After a few ticket-related problems, me, decked out in black and white (showing support for Matt Giraud) and my friend Dennisse (dressed in ambiguous colors, as to not endorse anyone in particular) entered the San Diego Sports Arena, roughly a half hour before the show was scheduled to start, and about 40 minutes later than we would’ve liked. After spending great amounts of money on ridiculously overpriced tour items, we took our seats and started watching what appeared to be a never-ending loop of Carrie Underwood and David Cook videos, intertwined with Fox and Idol commercials. Every time Adam Lambert’s face (or any part of his anatomy) appeared on the big screens, the crowd screamed in excitement, proving ‘Glambert’ is the biggest star of Season 8.
A few minutes after 7 PM, the lights of the arena were swiftly turned off and the ‘American Idol’ theme started to fill the ears of every expecting fan. Michael Sarver, the lovable oil rig worker from Texas erupted into the stage. He opened the show with his rendition of Gavin DeGraw’s ‘In Love with a Girl’ , following with Ne-Yo’s ‘Closer’ , a pair of songs that really showcased his soulful, beautiful voice. Sarver has gained a lot more confidence and moves around the stage with ease. Great start from the 10th place finalist.
Up next was someone I really hated throughout the competition: Megan Joy. A lot of people praised her for being ‘original’ and ‘different’ , but does it really matter when you’re a mediocre singer (albeit a very sexy one)? The single mom walked out in a flattering hot pink dress, starting her brief set with a decent performance of Corinne Bailey Rae’s ‘Put Your Records On’ , a song she also did on Idol (to not so good results). Her second song, Amy Winehouse’s ‘Tears Dry on their Own’ , was boring and sort of killed whatever momentum she had gained until that moment. She moved rather clumsily across the stage, practically walking in circles during her set.
Then, one of the most controversial Idols of the past season, Scott MacIntyre (and his piano), ascended from below the stage, met with mild applause and cheers from the audience. I don’t want to lessen his achievements or the struggles he’s surely coped with all of his life, but I firmly believe he wouldn’t have lasted as much as he did on Idol were he not blind. All I can say about his time on stage is that it was better than I expected, even though Vanessa Carlton’s ‘A Thousand Miles’ didn’t fit his voice at all and his attempt at comedy wasn’t really funny. But being the awfully nice person he is, you forgive Scott for his almost nonexistent vocal prowess (wow, sounded a little mean there, but you know it’s true!).
A question ran through my mind several times during the concert: why didn’t he/she sing like THAT during their run on ‘Idol’ ? I thought about it as I listened to Michael Sarver, one of my early favorites, and the notion crossed my mind again as I watched the (I thought) overrated Lil Rounds. She got the crowd going with a medley of Mary J. Blige’s ‘Be Without You’ and ‘Just Fine’ , following with a fantastic, almost a capella take on Alicia Keys’ ‘No One’ . As everyone thought Lil was over, she shed half her wardrobe and rendered a high-energy performance of the most famous song of the year, Beyonc’s ‘Single Ladies’ , complete with lyrics on the big screen and choreography.
A few months ago, the week after the infamous ‘Judges’ Save’ was first used (on Matt Giraud, yay!), two people left Idol on the same night. One was Lil Rounds. The other was the person who, in my opinion, has made the most progress since leaving the competition: Anoop Desai. After a very cheesy intro involving clouds, the North Carolina native sat down for a smooth, gorgeous ‘Always on my Mind’ . The nerdy teen from Chapel Hill that wowed us on his audition became an amazing performer, commanding the stage in a way never seen through his run on Idol, with more control of his soaring voice and some new, sexy moves. Another Ne-Yo song filled the air inside Sports Arena. Anoop chose ‘Mad’ , and ended his set in a big way, with Bobby Brown’s ‘My Prerogative’ , a tune that’s become so characteristic of Desai, Brown should now just grant him partial ownership.
As Anoop ended singing, I braced myself for what was to come. My favorite contestant of the season, the underrated, fedora-wearing Matt Giraud was next. I was practically the only Matt fan in my section, but I didn’t care and I stood up, cheering and shouting for my favorite. I had to represent! Matt started with an incredible ‘Hard to Handle’ , not only singing, but also playing a mean piano. His next song was ‘Georgia on my Mind’ , the same one that catapulted him into the Top 36. Giraud was bluesy, laidback and just plain awesome. He closed his all too brief set with The Fray’s ‘You Found Me’ , a song he performed on the iTunes Top 100 week on ‘Idol’ , to scathing reviews from the judges and copycat accusations. While I don’t think that performance was any bad at all, his tour rendition of ‘You Found Me’ was much better and unique.
