WARNING!: If you are looking forward to reading a novella on the wonders of all things Adam Lambert and how he brings the world together and cures it of AIDS, cancer, sadness and poverty all with one flamboyant fell swoop ‘ you’ll need to go elsewhere.
However, if you can stomach to read something bordering on objective, something that lacks any overt gushing about Adam L. Christ, then continue on. For you desperate for a concert review that isn’t 15 percent song rundown and 85 percent Adam’s physiological effect on the entire world, you’ve come to the right place.
So now, for the three of you still reading …
Obligatory Intro: Hi.
Obligatory Background: Male. Too old to try out for Idol. Too young to really remember Michael Jackson’s heyday. Proud Arkansan ‘ did my share of the 38 million votes on Finale night. Voted for Kris. Also voted for Matt and Anoop at various points in the season. Was looking forward to watching them, Allison, Adam and maybe even a little Danny and Sarver. Was looking forward to seeing Megan, though not necessarily listening to her. Didn’t have much hope for Scott or Lil.
Got into the show for the first time during Season 7 when I saw an iguana-haired dude rocking some Bon Jovi in auditions, and by the time the dreadlocked guy did “If I Fell”, I was fully invested. Fortunately David Cook and Jason Castro had strong runs in the show, and the hook was set.
That led me to watching Season 8 from the outset. And, it ultimately led me to Memphis, for my first American Idols Live tour and for my first indoor concert in Memphis since Bob Dylan and Paul Simon played The Pyramid about a decade ago.
Knew in advance about the looped videos, so made sure to not get into my seat until right at 7 ‘ leaving about 10-15 minutes until the show actually got underway. Got settled in to my front row terrace-level seats that allowed me to have nobody in front of (or, as it turned out, behind) me, and being close to the stage on the side kept me from being forced to stare at the seizure-inducing screen. Thank God.
I’ll get into the individual recaps and my takes on those along with some rankings later on. But for now, some general comments about the show…
‘ Place was a lot emptier than I had anticipated. The place seats a little over 18, 000 for basketball, but with the concert setup I would guess is more like 15k. There was a lot of empty real estate in the upper deck. I’d guess maybe 11k in the house.
‘ Crowd was good, if not a little reserved, it seemed. There was cheering, dancing, and waving of arms, phones and glowsticks, but there was nothing over the top. Which was fine by me, as I’d rather hear performances than incessant screaming as morons try to become a spectacle unto themselves and see if they can shriek loudest in the building ‘ since that obviously earns you a date and maybe marriage and a child or 12 with the Idol of your choice.
But for the most part, at least within my earshot, nobody seemed determined to sustain an ear-piercing shriek through an entire song. Thank you, Memphis.
‘ The band can straight-up get after it. They’re good. I want them to play at my wedding. And I want the sound guy to make sure they drown out my mother-in-law.
‘ There was a guy in red pants on the floor dancing his ass off. I was a little concerned, because from my vantage point he sort of had that Chris Farley/John Belushi/Gary Busey “cocaine sweat” glow to him.
‘ After hearing the show live, I will no longer listen to anything about so-and-so’s music not being suited to the big arena. None of them are up there with an acoustic guitar and no backing band singing Kumbaya or going to town on a banjo singing … whatever people with banjos sing. Maybe just dueling banjos.
Each and every one of them can do arena-style shows. Now, not all of them could carry one or individually even warrant having one as they wouldn’t draw that type of crowd (Yeeeeah … Scott by his lonesome playing to 18, 000? Don’t see it.), but they all sound just fine. They’ve got a band, they’ve got big voices, and they’ve got GIANT-ASS SPEAKERS. You could fart into a microphone in there and the people at the top row would hear it fine.
The Eagles play football stadiums, and they aren’t exactly Queen. And hell, Barbara Streisand once had 150, 000 people cram into Central Park to either hear her sing or make an assassination attempt.
‘ The show is long but doesn’t seem it at all. The intermission could be cut in half to 10 minutes, but I guess that’d slice into merchandise sales so that won’t be happening. I could’ve used another hour of performance.
‘ For those keeping score at home ‘ as far as I could tell the undergarment tossing was non-existent, Adam sang “woman” during Whole Lotta Love, and Anoop didn’t have his glasses. I actually think he may have been wearing something a little different than usual. Can anybody confirm that or tell me I’m a blind idiot? If he was indeed dressed differently, is he the only person to have any change in their wardrobe? I bet Megan’s feet are going to be ready for the tour to be over.
