ETA: Now with Photos!
These Idol road trips always have their ups and downs…
The downside–I missed my early flight Tuesday morning by 5 minutes and had to catch a later flight. And yesterday, it was a hot windy day in Phoenix. Walking outside was like walking into a furnace. As I was closing the car door, on my way to the concert, the wind grabbed the car door out of my hands and the door smacked the car next to me. Argh. Sorrow.
The upside: I meet Big Blog reader Colleen who is tres cool. We had dinner before the concert. She was wearing a David Cook T-shirt that she got online, and the peeps sitting at a nearby table wanted to know where she got it. The line to get into the arena was long. Longest line ever! They were carefully searching bags as we entered. A family sitting in front of me had signs, which they annoyingly held up much to the distress of people sitting behind them. People behind me were screaming “Put down your signs!” The guy sitting next to me was wearing an Archie Angels shirt and taking a lot of pictures. He left his seat and got close to the stage at the end. Security had a hard time keeping the aisles clear near the stage.
Videos on the Big screen before the show: Lots of Blake Lewis and Jordin Sparks. At intermission, there was a hilarious video of the Top 10 dressed in retro 70’s outfits rocking out to “An American Band.” (Watch here)
Product placement was more aggressive than ever before. “Guitar Hero” had a demonstration during intermission, with two staffers playing the game up on stage. The winner was determined by audience applause. There was an OTT MC type of guy running the show. A kid played air guitar on the big screen and won a Guitar Hero game. The MC guy (who was all decked out in Idol apparel) introduced the dancing pop-tarts before the show began. The crew was wearing State Farm insurance logos–guess they are a sponsor too.
The Idols were introduced by a pre-recorded voice over announcing what place they came in, as huge photos flashed up on the screen. For some reason, there is a lot of emphasis on what place each Idol placed in this year. Really, the show is kind of rigid like that. Don’t get me wrong, there were some great performances, but I was hoping for a few more surprises than I actually got. The Idols were introduced, played 3 songs, and then left the stage. David Archuleta sang 4 songs. David Cook sang 5. After Brooke White performed, she introduced a video pitching IGB, then all of the Idols who performed in the first half–Chikezie, Ramiele, Michael, Kristy Lee, Carly and Brooke performed U2’s “Pride in the Name of Love”.
There were no duets, and I have to say that I missed them. Some of those numbers were the highlight of the Season 5 show (“Patience” with Ace, Chris, Elliott and Bucky, and the Elliott and Chris duet). The Idols all mentioned in early interviews that there would be duets and trios, and I wonder why TPTB decided to scrap them? The Season 6 show featured TONS of duets and group numbers–they had a lot more to rehearse than the Season 7 kids.
Chikezie begins the show with a very soulful set. His version of “I Believe to My Soul” is slowed down, a bit different from his version on Idol. Next is a song called “Caught Up”, I believe.. and finally John Legend’s, “So High”. Very very nice.
Ramiele Malubay is the weak link in the show. She performs her first number, “I Want You Back” with the background vocalists who leave their perch next to the band to perform a few choreographed steps with her. As always, Ramie is as cute as a button, but the big stage swallows her up, and she is quite pitchy throughout her performances, which include “Love Will Lead You Back” and “If I Never See Your Face Again”.
Michael Johns appears next to the first huge cheers of the night. He begins with Queen’s “We Are the Champions/We Will Rock You” and does a slow burn with the sexy “It’s All Wrong, But It’s All Right”. He ends with “Dream On” which he introduces as the song that got him kicked off the show. “But I don’t think it will get me kicked off the tour.” he says. Oh hell no, it won’t. The song kills, KILLS. It literally fills the big arena. “Dream On” should NOT have ended his run on the show. How did that happen? The audience loves it. They are on their feet screaming as he finishes. Michael is working it, baby.
Also working it–Kristy Lee Cook, who is surprisingly adept at working the big arena stage. She begins the set with “Squeezing the Love out of You”, a song I don’t know. She throws t-shirts out into the audience. Free stuff. YAY! She gives her next song the proper patriotic introduction (blah blah troops blah blah) and gets folks in the audience (uhm, not me) waving their hands during “God Bless the USA”. She’s gorgeous and sexy on stage–shaking her booty before she launches into her third number, “Cowgirls”. Her country vibe feels authentic. She’s not going to have a problem when she begins touring to promote her album this fall.
