Read mozart4898’s detailed recap of last night’s Idols Live concert in Toledo OH
So, after several months of the season, and a couple months more of tour, I was lucky enough to get to attend the American Idols Live 2010 concert on August 29 in Toledo, Ohio. (OK, so maybe there wasn’t much luck involved, I could have gotten tickets all the way up to the day of the show, but work with me here, lol.) My favorite during the season, for any of you who might not have followed any of my posts in the past, was Crystal, and this was her hometown concert so it was sure to be a special one from the start. I didn’t really have much of a 2nd favorite for quite a while, although during the course of the season I actually came to appreciate Tim and Casey as well (more on them later).
First of all, since almost everyone starts their review this way, I’ll begin with a little about me. I’m a 30 year old single guy, and work as a chef (betcha didn’t know that about me from my past posts, lol). I’ve been around, performed, and studied music from before I was born – my father was a high school band director, and I started piano at age 7, and trumpet at age 9. I also began writing classical-style music at around age 9 as well. I went to college for music performance and composition and got a bachelor’s degree and worked on a master’s while also working as a graduate assistant, teaching a class on sight singing and correctly hearing intervals – and then got burned out on it before I finished the degree. Got married, got divorced, and realized how much I loved cooking and went back to culinary school.
Music, however, is one of the biggest loves of my life and always will be. I love all styles of music…I really do. I will listen to classical, jazz, country, classic rock, soul, modern rock, metal, world music – you get the idea. I didn’t mention R&B and rap – I will listen to even some of them but it’s got to be the right sort, not everything really catches my ear. Because I listen to so much, I really don’t have an “in-depth” knowledge of most of the styles, except classical, because there’s just so much out there. I do however go through stages of listening to all of the above. Concerts I’ve been to in the past have included a range from Hootie and the Blowfish to Creed, Reel Big Fish to Carrie Underwood, the Trans Siberian Orchestra to the Cleveland Orchestra, Alice Cooper, Van Halen, and quite a few others. My personal CD collection includes artists even as embarrassing as the Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys, 98 Degrees and several Nickelback albums.
I’m really not what you’d call a huge Idol fan. This was the first time I’ve been to one of the tour concerts. I have watched bits and pieces of past seasons – I watched most of season 1 and 2, then missed all of seasons 3 through 6, watched one or two episodes of season 7, most of season 8, and almost all episodes of season 9. Favorites of mine (several that I discovered after they were on the show) from the past have included Clay, Carrie, Daughtry, Danny, and to a lesser extent Kelly and Adam. Never voted before this season except for season 2, when I voted twice in the finale for Clay. Voted thousands of times this season though, lol.
All of that and I’m just now getting to the concert! Well, first of all, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the concert. I’ve read reviews and followed most of the concert threads, but hadn’t listened to any recordings because I wanted the concert experience itself to be pretty fresh for me. I went to the concert with my parents, who are 59 and 60. (My mom has probably seen 2/3 to 3/4 of all of the episodes of Idol that have aired…she’s been a much bigger follower than me in the past, but never voted either.) They were both big fans of Crystal as well and all 3 of us would stay up voting until the lines closed after each show. My dad also was a fan of Big Mike (I was too to an extent, but was afraid during the first half the season that he’d end up beating Crystal out).
I also should mention, in addition to being a big fan of Crystal, my hometown is about 5 miles from hers – I actually knew where Elliston was before this season and she herself came along. She had even played a couple gigs in my hometown but I’d never heard her before. And the best connection I can claim – Crystal and I took from the same piano teacher. No, I didn’t really “know her, ” but we played on at least one recital together.
