This will be a long read, so skip to the parts that interest you. A bit about me ‘ I’m a freelance film critic, writer, and website designer, and have loved music all my life. I’ve studied and played the piano, violin, oboe, and English Horn, and was a professional musician for a few years. Although my focus was classical music, I tried to keep up with the contemporary scene (sorry all you rap fans, that’s one genre that escapes me) but really lost touch about ten years ago.
Last year was the first year I watched Idol and became an instant David Cook fan. This year I was an Adam fan from day one, and began a real journey of rediscovery ‘ of music I’d enjoyed years ago, as well as music I’d never heard ‘ like MUSE (I’m now an official uber-fan of theirs!). I tend to be hypercritical, not one to accept the latest ‘hot’ artist simply because they’re ‘hot, ‘ and expect and want to hear from performers who are unique, who have something to say, who sing in tune (even if the music is atonal), who have real depth beyond their stage presence, and who aren’t processed or homogenized.
I twittered the L.A. concert and wrote a recap for MJ, but as the tour progressed I realized I had to be there for the last show. I paid well over face value for a 14th row floor seat from Stub Hub and flew from L.A. to Boston (never, never drive in Boston!) then drove up to Manchester. Coincidentally one of my best friends moved to Manchester a few years ago with his partner, so this gave me the excuse/opportunity to visit.
I’m going to list each Idol individually but won’t comment on individual songs except where pertinent. Floor seats are great for being close to the performers, but unless you’re in the front row, taking pictures is almost impossible while standing with heads, arms, glow sticks, and cameras in the way and it’s hard to hold a camera steady, even a good one (that’s my excuse for some of the poor shots below), and I almost feel I enjoyed the L.A. concert more because I was so far away and could see the entire arena ‘ especially for Starlight. I would recommend going to a live show (of anything) if you have the opportunity, and the finale, now that I’ve gone, is something I would never miss again (providing I was really invested in a particular singer or singers).
The Verizon arena in Manchester is much smaller than L.A.’s Staples Center, it seemed like a college basketball auditorium. As soon as I walked in there was haze in the air, I’m assuming from the dry ice they may have used during rehearsal, but there was also a distinct smoky smell. Bathroom lines were long, although it gave a good opportunity to survey the crowd, many moms and daughters, many groups of tweens and teens, and many pairs of girls and at least two sets of twins with matching shirts, most for Kris. There were lots of families with very, very young kids, way too young to appreciate what was going on. In the bathroom line I saw the woman who threw the stuffed snake ‘ she was wearing it around her neck.
I was impressed with most of the Idols, their stage presence, their composure, and that they seemed like seasoned performers; I felt the same way about the L.A. show, perhaps even more so. At this concert they almost seemed a little subdued. I expected them to be very emotional (for one reason or another), but what they exhibited was more like restraint. I’m assuming they were very tired, perhaps many of the guys were still a little under the weather, perhaps they were intent on giving a good final show, perhaps they were trying to control their emotions, regardless, most were perfection.
Maybe because I knew what to expect I thought the opening of the show was less dynamic than L.A. But it was clear Michael has really enjoyed his role as ‘show opener.’ He was relaxed and welcoming, his voice was rich and mellow and in tune, and he really conveyed a feeling of being passionate about life in general if not singing in particular. I was glad to see he traded the pretty white leather jacket for a dark one (much more flattering to his figure!), and while he was intent on pointing and waving to people during Closer, he was much less choppy, and seemed genuinely in his element.
She seemed very, very happy and with good reason. No pink mini or stilettos! She came out wearing black knee high boots, a black top, and a plaid dirndl skirt. The first thing I thought was ‘I wonder if she sewed that last night on the bus?’ I didn’t like the Hooker-Barbie getup, but this wasn’t much of an improvement; if it was her choice that’s fine, I’d rather not like something she picked than not like something the producers ‘made her wear.’ Her afro/perm? Odd. Whatever. But it fit the ‘afro hairdo’ lyric in Put Your Records On. And she did an excellent job, that song really suits her voice and style; if we’re going to get another eclectic artist I hope it’s Megan. Tears Dry On Their Own was also very good ‘ a male stage hand came out to take her mic stand and was wearing either her pink mini or an approximation ‘ a funny moment. (Most of the funny events happened so suddenly they were unfortunately hard to capture on camera.)
Bend and Break was excellent, you’d never know he’d recently been sick ‘ although maybe that’s why his voice was so low and sexy! I didn’t like A Thousand Miles as much this time, it just wasn’t dynamic enough for him. His piano playing is first-rate and he truly gives off the Billy Joel/Elton John ‘piano man’ quality. He did his Simon impression and acted out the Ryan Seacrest high-five joke with a stage hand, (both got laughs) and came across as likable and genuine.
Another of the idols who seemed subdued while giving a good performance, Lil was impressive on her first two songs. Her voice didn’t seem as powerful as the L.A. show, I hate to think she’s blown it out on this tour. While she seems confident and comfortable on stage, her hair and wardrobe choices have, to me, been consistently unflattering ‘ let’s just say ‘cheap.’ The less said about Single Ladies the better, let’s just say Karaoke and be done with it.
He was the first performer of the night to really make me feel like I was at a concert. Every song was effortless for him, he was relaxed, into the lyrics, smooth and sultry. All the idols thanked the fans for supporting them, voting, and coming to the shows, and Anoop did as well ‘ completely in control. I was so amazed that no one was overcome with emotion ‘ perhaps it took another day to sink in? Anoop should have a good chance at an R&B career ‘ I didn’t get the emotional detachment some have mentioned from him, every word seemed heartfelt.