A dual set of pianos emerged from below the stage. Scott MacIntyre and Matt Giraud joined forces in a duet of Billy Joel’s ‘Tell Her About It’ . Honestly, everytime Matt opened his mouth to sing, it was heaven. Giraud overpowered Scott, but the duet worked. While the piano men quickly changed their wardrobe, Season 8’s sexy gals, Lil Rounds and Megan Joy shared a duet of ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ , only to be joined by the rest of the bottom 6 on a group number of Madcon’s ‘Beggin” , where Sarver, Desai and Giraud shone. The choreography was really cool and Lil Rounds proved she’s a decent rapper. A 20 minute intermission followed, and the Carrie Underwood, David Cook and Daughtry videos came back. Seriously, couldn’t the production get some variety?
First after the intermission was 4th place finalist, Allison Iraheta. I fell in love with her marvelous, raspy voice the first time I heard her sing, and she’s only getting better. On Idol, Kara and Paula kept mentioning her age (17), and it was getting kind of old, but I really can’t believe that someone who’s 2 years younger than me has that level of stage presence and domain over her talent. Allison managed to turn a pretty crappy song (Pink’s ‘So What’ ) into a believable rock anthem. Her inner rock star emerged all through her set, where she covered such classics as Heart’s ‘Barracuda’ and Janis Joplin’s ‘Cry Baby’ . She praised her fellow competitors Adam, Kris and the next performer, Danny Gokey.
Gokey was my favorite at the beginning of the season, and I was sad to see him become boring and mediocre, cancelling out any chance he had at the Idol crown. The Gokey we saw in San Diego was a man who had regained confidence. He was fantastic, starting with Michael Jackson’s ‘P.Y.T.’ , an incredible way to get the crowd on their feet. He followed with a passionate ‘Maria, Maria’ , made famous by Santana, in which he also showed some great salsa moves; what I believed to be an homage to his late wife, Sophia, who was Latin. Danny should be signing a recording contract with a country label soon, so it was no surprise to see him cover two Rascal Flatts songs: ‘What Hurts the Most’ and ‘My Wish’ . It wouldn’t be a Gokey performance without a church-like speech, which he made between his two last songs.
The moment almost everyone was waiting for was here. Gokey finishing his set meant only one thing: Adam Lambert, the most talked about Idol contestant ever, was next. His presence was welcomed by a deafening roar from the audience. The response for Adam was overwhelming. About 95% of the attendees stood up to receive the flamboyant runner-up. He busted out into the stage with all the confidence an insane amount of talent can give you. He looked like an androgynous rock alien, ready to satisfy the hungry masses. He opened with, what else, a scorching rendition of Led Zeppellin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’ , followed by Muse’s ‘Starlight’ and his very popular take on Tears for Fears’ ‘Mad World’ . He invited his ‘sister’ Allison Iraheta over for a reprise of their Rock Week duet ‘Slow Ride’ and finished with a medley of David Bowie songs, a man Lambert drew many comparisons to during his stint on Idol. I don’t know what happened: cheating, fraud or homophobia, but if last night’s crowd was any indication, Adam Lambert is the real champion of Season 8.
It’s a mighty task to follow Adam Lambert on stage. Any artist grounded in reality would be freaked out. Kris Allen, the underdog who took the crown away from Lambert’s nail-polished hands, was up. His signature song (and what probably meant victory for him), Kanye West’s ‘Heartless’ was the first. The excitement that reigned during Lambert’s set had died down a bit, but Allen was determined to keep it up with his replacement for ‘No Boundaries’ , The Killers’ ‘All These Things That I’ve Done’ . Allen followed with another one of the judges’ favorite Kris performances, ‘Ain’t no Sunshine’ . After that, he accompanied himself on piano as he sung Matchbox 20’s ‘Bright Lights’ . Allen closed his relaxed set with ‘Hey Jude’ . The rest of the Top 10 (minus Scott and Matt) joined Kris on the final ‘na na nas’ of the iconic Beatles song.
The missing piano men once again emerged with their favorite instruments from below the stage, joined by Michael, Megan, Lil, Anoop, Matt, Allison and Danny on the concert’s closing number, Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ . Winner and runner-up BFF’s Adam and Kris made their grand reentrance and joined their fellow contestants in an amazing group performance, minus the cheesiness of the show’s group numbers. 3 hours of great voices, eye-popping outfits, excitement and worship had just ended. The American Idols LIVE! Tour 2009 is truly the cherry on top of the sundae that was Season 8, the best one so far. We Idol junkies need to wait about 6 long months before new stars are born before our eyes on ‘American Idol’ .
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Name: Fernando Quintero