So, anyways, to the show tonight. Pretty hot day the day of the concert as most of the summer has been, but otherwise nice weather. Parking areas around the venue (which is less than a year old) were very sparsely used – this did not seem to bode well for the crowd. As we entered the arena, a limo had pulled up and who gets out but apparently Frankie May, Crystal’s bass player. Quite a change for him too (word is he will be her bass player after this as well). Once inside, we find our seats (lower bowl, about 2/3 of the way up – we didn’t want floor seats because of people standing but could have easily had them when we ordered tickets). I get a sinking feeling because the crowd is…bad. I mean, 10 minutes to showtime and the arena that holds about 7, 500 for a concert has MAYBE 5, 000 people in it. Actually looked like much less than that.
As others have said, commercials, commercials, product placement, more commercials…then lights go down and American Idol music comes up, and a moment later, here’s Didi. Definitely kinda abrupt, but what can you really do, I guess? So then…the review by performer, here we go:
Didi – I was prepared for this to be bad. I mean, ick, learn to find the pitch, girl, bad. But the surprises started right away. Didi actually sounded pretty darned good. She also seems like a really sweet girl on stage too. My mom wasn’t that impressed, but I suspect it’s because of her style of music. Didi must have been a victim of theme weeks in the top 12, because I never remembered her being as good as she was. Definitely a lighter, lilting style, and probably one that hearkens back to the ’90s and singers like Jewel or Natalie Imbruglia (or was that early 2000s?), but pleasant to listen to. I start thinking at this point, “Hmm…this could be an interesting night.”
Andrew – During Andrew’s time on the show, I only really ever heard, when he was discussed, mentions of “Straight Up.” Oddly enough, that was one of the shows I did miss this season. I never went back and YouTubed it, because I thought I’d save this as a surprise for myself. I see now why it made him an early favorite. I loved the jazzy acoustic take on the song, and it fit his voice perfectly. His second song was just as solid to me (I know other reviewers have mostly panned him). The Toledo crowd, which gave Didi a reasonably warm reception (although almost all still seated) actually responded to Andrew pretty well. Most of the floor was on their feet for him at the end. I actually came away from the night with a totally new opinion of Andrew, to where I felt he really did belong in the top 10 after all.
About this point too, I realize that the place, while not full, is actually looking respectable. If capacity is 7, 500, then between 6, 500 and 7, 000 in the seats. Quite good overall. And we continue…
Katie – I kinda had an idea what to expect from past reviews, but damn – girl went out and found an attitude! On the show I felt Katie just held back too much, like she was afraid to go after it. Her sing out to me showed the potential that was there all along – when she lets go she’s got a powerful pop voice. Now, her music really isn’t my favorite style, but she pulls it off well enough that if I happened to be tuning through stations on the radio (which I don’t usually, it’s almost always stuck on one, lol), I might stop and listen to the song. She has the voice to pull off pop or pop/rock live without the studio tricks, and the attitude to match.
Tim – I’ll get this part out of the way at the beginning. I think Tim got a really raw deal from the judges/TPTB’s script practically every performance. While not a blow you away with vocal power or style sort of singer, what Tim DOES do is sing with an incredibly pure, pleasant tone that I don’t understand how anyone could hate. Plus he’s got the personality to match. Many people have said that Tim could/should go the route of acting and maybe some singing on the side (High School Musical or Glee sort of thing). I could see that, but I could also see another route for him – contemporary Christian/Christian rock music. He projects the wholesome image for that himself, and to top it off sings wonderfully in tune and with a perfect sort of tone for the style. I could see him as the wild card success story of this season that few people are talking about.
Siobhan – Again, I had an idea what to expect with Siobhan, but still. Tim Burton-esque opening, the lighting, the costume, the theatrics, it all worked. I felt by halfway through Siobhan’s first song that half the crowd was kinda uneasily shifting weight from foot to foot, so to speak, but this girl has something, definitely. “The Scream, ” eh, I can take it or leave it. It fit in “Paint it Black” better than it did in the songs she did later in her run on the show, but it also wasn’t really “needed, ” IMO – one of the few cases of vocal gymnastics during the night that didn’t seem that necessary. Siobhan herself said she couldn’t really label herself as to what sort of music she wanted to do. I’ll give you some advice, girl – look up the Canadian bands The Tea Party and Porcupine Tree. Or perhaps Flyleaf if you’re looking more mainstream. “Stockholm Syndrome” convinced me of your calling – it’s in the punk/metal world. Although for all those who haven’t liked her take on “Spiderwebs, ” you must not have liked the original either, cause she sounded dead on to me. Or maybe this was just a really good night for her?
