After an hour-long pre-concert loop of the same 4 Carrie Underwood/ Chris Daughtry videos, The show opens with Michael Sarver, who does an admirable job attempting to excite a tame Tampa crowd; they dutifully clapped and cheered at the start and end of each song, but were surprisingly lifeless during the actual performances. ‘We’re here for a party tonight! And c’mon, who sits down at a party?!’ asks Sarver. I’ll tell you who, Michael: the Tampa crowd, that’s who! Especially section 215 where I was sitting.
[Other recaps have since raved about the Tampa crowd, so from what I can gather, the floor section was way into it, but the stands- not so much. I was in the second deck, so I’m sure that was part of the problem.]
Anyway Sarver sings well, but suffers from the fact that neither of his songs appeared on AI S8. Besides, wasn’t he billed on AI as being country? And he’s touring with songs by Gavin DeGraw and Ne-Yo?! I thought he should have brought back ‘Ain’t Goin Down (Til the Sun Comes Up).’
Overall grade: B-…reliable vocals, likeable, plenty of energy, just not my favorite set list
Helped by plenty of goofy screen graphics, Megan Joy takes the stage. She takes on ‘Put Your Records On’ in literally the exact same way she performed every song on the show: the same faltering, wavy notes (sometimes a good thing), the same pitchy moments (rarely a good thing), and the same weird side-to-side dance moves (used to be a bad thing, although it’s sorta becoming her signature). She then tears through Amy Winehouse’s ‘Tears Dry on Their Own’ after a sassy intro about love that didn’t work out, which she obviously knows a bit about.
Grade: C+…entertaining and likeable, but I feel like she’s made little effort to work on the vocal quirks that prompted her early exit from AI S8. Also the afro/hairdo was crazy.
Next, a floor panel opens, and up comes a grand piano being played by Scott McIntrye. Scott was definitely the biggest surprise of the night. Although maligned for much of AI S8, he sounds fantastic live! By the time he launched into the familiar intro of ‘A Thousand Miles, ‘ the crowd was hooked. He also livens things up between songs by joking about Seacrest’s now-infamous high-five fail, and then giving a mocking impression of Simon’s accent.
Grade: A-…maybe not the vocal chops of the later guys, but definitely solid.
Lil Rounds is next.
Here’s what drives me nuts about Lil. How does she not realize that she’s an attractive woman on her own, and doesn’t need to put on 6 lbs of makeup to perform in front of people?! C’mon Lil, look at Adam! Okay, bad example. But look at any of the other top 10. They don’t need a ton of makeup and neither do you. Alright, I’m done ranting.
So Lil tears through her predictable set of ‘Be Without You, ‘ ‘No One, ‘ and ‘Single Ladies.’ As always, she sings quite well, although I have a feeling if the judges were here, they’d have the same gripes they had on the show- personality, originality, connection with the audience, etc. It’s still not quite there, and I hope she figures it out before she ventures out on her own.
Anoop draws the first girly shrieks of the night as he enters through the floor singing ‘You Were Always on My Mind, ‘ with success, as it keeps him right in his nice-tone-but-no-real-power comfort zone. He then busts out some pretty naughty dance moves on ‘My Prerogative, ‘ which may have upset a few of the stiffer folks, although he did them a favor by prepping them for Adam. Anoop thanks everyone for coming, and ambitiously says, ‘I hope I’ll be seeing all of you again next year- on a tour of my own!’
Grade: B+…loved the first song, second was decent, third one was a bit out of his league
Next, we hear the unmistakable opening of ‘Hard to Handle, ‘ with some beatboxing thrown in for fun, and with that Matt Giraud erupts onto the stage. He tears through the Black Crowes classic, replacing the classic guitar solo with a boogie-style pounding of the grand piano that thrills the crowd. Next, he sits at the piano and catches his breath by talking for a few moments about his path to this point, before donning the fedora and singing ‘Georgia on My Mind, ‘ even better than the Hollywood version that put him on the AI map, since we get to hear the whole song this time. Before he leaves, he sings his heart out on ‘You Found Me, ‘ an understated performance on AI S8, although I do think that ‘Part Time Lovers, ‘ or ‘Who’s Lovin You’ would have been a tad more exciting as an exit song. Either way, the crowd LOVED Matt.
It’s refreshing to see a young singer who pours so much of himself into his performances, and he really seems to connect with fans. With decent material, I can totally see him having a successful music career.
Grade: A+…maybe the most underrated contestant in AI history, and absolutely fantastic to watch in person. He could have taken an hour and I’d be happy.
Before intermission, we get the fantastic and much-awaited Matt/Scott ‘Tell Her About It’ piano duel that still makes me mad when I remember that they cut it from the AI finale.