‘ A lot of recappers/reviewers have mentioned the background screen being a distraction. From my vantage point, it wasn’t a big deal. What I did notice, though, was that all too often some of the white lights shone directly on the performers looked like it was a pattern torn directly off an Affliction t-shirt. And those shirts irritate the hell out of me.
But what didn’t irritate me was the performers, all of whom I enjoyed in their own way and to varying degrees. And now, onto reviewing their individual sets…
Set Rankings (with group performances factored in)
1. Matt ‘ Simply unbelievable. Had pretty high expectations heading in and he still managed to exceed them. His vocal control since the show has improved exponentially, and he’s unreal on the keys. I won’t go as far as to say unrivaled, but I can’t think of who I’d rather listen to on the piano.
He’s quite the showman ‘ he gets up and moves around and even though it’s pretty much the same moves each show (from what I’ve gathered via YouTube) it still feels authentic. “Hard to Handle” was the best song of the night for me, and he & Scott on “Tell Her About it” was far better than I had anticipated even after watching it on YouTube from previous shows. “Georgia” was simple and fantastic as always, and the spirited rendition of “You Found Me” was better than what I remember from the show or previous studio recording.
But the biggest thing was the vocal control. Too often, it got away from him on the show, but he seems to have harnessed it. Put that with his showman skills and you’ve got a certified winner. I don’t know how he could make it through this tour without getting signed. He’s too good not to.
2. Kris ‘ Vocally, Kris is as pleasing to the ear as anybody on the tour. He doesn’t have Adam’s range, Matt’s riffs, or Danny’s raw power, but he’s got this great, rich tone and excellent control. The voice is much more full than how it might come across on TV, and he steadily delivers on every song. If Matt gives you a 10 on “Hard to Handle”, Kris is basically bringing out five straight 9s with his set.
That he plays a variety of instruments well, sings great and has the much-stated emotional connection with the music makes it a really, really enjoyable set. If you’re the type who is looking to jump around and gyrate in some crazy frenzied fashion, then the Kris Allen show probably isn’t your cup of Red Bull. But it’s far away from being an anti-climax, or a bore or drag or coffee-shop stuff or anything like that. It’s more bob-your-head than wiggle-your-hips, but it’s quality music at a high level.
He gets tagged with the Jason Mraz-type “singer/songwriter” label (what, exactly, is a singer/songwriter anyway? James Hetfield of Metallica is a singer/songwriter. Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, same deal. David Cook. Ne-Yo. Etc.) but if he likes playing with the full band as he is on the tour, he could definitely do something more in the vein of what he’s doing now, more pop/rock stuff and less acoustic, “might be good for a coffee shop or small bar” type stuff. He does great with the Matchbox 20 and Killers stuff, so he wouldn’t have any problem going that route if he so chose. I actually think he’d excel.
The stage presence/crowd interaction part he could maybe stand to improve a little. He really showed it in Little Rock from what I can tell. He gets into playing the instruments, which is wonderful, but a lot of people want to be talked to more at a show. Hopefully he’ll grow into it. But hey, if not … George Strait has done just fine sitting on a stool his whole career.
3. Allison ‘ A lot of people who have done reviews on this site have talked about how much of a letdown it is and how tough it must be for Kris to have to follow Adam. While I didn’t find that to be the case, I did almost feel sorry for Danny having to take the stage after both Matt and Allison. Thank God for the too-long intermission, so he’s not just right on the heels of Matt too. But following Allison is a tough gig.
I, like a large portion of the viewing audience, got a little tired of hearing “16-year-old” before her name every time during the season. But having seen her in person … what comes out of her is incredible for any woman, period ‘ but yes, it’s definitely not something you expect out of a 17 year-old. Maybe a 33 year-old. With emphysema. I swear, her voice is so rough and raspy that I honestly wonder how long she can sing like that until her voice is shot. She looks like she’s going to strain until her head explodes or her bowels come tumbling out. But it sure does sound fantastic … when you can understand her. That would be my lone complaint.
And she has enough stage presence (and somehow, enough energy for it) for the rest of the crew combined. She’s a black and fuschia ball of fury running all over the stage. I am somewhat surprised she doesn’t smash anything during her performance. She’s going to break many guitars before her career is over. And that’ll probably be a long time from now. She’s something else. Looks like a seasoned rocker out there already.
