I attended the concert with my daughter who was celebrating her 14th birthday. She has been talking about this for weeks and had butterflies while we boarded the train to Newark. I found that I prefer the Prudential Center in Newark over the Meadowlands where it was in 2006. The acoustics were fine from where we sat and given a choice, I’ll take public transportation any day.
Random things I noticed’ ¦ Things must be a bit down and out in the land of Kellogg’s because the giant walking PopTarts of 2006 were nowhere in evidence. I thought they were mildly annoying then, so why do I miss their presence now?
You’d never know there was a recession judging by the long lines at the souvenir tables. The long lines I remember from last time were still there and with 30 minutes to show time we split our hunting and gathering duties. She went to hunt down some souvenirs and I went to gather food. About five minutes to seven, we admired our glossy program, our photos of Kradison and a bunch of other stuff she bought as we wolfed-down over-priced chicken tenders, and then rushed inside to find our seats at exactly 1 minute to 7:00. We could have taken our time as the hall was still filling up.
Our seats were in Section B on the floor, 18 rows from the stage ‘ almost dead center. GREAT seats! From where we sat it looked like the hall was about 90% and the crowd was very orderly from what I could see.
There was the usual assortment of families of all ages. I didn’t see a single bedazzled shirt but there were a fair number of homemade iron-on transfer fan shirts and home-made signs for different idols and some colors that I assume correspond to their favorites. One family was all in orange t-shirts. There was a mother-daughter team dressed in identical black outfits with bling in their hair and belts. One man was wearing a fuzzy top hat.
There were a few empty seats around us and people moved in and out of empty seats to get closer photos until they were chased away by security. The couple standing in front of us came in right as Michael was beginning to sing, clapped wildly for Matt and Anoop, stayed ’til intermission and then didn’t return. I couldn’t help wonder if they had left or just found another vantage point. I honestly can’t imagine paying all that money (even at face value) to watch half a concert.
I remember in 2006, people made fun of the ‘tinfoil and cardboard’ stage set that looked like it was made by a bunch of high school stage crew on the cheap. This stage was very slick and shiny, space age-y, kind of cold, actually, but it looked like they spent some real money on this tour set. That was a nice change. Not such a nice change, for me, was the preponderance of big screens with swirly, eye-popping computer graphics. I found them distracting, even irritating. I really disliked the countdown ‘Number 10 Michael’ ¦, etc.’ Have they always done that? I don’t remember it from the last time I went.
Michael ‘ His jacket appeared to have had a run-in with a passive-aggressive dry cleaner’ ¦it looked sort of shrunken; too little for such a big man.
Michael is charming and has what that quality my Mom used to call ‘Salt of the Earth’ . He seems to be thrilled to be there starting things off, which set the right mood. I wasn’t expecting too much because he didn’t leave much of an impression on me on the show, but I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable he looked up on that stage. He has a pleasant tone. He mentioned his wife in the audience which added some emotional resonance to his performance.
Best performance: I’m in Love with a Girl’ ‘ I love Gavin DeGraw. I love this song. I think Michael sang it with heart and energy. He looked happy singing; we were happy singing along.
Least best performance: ‘Closer’ – Michael’s voice sounds good and he sang with feeling, I’m not a fan of Ne-Yo and Michael didn’t do anything to change my mind.
Megan ‘ It seems that somebody has wrapped her in a pink satin pillow-case. Seriously, I think she is a beautiful woman especially when she’s in a more nature style, but I think she looked a little over done here. Someone in comments said ‘Barbie’ but to me it looked kind of ‘Vegas lounge-y’ . When Megan first sang in the semi-finals I thought there was something interestingly quirky and jazzy about her voice but I wasn’t sure if it was a real thing or a contrived thing. As on the TV show, her concert performances show the promise of a quite an interesting voice, but it seems there is a limit to how long she could maintain it without losing pitch. She tries hard to get the crowd up and moving. The Dad from the row behind moved into the empty seat on the end of our row and appeared to be taking VERY CLOSE UP photos of Megan.
Best performance: ‘Put Your Records On’ ‘ I think Megan spices up Corrine Bailey Rae’s laid-back classic in a really appealing way.
Least best performance: ‘Tears Dry on Their Own’ ‘ The problem with this song is that Amy Winehouse has such an iconic voice with her own quirky/jazzy thing going on, that there is no way Megan could do anything with it but a less interesting cover. It’s song choice, Dawg-ette.