Aaron – Yeesh…what a change, huh? From Siobhan to Aaron. It was odd, Aaron has been the one that most people seem to have been picking out as the biggest shock of the first half of the concert. He was solid – and to me sounds ready for a contract himself. That said, he didn’t blow me away – maybe I was expecting more from what I heard in other’s reviews. He definitely seems at ease on the stage and has a perfect sound for country, and a maturity that goes beyond 17 years old. Maybe song choice? It was, as I recall, one of his biggest weaknesses on the show, and perhaps he could have done even better picking for the tour as well. Still though, very solid performer, but honestly he didn’t stick with me after the concert – I have trouble really remembering him as I write this other than remembering he was “good.”
Weak tour? Nah, I think not, I was thinking at about this point. I expected the first group song to be pretty scary considering some reviews I’ve read too, but again, it wasn’t bad at all. I thought the “bottom 6” actually blended pretty well – Siobhan can stick out a bit at times but all in all they handled “The Climb” nicely. Also for the record, I have *NO* issue with them playing guitar while performing – I’m not at all one of those who thinks they should do away with instruments. Everyone seemed to do just fine with one to me, and several of them play pretty decently – not just Casey, who obviously will make a good bit of his money with his axe.
I’ll also mention at this point another thing I frequently notice in concerts – sound engineering. I did a tiny bit of work in grad school in this area (moreso in actual electronic music, creating the sounds by computer and mixing them). For the most part, mixing and audio during the concert was very good…for the most part. Seemed to me no one checked Katie’s mic cause the “s’s” were really hot, enough it was kinda annoying (but not as bad as some concerts I’ve heard). Also…yes, the sound level DOES keep creeping up through the night. You couldn’t feel the bass in your chest that much during the first half, by the end of the concert it was like I had a 2nd heart, and my original one didn’t entirely appreciate the presence of a partner.
And then, after the intermission…
Big Mike – Dude is HUGE! Ok, I got that out of the way, lol. Seriously though, why all the hate from so many for Mike? I know soul isn’t the most popular style any more, but don’t more people at least kinda dig music like he sings? I couldn’t help but imagine his 2nd song playing on a movie soundtrack accompanying a lovemaking scene in some movie, or cuddling up next to someone you love with a fire and a glass of wine (yes, guys get thoughts like those at times too). I’d said before I didn’t know if I’d buy an album of anyone other than Crystal…well, if Big Mike makes one, I might just buy it to have on hand for a possible fireside wine tasting session with someone. (Ok, I might just listen to it in my car and sing along…hey, you don’t know if I can hit that falsetto like him, do you?) All joking aside, Mike might overdo the falsetto at times, and the rapping was, well, maybe not quite his strong suit, but overall I loved his performance.
Casey – I knew nothing of the rumor that Casey might not perform. I would have been really crushed had he not, because I was looking forward to hearing him. And damn, I’m glad he did perform – wow. On the show he seemed like a decent guitar player but it was hard to tell how good he really was cause he never played that much (obviously, it’s a singing competition…right?) And when portrayed mostly just in terms of his vocals, at times he seemed out of his element. But the intro to “I Got Mine” was all it took. Bluesy, gritty Southern style rock…I loved it. And so did the rest of the Toledo crowd – I’m pretty sure only Crystal’s cheers hit higher readings on the decibel meter than Casey’s. His album IS now on my list to buy, as long as it’s in this vein. I wasn’t so impressed with “Don’t” as I was his other 3 songs (…seriously people, why can’t you just embrace the cheese of “Have You Really Ever Loved a Woman?” He and Mike killed that song on the show, minus 1 note, and it sounded great in concert too) but he’s awesome in his own style. Slide guitar, rock guitar, country acoustic and electric, even the Spanish/flamenco sort of sound – and he can sing pretty well too. I like. Came onto my radar when the videos of him at the Keys Lounge surfaced and it really all clicked what he was about. Definitely more than just your average bar band guitar player and singer, like he seemed for most of the show. Hendrix level chops on the guitar is more like it.