Carly Smithson puts that big ole voice of hers to work last night. She begins her set with “Bring me to Life”. She appears dramatically at the top of the stage, with a wind machine whipping up her hair as she shakes her head around. It’s a very diva-like entrance, and I mean that in a good way. She begins her next number, “Crazy on You”, kneeling on the floor, finishing the song on her feet, in high gear. The mid-tempo “Drove All Night” ends a very theatrical set. Carly has a big presence on stage to match that huge voice.
Carly introduces Brooke White, calling her, “The whitest girl I know”. Ha. Curly-coiffed Brooke begins at the piano, performing a heartfelt “Let it Be”. Her set isn’t dramatic, but she holds her own in that big room. Brooke is like a big ball of sunshine, her warmth and sincerity radiates throughout the entire arena. Her song selections are my favorites of the night. Her intimate takes on the current hits “1234” and “Yellow” prove her mettle as a contemporary artist. Brooke has gotta get signed! Her performance exceeds my already high expectations.
Before intermission, Chikezie, Ramiele, Michael, Kristy Lee, Carly and Brooke perform U2’s “Pride in the Name Of Love” as a group. That’s the last time we see them until the very end of the show.
After the intermission, it’s Jason Castros’s turn. He opens his set with “Over the Rainbow”. About 1/3rd of the way through, a roadie walks over to him as he strums away on his Ukulele and casually plugs it into the amp. Jason doesn’t miss a beat, though. Very funny! Finally, the audience gets to hear the unheard “Crazy”. His slightly Latin take of the song does not disappoint. He finishes with a breezy “Daydream”. Sweet. (ETA: Sweet = Awesome. Jason’s gentle set pleased the audience, most definitely)
A glammed up Syesha Mercado takes the stage to perform the mega-hit “Umbrella”. She’s got some choreography mixed in there with the background singers. She engages in a bit of vocal sparing with the back up dude. If the Idol producers had cared about her, they would have gotten the rights to “Umbrella”, instead of that 2nd rate penguin crap for Top 3 night. After she performs a glittery “If I Ain’t Got You” from the show, she introduces her last number “Listen” with a heartfelt speech. That the song means something to her is obvious, she sings it with a ton of feeling.
Next up, David Archuleta. I don’t think he could have been more excited to finally be performing in front of a live audience. Watching him sing, it becomes apparent how much he really loves performing. A look of pure joy flashes across his face as he gets lost in the moment. David emerges from underneath the stage playing a baby grand, singing “Angels” into a huge cloud of stage smoke. It’s all very other-worldly. Next, David’s lovely falsetto highlights a credible version of the contemporary hit “Apologize”. The crowd cheers as David introduces “Stand By Me”. It’s slightly re-arranged, with a longer, faster clip of “Beautiful Girls” tagged on at the end. His last song is his best, I think–a very beautiful rendition of “When You Say You Love Me.”
Archie introduces David Cook who takes the stage, guitar in hand, to a big effin’ rock star entrance, replete with flashing lights and long instrumental intro. A smoldering “Hello” starts off the set with a slow build. Before his next number, “Time of My Life”, David thanks the audience for making it so popular. It’s Magic Rainbows for everybody! Ok, sorry, I’m still not digging this song, but I won’t hold it against him, cause he sings the hell out of it. David keeps repeating phrases like “wow” and “this is awesome”. He seems a little awed and overwhelmed by the crowd, while seeming to completely dig the whole scene. “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” mellows the set out a bit, before shifting into overdrive with “My Hero”. Before the performance, David shares some good news with the crowd–that his brother Adam’s tumor is no longer growing. Good news, indeed. The crowd erupts into loud cheers. He thanks everybody, “I couldn’t have done it without you.” The hard-driving “Hero” is the centerpiece of the set, giving David the opportunity to work the entire stage during the extended instrumental break. The arena goes dark as David leaves the stage.
In a few minutes, David is back to perform a powerful “Billie Jean” for his encore. The other Idols return for a final group number, “Please Don’t Stop the Music.” In a night that was light on group numbers, the show ends in a big giant pointy pose. Yay. As the song ends, streamers fall from the ceiling. The cleaning staff is going to have fun with that! Heh. Still, pretty cool. Like our own mini finale! The Idols leave the stage one last time, and that’s it. And for me, too. I am exhausted. I head back to the hotel…