Scott ‘ I don’t recall what he was wearing but it seems that his hair does the opposite of what mine does in New Jersey August humidity. The curls flatten. Or maybe he had hat-hair. I sometimes use a hat to tame my hair when it turns into a helmet of frizz this time of year, so that could be what happened to Scott.
During the season, I recognized Scott’s talent, but I found his performances soporific and bland. In concert I was expecting to hear a pleasant, elevator-friendly set of piano and crooning but I was very pleasantly surprised at Scott’s passion when he’s in his zone. In his element, he really shows that he can do more when the constraints of the competition are behind him. His banter was cute too. I like self-effacing humor.
Best performance: A toss up. I suppose I liked Bend & Break a little better musically than A Thousand Miles, but he seemed really comfortable with both.
Lil Rounds ‘ Hey look! Tina Turner’s hair made a cameo during Lil’s set! Lil is a beautiful woman but one word about the first outfit: Bling!! Oh my gosh ‘ the Bling! In a comment to an earlier recap someone mentioned the distracting words in the background behind Lil making it her performance seem literally Kareoke. I didn’t notice the words at first’ ¦ because I was too distracted trying to figure out what she was wearing. The jacket thing was cool, black and bling, but a thick gold belt is probably not the best choice for a short-waisted gal. Lil’s got an abundance of curves that she’s happy to flaunt though. Good for her!
During the season, Lil was one of contestants who didn’t move me. She’s got a clear, strong voice and a broad range for belting, but she didn’t seem to have a particularly strong sense of musical ‘self’ . Live, Lil’s concert set was energetic and fun! We were up and bopping along. I still don’t think there’s anything particularly unique about her voice, but I liked the song choices and appreciate the blast of female R&B that was otherwise missing from the concert.
Best performance: ‘No One’ ‘ I thought it was a pretty faithful tribute to Alicia Keys’ own version, but I thought Lil sounded great.
Least best performance: ‘Be Without You’ ‘ It’s not that she did a bad job with it, she does it well. It’s just the song doesn’t do anything for me even when Mary J. Blige sings it.
Anoop ‘ The outfit looks like a page from JC Penney’s Back-to-School catalog, but Anoop is always adorkable so all is forgiven.
During the season I thought Anoop was the see-saw contestant; up one week, down the next. The trouble was song choice, Dawg. His concert set is not as energetic as some of the others although he did throw in one hip thrust during My Prerogative (get down with your bad self Noop!). But my favorite Anoop is the Anoop that sings simply and beautifully so I was pleased to sit and listen.
Best performance: ‘Always on My Mind’ ‘ I loved this on the show and bought the download. I loved it even more live in full.
Least best performance: ‘Mad’ ‘ I’m not a fan of Ne-Yo’s music and Anoop didn’t do anything thing to this that changed my mind.
Matt Giraud ‘ What? No hat? I feel so cheated. Oh, phew! There it is. But wait! Matt has some really muscular thighs. Those pants look painted on and’ ¦and’ ¦ oh! Was that a hip thrust? Oh my g’ ¦ Ahem.
Matt Giraud of the soulful voice and the White Chocolate during season 8 really caught my attention during Hollywood Week. It was a rocky, pitchy road thereafter and I was really surprised that a guy who made a living as a musician would be so overcome by nerves. Well, let me tell you. His concert set is HOT! Wow, and how! First of all, I LOVE the blue-eyed soul and he brings it! He commands the stage and shows his prowess on the piano. The nerves are gone and I can absolutely see why the judges wanted to give him another chance. I agree with other reviewers who rave about his concert set because he Is. Just. That. Good. I love Matt’s version of ‘Georgia on My Mind’ and while I don’t usually love an abundance of riffs and runs he used it carefully this time. But the best thing of all is his cover of (Black Crowes arrangement) Hard to Handle! Okay, now I have to stop gushing like a fangirl (and go find some video of this performance).
Best performance: ‘Hard to Handle’ ‘ hot, soulful, energetic, gritty-smooth. (Nice thighs)
Least best performance: ‘You Found Me’ ‘ I’m not a huge fan of The Fray but the other two pieces were just so, so delicious, it’s only third place only by default.