After a 25 minute break, Allison takes the stage and spends the first song (fortunately it was just Pink’s ‘So What’ ) competing with the band, which was suddenly inordinately loud. The mix was corrected by the second song, her beautiful version of ‘Cry Baby.’ Her boundless energy and still-surprising vocals made this one of the best songs of the night for me. She finishes very strong with ‘Barracuda, ‘ a very technically difficult song that barely seems to challenge her.
Grade: A-…first song was a struggle, but fantastic from then on
Danny comes in to the ‘PYT’ intro, and rocks it out with his powerhouse vocals on full display. ‘Maria Maria’ was good, even with the clumsy dancing. ‘What Hurt the Most’ was one of his best during the season, and he doesn’t disappoint with that as his third offering. He gives a brief inspirational talk before taking on ‘My Wish.’
While he gives terrific performances on each, I can’t help feeling that it’s really redundant to have 2 slow Rascal Flatts songs in a 4-song set! I think most would like to hear him leave the stage with more oomph, and if it couldn’t be a more rocky number, I’ve always wondered how he’d do on Christina Aguilera’s ‘Hurt.’ (Before you call me crazy, give that song a listen and tell me Danny wouldn’t tear it to shreds. Just sayin…)
Grade: A-…unbelievable voice, set list needs some tweaking
Of course, the excitement reaches a fever pitch, as the youngsters (and oldies alike) realize that nothing now stands between them and Adam’s entrance. He roars out with ‘Whole Lotta Love’ - pretty spectacular as you might imagine. (And for the record, he says, ‘Ba-by!’ at the part where Robert Plant said ‘Wo-man!’ Guess there’s no point in pretending now.)
He takes the stool for ‘Mad World’ and delivers a stunning version, although it could probably never approach the chill factor of the first time he performed it on AI S8.
Next, he sheds his overcoat to reveal a sleeveless top and skintight (understatement) jeans to do the David Bowie medley. And yeah, the dance moves he pulls onstage definitely would not have made it on the TV season of AI. Let’s just say Adam’s pelvis is every bit as honest as Shakira’s hips. And while most folks would likely prefer to see the latter, nothing could deter several ladies (who obviously don’t read Rolling Stone) from throwing fuzzy handcuffs, a whip, and some underwear at Adam. Yeah, ladies- that’ll change him.
Ever the showman that he is, Adam retrieves one of the items (looked like a bra from the 2nd deck where I was, but I’ve since heard that it was the whip) and swinging it around suggestively. At one point during Adam’s gyrations, the man next to me – who attended with his 13-year-old daughter – turned to me and gave the horrified look of a high schooler who bribed Ryan Tedder to create his science project, only to arrive at class and discover three identical projects.
(Sorry Ryan; too soon? You’re right- we don’t know all the facts yet. I apologize. It’s just that blogging can be such a…you know…battlefield.)
Adam closes his set by inviting Allison onstage for ‘Slow Ride, ‘ They sound excellent together, and follow it with a heartwarmingly enthusiastic hug. Adam leaves with much fanfare.
Grade: A…but hide the kids.
Speaking of fanfare, the fans go ballistic as Kris Allen is introduced singing ‘Heartless.’ After one chorus with him and the guitar, the band comes roaring in, as they also do after one chorus of ‘Ain’t No Sunshine.’ Here’s the thing- I love the band; I thought they did their job beautifully on almost every song. But part of the reason the two aforementioned songs did so well on AI S8 was because of the slick, scaled-back versions Kris did. So all I’m saying is I would have kept them that way.
After the first song, Kris picks up one of the naughty items that was hurled at Adam, and wonders out loud, ‘What’s this?’ before exclaiming, ‘Oh jeez!’ and dropping it to the floor, as he probably remembered that any further joke he made would be blown out of proportion and ultimately become a national story.
I thought The Killers’ song was melodically boring and didn’t really help Kris’s set at all, but ‘Bright Lights’ was a BRILLIANT choice. It fit him perfectly, and was easily my favorite performance from Kris.
Vocally, Kris sounded terrific, and even seems to have improved greatly since the show.
A-…just get the band to calm down a bit.
Everyone comes out for the finale- blah blah- we’ve all seen this routine on the results show. I did think incorporating ‘Na na na na, hey hey, goodbye’ into ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ was clever. Then they thank the crowd, and it’s over at about 10:00.
Wish I could say I waited outside with everyone else afterward, but it’s a 2+ hour drive back to Gainesville, followed by work in the morning. I certainly wish the 2nd deck had a little more energy, but overall it was a terrific show!