July 9 Hartford CT Show

Alison’s Recap:

Having been a fan of American Idol since Season 2, this was my first Idols Live tour, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, I was expecting the absence of Katharine McPhee, and sure enough, when I got to the Civic Center, small signs were posted on the outer doors that said something along the lines of “We regret to inform you that Katharine McPhee will not be performing tonight due to illness.”

I wasn’t sure what kind of audience the Idols would have, but walking around before the concert, I saw all ages represented, with many young kids holding handmade signs and wearing their official Idols tour t-shirts. (I also saw many moms proudly sporting Chris or Taylor pins.)

Our seats were decent, second to last row on the floor, but I was just grateful to simply have seats after I had a semi-crisis with Ticketmaster while I was buying my tickets. Not that this is really relevant, but before the show, two giant Pop-Tarts engaged in a sumo wrestling match behind my seats and I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or run away.

The show started about 15 minutes late and I was very antsy at this point, but when the lights went down and that wonderful theme song from Idol started playing, I could feel my excitement building. I kind of expected Ryan Seacrest to appear after the theme song/clip montage was over, but thankfully, it was just Mandisa.

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 Mandisa’s vocals on “I’m Every Woman” were good, but seemed a little less powerful in such a big venue. She confessed to having a little crush on Ruben Studdard and dedicated “If I Was Your Woman, ” a sweet but kind of yawn-inducing ballad, to him. I loved her inspirational message to everyone in the crowd who was under 21 (myself included) to follow their dreams. She began to sing “I’m Your Angel” and was joined by Ace Young, who was greeted by excited screams.

I have to admit, I wasn’t really an Ace fan during the show. I thought he was cheesy, smarmy, and smug, but when he started singing “Father Figure, ” I kind of fell in love. Ace is much cuter in person, and although he still relied heavily on his seductive looks, I found myself squealing with all of the other girls when he slowly took off his jacket. I was a little leery of his ability to sing Maroon 5’s “Harder to Breathe, ” but he did a good job. It was nice to hear him sing something upbeat for a change.
 Next was Lisa Tucker. Her opening song of “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” was very cheesy and overdone, but her vocals were good. Lisa really shone when she sat down at a keyboard and played two Elton John songs – “Your Song” and “Someone Saved My Life Tonight.” I think a lot of people were taken aback by the power in her voice as she sang. Lisa’s “best friend” Paris Bennett joined her on the stage to sing a cute duet to TLC’s “Waterfalls, ” which I thought was quite a mature song choice for the two youngest Idols, but they sang it well.

 Paris started her set by asking if she could bring us all home with her, which really confused me, until she started singing “Midnight Train to Georgia.” Then I understood. I was never a Paris fan at any point in the show, and I thought her vocals were weak during this song. Her next song choice was Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love.” The song didn’t shock me, but her dancing did. I’m not much older than Paris, but her booty shaking and chair dance were a little too provocative for me. A picture named IMG_0238.jpg

An interesting note: Paris wore a Mick Jagger shirt during her set. I thought she looked cute and age-appropriate, considering the style chameleon she proved to be during the show.

Good ol’ Bucky Covington was up next. I never really liked or disliked Bucky during the show, but I was very unimpressed by his vocals and his performance tonight. I’ll give him credit, though, for trying to be entertaining while singing “Superstition, ” but his awkward dancing just made me laugh. Once he strapped on a guitar to sing “Drift Away, ” he seemed more comfortable, but there was still nothing remarkable about his singing.

Kellie Pickler joined Bucky for a cutesy duet to “You’re The One That I Want, ” from the movie Grease. They were a little awkward, (Travolta and Newton-John they ain’t, ) but they made it work.

Kellie started her set with “I’m the Only One.” She strutted around the stage in a black jeweled leather jacket, walking down into the audience to interact with the fans. (I wasn’t too crazy about her very fake looking hair extensions, though.) Someone gave her a talking teddy bear and poor Kellie couldn’t get the bear to make any noise. She then led the whole Civic Center in singing happy birthday to a lucky girl named Katherine sitting near the front. Kellie talked with the audience the most out of all the Idols, explaining to us Yankees what a Sonic was and how she spilled drinks on people a lot. She then sang a rather bland version of “Walking After Midnight, ” but halfway through she transitioned into “Something to Talk About, ” which she was much more energetic with.

After finishing her set, Kellie announced that there would be a half-hour intermission, which I thought was a little too long, but let me tell you, the second half of the show is well worth the wait.