The pre-intermission group numbers were so-so. I like Scott and Matt duel/ting on piano very much; classic Billy Joel and they’re wearing matching hats! I liked the guys singing, especially Michael’s little bit of Suspicious Minds. But Lil and Megan were uninspiring in ‘You’re Just too Good to Be True’ . I did love all the black and white outfits and the bling! (natch).
Intermission: Is it something unique to Prudential Center or do other big stadiums have traffic coordinators in the Women’s bathrooms? Lines moved pretty smoothly, I have to say but there was a woman pan-handling in there (What the Hell?).
And back to the show’ ¦
Allison ‘ Looking like the true rocker-girl, bounded onto stage wearing black from her shoulders to her army boots(?) and rockin’ electric guitar. Hurricane Allison’s long fuschia locks whipped with fury in a gale-force wind that I somehow missed when I read the forecast on Weather.com in the morning. Thankfully, the pint-size rocker didn’t get blown off the stage.
Allison was my favorite of the top 10 from the moment she came out of nowhere to rock a giant too-mature-for-her-years voice after her strange first interview with Ryan Seacrest that made me wonder why they wouldn’t PLEASE raise the age of Idol contestants to get fewer unripe teens. Boy was I surprised! She was one of two contestants that I thought showed a lot of growth and I was impressed by how stoically she dealt with the Judge’s attempts to bus her. Allison’s set had us on our feet dancing, singing along totally having a blast! I really look forward to seeing how she progresses from here and think she’ll have a bright future making music. Having said all that, she sounded a tiny bit strained and I think Allison still has room to grow as a performer. She has a lot of energy which is good, but seems to be a little aimless when she moves around the big stage. She’s got a big husky voice but would benefit by singing songs with more appropriate to her age.
Best performance: ‘So What?’ ‘ I think this is a younger song and one that suits her voice. Also, I loved the ‘Slow Ride’ duet with Adam, because these two just feed off each other’s energy.
Least best performance ‘ ‘Cry Baby’ ‘ I liked the performance and it’s a perfect fit for her kind of voice, but I think it’s a song thematically too old for her.
Danny Gokey ‘ Tonight the role of Bernardo in West Side Story will be played by Danny Gokey’ ¦ J He’s wearing wire frames model # 080909 and I could do without the multiple wallet chains (does he make so much money that he needs more than one?), but I honestly think Danny looked the best he’s ever looked. I liked the strange belted jacket ‘ which I covet for myself, and he’s sporting some serious biceps under that form-fitting red shirt.
Now, before I gross out a certain subset of fans any further, let me add that I’ve never disliked the Gokester. I liked his voice early in the season but think he got stuck in a rut and didn’t know enough musically to really change it up or outshine Adam and Kris and a few other competitors without massive amounts of over-the-top praise from the judges. I see a lot of genuine love for Danny in the arena. My daughter and I were up and dancing for ‘PYT’ and ‘Maria Maria’ and I actually thought Danny’s cheesy dance moves were endearing. Sue me. My daughter is a fan of Rascal Flatts so she sang along with Danny when he sang those. Before his last number he did his pep-talk thing while 12, 000 crickets chirped in the background and since I’m not that familiar with Rascal Flatts, I have to ask: are all their songs so repetitive and’ ¦ flat? Anyway, I think Danny’s got a nice voice and he put on a fun set that was much appreciated by the audience.
Best performance: ‘Maria Maria’ ‘ I love this song and its (sort of) Latin flavor, and I think Danny’s voice gave it some nice edges that aren’t in the original version.
Least best performance: ‘ My Wish’ ‘ He sang it well, but the song is so’ ¦anthem-y, sappy, it’s like a slightly better version of an Idol coronation song, really. I guess if nobody wants to perform No Boundaries (thank the gods for that!) this is the closest to it for those who like that sort of thing.
Adam ‘ Okay, I can totally understand now why he’s putting up some barriers lately. After somebody viciously impaled his leather waistcoat on a bunch of spikes I don’t blame him for being wary. But true to form, Adam is a man who isn’t afraid to flaunt the leather, impaled on spikes or otherwise. Oh, and with a huge, eye-catching, bling-encrusted belt buckle for good measure. I like Adam’s hair best when he wears it Elvis style and he did!
