The Last Ride: Wilkes Barre, PA

If I’m being honest, I have to say I enjoy the Idol tour almost as much as the TV show. Considering the fact the kids are still singing covers to canned background vocals (though the band is pretty good), it’s not much of a musical experience. But, it is cool to see the kids perform up close and personal. And, from the karaoke booths set up in the lobby before the show, to the giant poptart puppets running around scaring children, to the videos blasting on the jumbotron before the show and the cheapo tin-foil set–it’s a cheesy but fun experience. And there are many musical moments worth remembering sprinkled throughout the concert.

I saw the show more times than I care to admit this year, and I never got sick of it. Never. Besides the fun of playing videographer and photographer, I had great fun travelling. I had tons of adventures, met some great new people and met up with some old friends. The past couple of months have been a blast. I have to admit I’m having a bit of a post-tour letdown today. I feel as if Season 5 is finally over. Now it’s time to let go, switch gears and get ready for next year’s show.

So, I present to you, my final tour recap. Sigh.

I pulled up to the Woodlands Inn in Wilkes Barre, PA, just as the Idol buses were pulling out to head for the venue. Ace was still outside greeting fans, and I managed to snap a few pictures. Inside the Inn, it was wall-to-wall Idol fans, mostly checking in or hanging out. It was definitely a bit of a scene. I headed over to my hotel next door which was considerably quieter. Well, save for the busload of senior citizens from West Virginia on their way to Boston. Those old folks know how to party. Well, not really. Heh.

I fired up my wireless internet connection, and realized it sucked. My laptop had to be positioned just so to find the signal and it kept cutting out. Somehow I managed to post a dispatch to the blog.

Then it was back to the Woodlands where I met a bunch of awesomely cool blog peeps for drinks before the show. Sharon8 organized the shindig and she did a fantastic job. She brought sparkly little bracelets for everyone to wear. That was our “bling”. Ha. I met: boomerang, beesims, winnie, 3girls, catfromwi, soulpatroller, mamashasha, baxter, I forgetting anyone? I probably am. Sawry. Everyone was cool. I had myself a refreshing Pina Colada and then set off for the AI show.

CatfromWi drove Winnie and I to the venue. Unlike moi, she was totally organized. Her car was equipped with a snazzy GPS that had a very Simon-like British voice that told us where to go. Cat had done her research–she knew exactly where to park for a quick exit. And she was hilariously funny.

High Rollers (Ace fans) seemed to be everywhere. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! I saw the High Roller who sat in front of me at the Syracuse show. She had informed me there would be 70 High Rollers staying at the Woodlands. I think there were more than that…

For the most part, security at Wachovia was totally uptight, except for this cool older guy who was sitting up front. Some beyotch security chick caught me videoing and motioned to the guy to stop me, and he shrugged her off. So, she stomped over to me herself and asked if I was recording. I said no, of course and kept right on recording. HAR. You can hear our discussion during the Mandisa video here.

As it turns out, BigTayFan who posts at the blog was sitting next to me. I didn’t know it until I told her “I write a blog”. When I told her which one, she was like OMG MJ. And she turned to everyone around us and exclaimed, “This is MJ” and she started doing that whole “I’m not worthy” bow thingy and the people around us were like WHO? It was funny and embarrassing. Anyway, BTF was right on the aisle and also snapping pics and video, so we worked together very well. Winnie, as it turned out, was seated about 3 seats away. We all bought our tickets at the last minute.

The final show was full of surprises and shenanigans. Here are some highlights:

  • Mandisa dedicated “If I was your Woman” to the drummer and sang it to him. The performance was very sweet and funny.
  • Lisa dedicated “Your Song” to her big brother Michael. She got choked up as she spoke.
  • After he performed “Father Figure”, Ace sang “Happy Birthday” to his mom. He choked up too.
  • Chris Daughtry joined Bucky on stage for a duet of “Drift Away” What a fantastic surprise.
  • Winnie, who happens to be a Bucky fan caught his guitar pick!
  • Elliott joined Chris on stage right away for their duet. Apparently (according to Ace’s MySpace) the whole gang sat backstage and watched each other perform.
  • Kellie joined the boys to sing on the chorus of “Patience”. Chris said jokingly, “Get her off the stage!” After Elliott introduced “his friends” They appeared at the top of the stage in “formation” Ha.
  • Kellie and Paris joined Katharine on stage at the end of “Think” Kat wore pants and a green top instead of her usual black gown.
  • The girls joined Taylor on stage to sing backup on “Living for the City”. It was pretty wild. Kellie did a back flip. No Lie.
    We are the Champions – Chris either missed his cue, or was teasing us. You Decide. He entered a few bars late.
  • The crew joined the Idols for the encore number, “Living in the USA”. Some were dressed in giant fat suits. The cans of silly string came out and much hilarity ensued. Somebody draped Taylor in a purple cape, ala James Brown.
  • The End was bittersweet. Lots of hugging. Thanking the audience. Thanking the band and the crew.
  • I may be wrong, but I’m guessing Taylor sang “Do I Make You Proud” for the last time. It was a very emotional performance.
  • The floor audience stood up nearly the ENTIRE show. I think we sat down when Lisa sang from the piano, and that was it.