Crystal – What can I really say? Lol well, I will say a few things. First of all, I felt no one else in the concert came close to putting as much passion into their singing. The nuances of her voice depending on the song, the phrase, even the word. Of course the crowd went nuts for her. She wasn’t without fault to me though – if anything, she oversang at times. I don’t know if she’s had that tendency on the tour or if it was mostly because of the emotion of the hometown crowd, but there were moments I felt she should have reined it in a bit. “Holy Toledo” was epic, if imperfect. It was awesome to hear the first live performance of it in a full band form, and instrumentally it takes more of a country turn (she said they rehearsed 3 times earlier in the day to learn it). She really twisted a few of the melody lines from her original though and I actually prefer the song when she’s more sensitive. “Come to My Window” and “Piece of My Heart” were probably the best of the set, and actually the former was my least favorite she did on the show. I actually sound pretty critical of her – she was amazing but I really think the emotion got to her too. Plus, as others have alluded…I’m not positive that something isn’t bugging her health wise. She didn’t act too strong, sounded out of breath at times, and as someone had mentioned before, had someone escort her off the stage at the end of her set. I hope there’s no big issues going on.
Which brings us to…
Lee – Ok, if you made it this far, first of all, congrats. I’m long winded, sorry. And I also know that some of you probably have a feeling what’s coming, considering my past thoughts on Lee. Well, he wasn’t awful. He didn’t have problems with pitch like he did on the show, so that’s at least a plus for him. I thought he totally butchered “Beautiful Day” though, the song had no resemblance to the original. If you’re going to “arrange” to the point it’s a new song, why base it off an old one? The original was better, by far. “Rocket Man” started out ok, went ehh as it went along…and the Pink Floyd mashup was jarring to say the least. It really felt like a cute trick of some kind that didn’t really work right. As Lee’s set went on too, it seemed that he really did just shout through songs more and more. I don’t know the original of “Use Somebody” and I’m not sure if I do or don’t want to hear it after hearing him do it – if he’s pretty close then I’ll pass. Does he have energy? Yeah, I guess. I don’t feel it translates well though – he seems to keep digging deeper for more strength to shout some more and there’s no nuance to what he does (I also think the sound mix obviously creeping louder and louder doesn’t help him in that regard). Members of the “Lee DeWyze Army” were across the front row at the concert and even they only seemed to get into it when he came to their side of the stage (maybe they were afraid the rest of the crowd would do something, I dunno…the crowd was actually pretty receptive to him although as I said earlier I don’t think they were as warm to him as Casey). I just don’t see him staying fresh and relevant to people for that long – he seemed stale after 4 songs, and he had a 5th yet to go. I felt in terms of the total package, he was overshadowed by at least the other members of the top 4, and even one or two others possibly. But what do I know, I guess? He’s the one America picked…
And then the final group songs…ehh, can we have a redo? “It’s My Life” doesn’t work as a group sing of any sort it seems, and “My Life Would Suck Without You” sounded like it was just kinda thrown together – you could barely understand anything they were singing and 10 different styles definitely don’t play well on that song. All in all the bottom 6 group song was much better than the closing ones.
So, there it is, my epically long review. All in all, I felt it was actually a very good concert with many highlights and only a few lowlights – none of which were as bad as I thought they could be. The 3 of us all agreed on that. I gained appreciation for a few of them that I didn’t expect to from the concert, and even those that didn’t blow me away were at least decent.