour is not wearing on him vocally yet from what I’m hearing. But every element of his performance was identical to the other nights. Not a criticism, just an observation. There was not a great desire from this audience to sing-along with ‘Dead or Alive.’ No one threw anything on stage to Chris tonight. Which is probably for the best. Those wallet chains and crucifixes are probably quite painful when they hit your head.
I’d like to defend Chris Daughtry against those that say he never smiles when he performs. That really isn’t true. He smiles quite a lot – even enough for his teeth to show. Every time he does ‘Whole Lotta Love’ he’s scanning the side seats for just the right gaggle of who I call ‘Chrissies, ’ and at the precise moment he’ll stride over, point, glare and order the chosen Chrissies to ”shake for me girl….” And they do, and he smiles wide enough to see his teeth, and it works every time.
Chris’s duet with Elliott was well received, as it is at every concert from what I hear.
Elliott was and is great to listen to, but there’s just nothing to watch. The boy moves, but he hasn’t any moves. Back and forth across the stage with that continual hip-hop-bounce, and I notice myself exhaling when he finally stands still. He didn’t even break stride when he was tossed an orange t-shirt with a lengthy hand-written note safety-pinned to it. He just scooped it up, tossed it over his shoulder and kept bounce-walking.
I wish someone would advise him to cut down to a shorter version of “Moody’s…” Is he unaware that 30 seconds into the song a disturbingly large number of people begin engaging in conversation? It’s 3 for 3 concerts for me now that nearly everyone around me is talking while he is singing this, and these are people in seats close to the stage where you are most likely to get drawn into a performance.
Without the video montage of Katharine McPhee playing during the guy-group sing of ‘Patience’ the little girls, Desperate Housewives, and Chrissies now scream mercilessly through the whole song. I’ll assume they sang it well. The girl-group medley has not changed one bit. There were only 3 ½ girls performing it in Philadelphia though. Miss Pickler seemed to be in another world. She kept giggling about something while singing and was out of step with the others for way too long.
I want to close with get well wishes to the little girl who sat in the row behind me with her sisters and her Dad. She was maybe 9 or 10, with impressive lungs, and apoplectic over Chris. I noticed she was equally frantic when Taylor came out, which I thought unusual. When things quieted down for ‘Do I Make You Proud’ I heard a commotion behind me and turn to see that this fanatical little girl is now a slumped over lump of baby fat drenched – no, drowning – in tears, sobbing and heaving uncontrollably while Taylor is singing that cheesy power ballad. She’d completely broken down and her father looked terrified. It was all just too much. Hell of a franchise, this American Idol machine. Good thing tomorrow isn’t a school day.