During the season, Adam was not just a performer but a performance artist. Vocally, the man has an incredible range and he understands how to use the stage as his instrument like no one else. That said, I didn’t always love the way he used his upper-register or the artistic choices he made during season 8. Live in concert, Adam’s entrance on the stage is INSANE ‘ in a really, really good way! The lights, the movement, the coming up from below the’ ¦everything ‘ like, woah! The music thunders through the stadium to announce his arrival. My daughter, an Adam fangirl first and foremost, was agog and squealing like along with an army of her kindred. ‘Whole Lotta Love’ shows Adam’s stage-craft and vocal range, and while I don’t normally love Adam’ upper-register, it’s practically a masterpiece. I believe there were hip thrusts aplenty if the squeals were any indication. ‘Starlight’ is a song I didn’t know (Yes, I live under a rock) and, eh, I guess it’s just not my cup of tea. Adam sings the whole thing in his upper register and falsetto and I’m not fond of that style of singing. His ‘Mad World’ is breathtaking as always. Then my little rocker girl is back on stage and singing with her big bro and it’s all too adorable and feisty and fabulous! Undergarments are thrown on stage and I can’t help but laugh, wondering why they waited until Adam was on the stage with a 17 year old girl to throw bras and panties at him instead of say, during Whole Lotta Love. Adam throws a black bra with paper attached (sales tag? Phone number from misguided woman or cross-dressing man? Inquiring minds wanna know) back into the audience. He twirls a’ ¦something, maybe a garter belt, and tosses it back in the audience. He picks up a white bra and hands it to l’il sis Allison and she twirls it and throws it back in the audience. All this, and Adam’s Mom is in the audience ‘ LOL! Then my cute little rocker leaves and Adam does his medley. I don’t like ‘Life on Mars’ but I love ‘Fame’ and ‘Let’s Dance’ and my daughter loves to Adam without a jacket, hee!
Best performance: ‘Whole Lotta Love’ ‘ It was great on the TV show, it’s even better live. Wow!
Least best performance: ‘Starlight’ , I think it’s the song more than Adam’s singing.
And now, I get to my number 2 this season and our American Idol ‘ ¦
Kris Allen ‘ I’ve been wondering why it’s so hard to find those plaid tea towels I keep searching for. I wonder how many of them were sacrificed for Kris’ tour wardrobe. But seriously, hipster plaid, tight jeans and Chucks are about as effortless and natural and Kris’ performance style.
During the season, Kris totally snuck up on me. Where my first impression was that he was just a cute guy ‘fodder’ contestant with a pleasant voice, ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ caused me to revise my estimation and ‘Heartless’ sealed the deal. In the concert, where Adam is the stage Master, Kris is the musical Maestro. I admit that Kris’ musical vibe is more to my tastes; the ‘less is more’ , more acoustic, no-frills, making it ‘all about the music’ , authenticity of it. It’s really interesting because after the expansiveness of Adam’s performance, I was wondering how Kris’s intimacy would play in a huge stadium. It really works! I really enjoy the way he opens, acoustic, gradually adding the band, through ATTID and Bright Lights, building and building until Hey Jude when he invites to audience to sing along. What I love about Kris’ performance style is the intensity of his connection to the music he sings. I can imagine getting bored day after day of singing the same thing, but he makes it look as fresh as if it was the very first time. His luscious lower register is on display, especially in Bright Lights and I’m in Heaven.
Best performance: ‘Bright Lights’ ‘ I love Kris’ lower register, I love his musical virtuosity and his absolute abandon when he’s in his zone and playing his instruments, and this performance captures it all.
Least best performance: ‘All These Things I’ve Done’ ‘ I hadn’t heard this song before (see: rock, live under), and I think the melody is kind of flat. Kris does a great job with it, of course, and a lot of the audience was singing along but I just didn’t love this song. Still it’s way better than No Boundaries.
Group finale ‘ Coming in on the tail end of Hey Jude, my daughter was in Heaven. She loves ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ and is texting her friend wildly because it’s one of their favorite songs. I love to watch the Idols being silly together on the stage and they did not disappoint. There’s such a genuine affection between them and it really shows. As they turn to go, Megan and Allison do a chest bump (ouch!) and Adam pats Danny’s ass, heh.
Much fun was had by all ‘ ¦ except a couple of sour-pusses who writes for the Newark Star Ledger and the New York Times, apparently.