Opening with Hard To Handle Matt was insanely good. Standing at the piano and playing riffs and runs he gave off a Jerry Lee Lewis vibe ‘ his piano playing is good, but very, very sloppy. It would behoove him to play accurately as well as dynamically, but regardless of missed notes, he’s a great entertainer ‘ already ‘ and why hasn’t he been signed? Georgia was smooth and silky and lovely and putting on his trademark Fedora midway was a cute touch.
Megan came mincing out singing Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You sounding and looking like Marilyn Monroe, all breathy and innocent ‘ and that wasn’t a good thing. Lil was much more powerful which made Megan seem all the more lightweight. I didn’t think their duet was awful, just not a good idea. The guys came out for their solo turns, Michael, Scott, Anoop, and Matt, and were just excellent, Michael in particular. I like the smart suit look but I still don’t understand Anoop’s glasses ‘ he looks like Jerry Lewis in the Nutty Professor. Crew members came out to dance with them, which was really cute but also meant no interaction between the guys.
I was not impressed with Allison at the L.A. show, and it was nice to see that either she has vastly improved or was having an off night that night. Her idea of a joke, wearing a small curly wig over her hair was odd ‘ it looked like a dead dog and had me distracted for about 30 seconds trying to figure out if it was a wig or if she’d dyed her hair herself. If the wind machine was blowing the wig helped because her hair actually stayed in place. The guitar did not seem like a prop during So What, she was a convincing rock star playing an instrument. Cry Baby was fantastic! I only wish she’d decided to stay in one place, like at a mic stand, for that song and really pour her heart out instead of pacing the stage. Her voice cracked at the end, but I’m happy to say I now ‘get’ her full potential. Barracuda was also incredible ‘ very exciting and truly unforgettable. She unfortunately showed her well-documented bratty persona by sarcastically thanking everyone for standing after she told them to and then turned her back on us. If it’s a joke it’s not funny. If it’s because she’s 17 it’s barely excusable. If this is her true nature she’ll have a short career.
Never my favorite on the show, Danny won me over at the L.A. concert and again proved he has a great voice and should have a successful career ‘ I think country is a perfect fit. PYT wasn’t as shouty as I remember, the only people on their feet were those of us in the floor section. Much less awkward on stage ‘ his Maria, Maria salsa routine (even in combat boots) dancing with the mic stand was suave ‘ he was in no way trying to copy Adam’s moves. His voice was very hoarse and he missed a few notes here and there. What Hurts The Most was heartfelt, his speech was just inspirational this time without the evangelical preacher intonation, but My Wish was extremely shouty and got worse as bandzilla arrived.
The intro to Adam’s set was deafening (as usual) and I admit to letting out a few tween squeals of my own! He had super-Elvis hair with glitter everywhere, rhinestones all around his eyes and a central stone between his eyebrows. Stunning! He sang ‘woman’ in WLL with all sorts of vocal improvisation on that word, did not do backdoor man. This was his strongest song. He introduced Starlight and his voice sounded heliumy (not on WLL) even while speaking; it’s a strange effect and was very, very distracting. This effect got much worse during Mad World, with the echo effect or reverb or whatever they were doing actually sounding like Donald Duck! I would like this explained once and for all by Adam or someone on the sound crew. Slow Ride was excellent with Allison, they sang together like the old friends they are by now and were simply having the best time. Allison wore a sort of boa-tail thing with a sparkly bikini bottom over her pants that she removed half-way through. There was a ton of stuff thrown on stage including that stuffed snake, bras, panties, etc. When they were about to end the song Adam kissed her hand like a gentleman and then they embraced ‘ very, very sweet ‘ Allison actually held the song’s last note much longer than Adam did. The Bowie medley was excellent with Adam wearing a Bowler hat thrown on stage, the male backup singer swatted him a few times on the ass with a rubber chicken (Adam later referred to it as a cock!) and then he was gone’ ¦alas. One of the things that’s most compelling about Adam’s performances is that they are always different ‘ you know he’s in the moment, singing and dancing and acting just for you.
I hate the background Drape for Kris’s set. Thank goodness he won’t have to put up with that in the future ‘ he’s utterly in his element in a large arena and doesn’t need anything to define the more intimate moments. His mic stand was draped with a blue boa (which he gave a funny look to), and he sounded sensational on Heartless. He held one note really long ‘ very impressive ‘ and didn’t sound at all sick. While he killed Ain’t No Sunshine, Michael, Anoop, and Matt came out dancing with boas; Kris cracked up but never lost his composure and just looked at them askance and kept playing and singing ‘ a real hoot. His voice was a little weak on any yodelly/falsetto passages, but his piano, acoustic and electric guitar playing were simply sensational ‘ he is truly an accomplished musician and performer. Everyone on the floor sang along with ATTTID and Hey Jude. Both Adam and Kris thanked the fans and said they were now living their dreams thanks to us. Sweet.
DSB started out normally aside from different outfits than usual (more like street clothes) and a few head pieces like Lil’s crown. Adam and Kris came up on the lift with Kris wearing Adam’s spiky jacket looking a little smug. Then there was a non-stop onslaught of silly string from every direction, guys in the set above the stage were dropping feathers and bras, and everyone began hugging and putting boas around each other. It was simply delightful. No one really seemed to know what to do, but they eventually all formed a line and bowed a few times, then hugged, then someone tapped Adam on the shoulder and pointed out to the audience. He threw his wrist bands (I think) to someone specific near the stage, then threw two necklaces, one a few rows in front of me, and the other in the aisle right next to me ‘ swarming with young girls. When we all looked up from that chaos everyone had left the stage. Truly an epic night.