Grabbing a ticket to the final AI show from Ticketmaster was last-minute thing. I was initially making the trip to see LiMBO. I’m glad I did it. It was cool to see both the first and last show.

Now, it was back to the Woodlands for the LiMBO Idols After Party. The show was in the Hotel’s large ballroom. A bunch of us bloggers positioned ourselves to the right of the stage near the speaker. Initially the word from LiMBO keyboardist Brian Less was to please not shoot video. But when I got there, I heard that the band changed their minds. So, I tried to manage a cell cert AND video at the same time. It was interesting to say the least.

The band played a good set. I was a little squished in the crowd, but I managed to get my groove on. Taylor took the stage during the second set with a story about pop tarts and how he doesn’t like the frosted ones. Myself, I dig me some frosted cherry poptarts. But that’s just me. I managed to take some video, but it was pretty crazy. I’m only 5 feet tall, ok? EVERYBODY is taller than me. So, I had to hold the camera up above my head with the viewfinder tilted down. Ouch. The muscles in my arms are still sore. I was also really close to the speaker and it was loud.

At one point, Taylor mentioned getting on a plane soon to fly somewhere. That was an indication that he couldn’t stick around. Still, his 5-song set was terrific. I was thrilled to get a taste of Taylor Hicks as he performs when he’s not trying to win a Tee Vee reality competition. Taylor jamming, and performing spontaneously and at length, is a sight to behold–one that I hope to experience when he tours on his own later. Check it out for yourself: The Breeze, Forever Man, Hold on to Your Love and Feeling Alright. After Taylor left, LiMBO continued to play on, incredibly.

During the last set, Chris and Ace took the stage to duet on “Dream On”. In person, I didn’t think they sounded so bad together. Chris prefaced the tune saying “This has the big potential to suck.” They were just letting loose, really–finally an Ace/Chris duet. By the third set, I had become claustrophobic and freaked out by the drunks, so I moved further back away from the crowd. Hence, I was unable to video the duet. However, I did manage a sound recording.

A couple of notes:

  • Really drunk people bum me out. I’ll leave it at that.
  • Sorry the Cell cert cut out during “Hold on to Your Love” I did manage to capture it on video.
  • Ace’s brother Ryan had a hard time getting into the ballroom. He finally talked his way in. Security was pretty aggressive. But that’s not always a bad thing. They probably went overboard with Ryan, though. Har.
  • Ace and Chris had a hard time getting into the ballroom too. I’m assuming they didn’t have security with them, and hotel security was afraid they’d get mobbed. After they sang, security would not let them hang out…
  • For the very last song at 2 AM, a singer named Erin took the stage with LiMBO. She had a fantastic blusey voice.

Finally, it was time to call it a night. I said goodbye to all the peeps. The Peep Patrol. HA HA HA. Ahem. Sawry. I drove Winnie to her hotel. I went back to my room and passed out.

I was up early the next morning to pack up and head back to New England. I missed a turn on the way and ended up 40 miles off course on Interstate 80. Whoops. Silver lining: I took a really scenic route back to 84. Road trips are fun, no matter what….

My last remark: I’d like to thank EVERYONE HERE for a GREAT season. I couldn’t have done it without you. The recaps from all of you were beyond wonderful. The pictures were great. I play a very small role in making this blog informative and entertaining. I just preside. You guys bring me the good stuff. I am extremely grateful. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

On to season 6….

I’ll be posting more recaps and pics tomorrow. Something to look forward to: Some peeps saw Bobby Bennett in Denver Sunday night! Recap coming soon…