4. Anoop ‘ He was one I was really looking forward to seeing live. Early in the season I’d been turned onto the Clef Hangers videos, so heading into the Top 36 I had already seen enough of ‘Noop Dogg to be a big fan and have high hopes. Though the season had its ups and downs for him, I think he’s doing a fine job of making a name for himself on tour. Whether that translates into getting a crack at making a record remains to be seen, but I think he’s got it.
Nobody on that tour can touch him on ballads. He’s got such a velvety voice, which is particularly impressive on “Always On My Mind”. He’s really good on “Mad” as well. “My Prerogative” is good and fun, and I would award him the Silver medal in Dancing (behind Adam, of course. Commence getting gooey in your pants), but that’s not really his strong suit. But hey, I guess nobody wants to sit around and listen to a full show of ballads.
I also liked what he did in Beggin’.
He came across as really personable and fun-loving. In all, a strong showing. Wish he had more songs. Hearing Lil do “Be Without You” reminded me that Anoop did it with the Clefs, and might do it better.
5. Adam ‘ If there was any one performer who fell short of expectations, it was Adam. Of course, it was no fault of his own. The bar had been set so ridiculously high by everybody from the American Idol judges, to the media, to the segment of his fanbase that is crazy and irrational, that there was no way the guy could come out and leave you saying “WOW!!! OH MY GOD THEY WERE RIGHT!!!” whilst wiping away the drool and baby batter.
“Whole Lotta Love” was phenomenal. Fannnnntastic. I could listen to it every night for a year and enjoy it each and every time. But did it change my life? Did it turn me into a puddle of glittery goo? No. It was an awesome performance of an awesome song, and that’s about it. I thought Matt’s “Hard to Handle” was better.
But yes, Adam is incredible. Awesome singer, and knows how to work a mic stand. But I just don’t see him as any more incredible than Matt, Kris or Allison. More glamorous, indeed. More bombastic and showy and all that ‘ yes. So if that’s your bag, then Adam Lambert is the guy for you.
“Starlight” was nothing to write home about. “Mad World” was fine (the one crazy note at the end of the “look right through me” line was pretty awesome) but didn’t do as much for me having seen him do it twice on the show and then also with the little girl to my left screaming along word-for-word. The Bowie Medley wasn’t one of my favorites. “Let’s Dance” was the only part I could get into at all.
Dude’s good, but I guess I just can’t get connected with this supposed magical element to what he does.
6. Danny ‘ “I feel like I’m in church. He’s making me feel like I’m about to go to hell for having this beer in my hand. Oh God and now he’s singing Rascal Flatts?!? I am going to throw up.” — Girl sitting to my right. She cracked me up.
I didn’t feel as much like I was in church, but more like I was sitting in the auditorium in elementary school listening to the Power Hour guys give me a motivational, inspirational speech before they started crushing cinder blocks all over the place.
Danny came out strong with P.Y.T., which I really liked. He peaked there, however. “Maria, Maria” was nice ‘ but I was most impressed that he’s finally started inserting the actual guitarist’s name where the original has Carlos Santana. It bugged me that he was saying Santana since, you know, it wasn’t Santana back there playing. I couldn’t actually understand the name, but it sure wasn’t Carlos. So thank you, Danny.
I couldn’t even be too put off by the goofy salsa dancing. It was fun in a “look at the puppy chase its tail” kind of way.
He’s improved his breathing on “What Hurts The Most” to where he can actually handle the song now. It was palatable. I’d listen to it again. “My Wish” … meh. Maybe my biggest problem with it ‘ aside from the breathy, talky beginning ‘ is that some dude with big undone black leather boots with the jeans tucked in, and a chain hanging from them, is bellowing an inspirational country song at me. Just doesn’t work. Much like Rascal Flatts, Danny Gokey is better heard than seen.
And no, I cannot buy him as a country artist. Just ain’t gonna work. Dude’s about as country as matzah balls. But nice ongoing audition with the two-song Rascal Flatts set. Maybe he should drop “Maria, Maria” and replace it with “If Tomorrow Never Comes” or something.
7. Scott ‘ Stiff. Robotic. Nasally. Those were the three words I would’ve used to describe Scott following his run on the show. To me, those three characteristics far outweighed being blind. I wasn’t a fan, at all. Also thought he was a bit full of himself.
And while I’m still not sold on the last part, after seeing him in person at the Memphis show I can definitively say the stiff, robotic, nasally Scott from the show is gone. He’s gotten some fantastic vocal coaching the last couple months, I guess. “Bend and Break” wasn’t a great song, but he sang it well. And that alone was a surprise.