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 After the lights dimmed and another Idol montage was played, Chris Daughtry took the stage, much to the delight of the crowd. I’ve been to many concerts in my life, but I have never heard screams as loud as when Chris walked out. He opened his incredible set with Led Zeppelin’s “A Whole Lotta Love, ” which I was completely unfamiliar with, but my mom loved it and Chris rocked hard on that song.

Chris is hot on TV, but in person, he’s even better looking, which every female in the audience seemed to agree with, my mother included. (I had no idea she knew how to scream that loud.) The cheers throughout his set were almost deafening, and at one point, Chris stopped to talk to the audience and he couldn’t get a word out over the screams. He just smiled and shook his head, almost in disbelief over his newfound rock star status. We got to see Chris play guitar when he sang “Wanted Dead or Alive, ” and everyone in the audience sang along. A shortened version of “Renegade” followed, and then came, in my opinion, the best performance of the night.

Chris began to sing the new Nickleback song, “Savin’ Me, ” and Elliot Yamin joined him, welcomed by the crowd’s cheering. Those two sang the hell out of that song – I can’t even listen to the original version any more without thinking how much better Chris and Elliot were.
 As disappointing as it was for Chris to leave the stage, we were treated to a great set by Elliot. “All My Love” and “Moody’s Mood for Love” were excellent, but it was kind of anticlimactic to hear these smooth jazz songs after rocking out with Chris. Elliot closed his set with “Trouble, ” which was also excellent.

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Elliot brought some “friends” out to help him with the next song, and the rest of the boys (minus Taylor) came out to sing a pathetic tribute to Katharine. Chris said (very impassively, I might add, ) something like, “This song is for Katharine, who can’t be here tonight because she’s sick. No one seemed too upset by her absence as the boys sang a great version of “Patience, ” accompanied by Chris and Bucky on guitar.

Next up was the girls’ medley, which was as awkward as it could possibly be. They sang two songs from their medley in the show’s finale, but it was obvious that Katharine was missing because the spacing and choreography was off, not to mention that Paris’ mic wasn’t working, so their 5-part harmony was reduced to just 3-part.

At this point, the excitement in the Civic Center was insane. The lights went up and the music to “Jailhouse Rock” began. Everyone had their eyes focused on the stage, waiting for their American Idol, Taylor Hicks, to emerge. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw some commotion and looked up to see Mr. Hicks himself walking down the stairs about ten feet away from me! No one expected it, and that just raised the level of excitement even more.

Taylor’s set (“Hollywood Nights, ” “Sweet Soul Music, ” “What’s Going On, ” “Living For the City, ” and “Don’t Let Me Down, ”) was amazing from start to finish. I could go on forever about how talented and entertaining he was, but then this recap would be even longer than it already is. We got to see him play the guitar and the tambourine, as well as see him break out some of those infamous Hicks dance moves.
 “Do I Make You Proud” was the last song of his set. I had very low expectations for this song, but honest to God, I got a little weepy while Taylor was singing. Maybe I was just wrapped up in all of the excitement, but I was really moved by a song I had initially written off as silly.

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 After he finished his regular set, he left for a little break then came back to do an encore with “Taking it to the Streets.” Once again, Taylor tore up that stage, breaking out his harmonica this time, much to the delight of the audience.

Taylor left the stage again and the rest of the Idols came on to sing “We Are the Champions.” It was cheesy, but what’s an American Idol production without a little bit of cheese? Each Idol had a brief solo, and judging by the cheers each one got, Chris was clearly the crowd’s favorite.

The American Idol himself rejoined everyone for a “Living In America, ” which gave all the Idols an opportunity to dance around and really let loose. The audience loved it. Every single person was up on their feet dancing. The Idols left the stage one by one until only Taylor was left. He said a few words, the crowd cheered again, he left the stage, and it was over.

So how was my first American Idols Live experience? Amazing, exciting, incredible, fantastic, thrilling, etc. I will DEFINITELY be buying tickets for next season’s tour. I had such a good time that I didn’t want to leave (although the free Pop-Tarts they were handing out outside the Civic Center were a good incentive.) If I wasn’t headed back to college in August, I would without a doubt be going to the other Connecticut concert.

My best performance of the night award goes to Chris, with Taylor in a close second, although all of the Idols were truly entertaining.

P.S. Don’t read the review of the concert in the Hartford Courant – the guy who wrote it clearly is not an American Idol fan and it will just make you mad.

Photos courtesy of Lisa