Then he went into his jokes, and even though I’d heard about them from all the recaps on here, it still sort of felt like I was hearing it for the first time (technically, I guess I was). It was nice concert banter. The people around me, who hadn’t seen videos or knew ahead of time what was coming, loved it. Good for Scott. I was happy for the guy.
Then he did “A Thousand Miles” and I was caught totally off-guard at just how good it was. He’s a fine piano player and his singing has really come around and I’d go see a Scott MacIntyre solo show. I wouldn’t pay a whole lot to do it, but I’d like to see him banging away on the ivories and singing for more than just two or three songs.
Also thought he was fantastic with Matt on “Tell Her About It” during the first-half medley deal. One of my favorite moments of the night.
8. Sarver ‘ A close second to Scott for people who sound the most improved from what they did on the show. He was good at getting the crowd going, and sang his two songs with a lot of gusto and energy, and sang them well. No doubt he’s a simple, fun-lovin’ good ol’ boy with a nice soulful voice that he’s getting control of. I think he could be a big country hit. He can’t get that twang out of his voice, and he’s country as corn, so that’s where he needs to be. You can be bluesy and have a little R&B flair to you, do uptempo country stuff. I could see Sarver killing at that. I was thoroughly impressed with him. I’d like to see him again sometime. And I’m sure I’ll get to ‘ at Chico’s Bail Bonds, Bar, Grill & Lounge. If he doesn’t get a major label deal, he’ll at least hopefully bounce around the bar scene around the South for awhile.
9. Lil ‘ Hometown crowd popped a little (no pun intended), but the roar paled in comparison to that of the entire Top 5. If that was a nice reception for her, then I feel sorry for her for what she gets most nights. It was loud … for a second. Got to take the wind out of the sails seeing Kris’ homecoming show the night before and he can’t start singing for three full minutes while the crowd goes nuts, and then you’re out there getting a rousing 10-second ovation from your city.
Anyway, Lil can sing ‘ no doubt about that. But there’s just no real connection. Nothing unique, nothing personal, nothing that says “I’m watching Lil Rounds”. Except maybe her ass.
Where Anoop is doing an Elvis/Willie Nelson song, Kris is doing a Kanye song, Sarver is doing Ne-Yo, Scott’s trotting out some Vanessa Carlton, Matt’s doing three different genres in a row, etc., Lil is just coming out and doing songs exactly like you’d pick out for her and there’s no way for her to put her stamp on it. So yeah, it’s good while she’s out there, but 20 minutes later it’s not really with you anymore. Vocally, she’s fantastic. She’s just not a great show.
10. Megan ‘ Probably third behind Scott and Sarver for how much better she sounded than I expected. “Put Your Records On” was really good. Not just good for Megan, but just good in general. She went off the rails on the show, but again must’ve been undergoing some vocal coaching since then because she showed good range, didn’t miss notes, and sounded good. The Winehouse song wasn’t bad either, even though it’s not my thing.
But yeah, she’s more than a really, really pretty face and a big tattoo. I don’t remember her cawing either, though she may have. But yeah, I was pleasantly surprised. Except for when the giant Nick-at-Nite commercial background started playing behind her. Could’ve done without that.
Ten Favorite Song Performances:
1. Matt – Hard To Handle
2. Adam – Whole Lotta Love
3. Matt & Scott – Tell Her About It
4. Kris – Bright Lights
5. Anoop – Always On My Mind
6. Kris – All These Things That I’ve Done
7. Matt – Georgia
8. Allison – So What
9. Scott – A Thousand Miles
10. Matt – You Found Me
Honorable Mention: Kris – Hey Jude, Anoop – Mad, Danny – PYT, Lil – Be Without You, Kris – Heartless
Backgrounds That I Laughed At:
1. Megan’s pink Nick-At-Nite setup
2. The “pipes” screensaver. Can’t remember who had that.
3. The screensaver they gave Adam for starlight. I used to use that on my Packard Bell back in the 90s all the time.
4. Angelic Anoop.
5. The fittingly karaoke “Single Ladies” backdrop for Lil. What kind of pressure is that, having the words displayed 25 ft. tall behind you? If you flub up, the whole arena knows it. If they can read.
6. On “My Wish” when Danny had the trees with the sunlight poring through them, and then a bright, haloed figure appeared out of the woods, holding a collection plate in one hand and a set of designer eyeglasses in the other.
7. The one behind Scott that said “HE CAN’T SEE THIS! LOLZ!” and had a down arrow.
Okay maybe I made those last two up.
And now I’ll end it abruptly.