Check out RemusL’s extensive list of videos at the end of the recap!
The intro to my narrative is kind of longwinded, so those who are only interested in the concert itself can skip the next 5 paragraphs and get to the even longer-winded concert review itself.
This year will mark my second ever American Idol summer tour concert. I would have gone to a season 5 concert (with Elliott, Taylor, Daughtry and company) if that tour had scheduled a stop in my neck of the woods, but alas, American Idol skipped Canada that year. Attending last year’s concert, headlined by the Davids at Air Canada Centre in downtown Toronto was a no-brainer for me. Though I really only liked 6 of the top 10 during season 7, surprisingly I found myself thoroughly enjoying everyone’s performances.
When season 8 started, I had no idea whether it would capture my attention in the same way as those two past seasons. I was hopeful that my preliminary favourite Anoop would make the top 10 and had heard some of the early buzz around this musical theatre guy named Adam Lambert. By the time a new champion was crowned, I had been captivated yet again by another AI season, purchased my first AI studio tracks off iTunes and committed myself to another summer concert.
I have no idea why this year’s concert venue was shifted from Air Canada Centre in Toronto to Copps Coliseum in Hamilton. It’s further south and more accessible to the rest of southern Ontario and Buffalo, New York, so that might have been a consideration. Hamilton is a 45 minute drive southwest of Toronto but since I’m coming from north of Toronto, that actually translates to 90 minutes of travel time. No problemo, I thought. I’ll just book off work early, pick up my friend C (a fellow Idol fan) and we’ll easily beat the rush hour traffic.
That was the plan anyway as we head out Friday afternoon in the sweltering heat with the A/C going full blast. Toronto highway traffic was busy but everything was moving well. We stopped off at a Mississauga sushi restaurant along the way and had a nice early supper (and really late lunch). At that point, my Google maps printout told me we had a short 39 km drive to reach Copps Coliseum. It even helpfully informed us it would take 28 minutes to complete this trip. There was the expected heavier traffic from folks headed off to the Niagara region or Buffalo for a weekend forecasted with good weather but once we took the exit to Hamilton, it became apparent a few thousand other AI fans were traveling the same route as us. The last 4 km took over half an hour to complete and we ended up missing Michael Sarver’s set and Megan’s first song. As with previous years, the performers appeared in reverse order of their elimination from the Idol competition.
Up to this point, I had avoided watching most of the tour videos on YouTube so I could have a ‘fresh’ concert experience. However, I did take a peek at a couple of mj’s videos; I had read that she has the same camera model as me, a Canon S5 IS, so I wanted to see if it took ok videos. Now I understand mj had seats very near to the stage at her concert. Our seats were in the lower bowl, off to the right of the stage, a bit closer to the stage than last year. Even so I still needed to use my full 12x optical zoom and to get a close up, I needed to engage the digital zoom. At that level of zoom, the slightest hand movements on my part resulted in more exaggerated shakiness on camera, even with continuous image stabilization, as you can see in the accompanying videos.
We arrived at the doors of Copps Coliseum as Megan Joy was taking the stage to sing her first song, a cover of Corinne Bailey Rae’s Put Your Records On. I didn’t get a good listen to it so I can’t comment on her performance. Her second song was Tears Dry On Their Own (made famous by Amy Winehouse). I thought it was a good fit for Megan’s quirky vocals and she did a good job.
Next up was Scott MacIntyre, who made a dramatic entrance rising up through the floor of the stage, playing a baby grand piano. Flash bulbs were madly going off all around the darkened arena as the audience gave Scott a really enthusiastic welcome. Keane’s Bend & Break and Vanessa Carlton’s A Thousand Miles were good song choices for him and his voice seemed fuller, richer and definitely more confident than when I heard him on Idol. In his patter between songs, Scott told his Seacrest high-five joke and took a stab at a Simon Cowell impression. There was loud applause when he mentioned he had lived in Oakville (a town situated between Toronto and Hamilton) for several years as a child and that on this return trip, he just had to get his fix of Timmy’s coffee (Tim Hortons). Two thoughts come to mind for me: 1) Scott drank coffee as a child? 2) Tim Hortons coffee really isn’t very good but being a Canadian institution (though owned by the American Wendy’s chain), mentioning it will guarantee cheers.
Lil Rounds was up next singing some Mary J. Blige (Be Without You / Just Fine), Alicia Keys (No One) and Beyonc (Single Ladies). R&B is definitely her strength and she moved about the stage very well. If her song choices and performances on Idol were more like this, she might have lasted longer in the competition. Then again, I wouldn’t know who she could have beaten out of those who finished ahead of her.
My pre-season fave Anoop Desai’s set was all too short. I thought his voice was as smooth as buttah and his set well-paced, going from slow ballad (Willie Nelson’s Always On My Mind) to mid-tempo (Ne-Yo’s Mad) and up-tempo (Bobby Brown’s My Prerogative). While he sometimes seemed tentative during his Idol performances, here he took full command of the stage and even showed off some Lambert-esque hip swivels to an appreciative audience.
Matt Giraud wasn’t one of my favourites during the Idol season, probably due to a combination of inconsistent performances and so-so song choices. He seemed an entirely different person in this concert and my reactions could probably be summarized as follows: OMG! Wow! Where was this guy during the season? Night and day… Didn’t expect this… Matt rocked the arena with the Black Crowes’ Hard To Handle, then followed with solid versions of Ray Charles’ Georgia On My Mind and The Fray’s You Found Me. If the producers of the off-Broadway musical Million Dollar Quartet (http://www.milliondollarquartetlive.com) are looking for an alternate or understudy for Levi Kreis (who plays the role of Jerry Lee Lewis), Matt Giraud deserves serious consideration.
The first half closed with a medley of songs performed by the 6th through 10th place finishers. Megan and Lil started off with a duet cover of Frankie Valli’s Can’t Take My Eyes Off You that just didn’t appeal to me. Thankfully, this was the only major misstep in the entire concert and it was mercifully brief. Next, Matt and Scott took centre stage ‘ literally ‘ with a pair of dueling pianos to perform Billy Joel’s Tell Her About It, the duet that was inexcusably cut from the season 8 Idol finale so there would be time to show more of Bikini Girl and Tatiana. After seeing the guys in action, I’m even angrier at what the Idol producers did. Michael Sarver was up next with a smooth version of Suspicious Minds, made famous by Elvis Presley. Michael really has a wonderful voice and I’m bummed out that I missed his two earlier songs. The centrepiece of this medley was without a doubt the cover of The Four Seasons’ Beggin’. Anoop opened the song in style at the back of the stage, then joined Matt, Scott and Michael at the front for some Jersey Boys co-ordinated maneuvers. After each guy sang in sequence, Lil and Anoop did a couple of verses in rap before the big finale with all six lined up on stage. It was an awesome performance of a great arrangement, deserving of being recorded and made available as an iTunes tour video download.
The second half opened with Allison Iraheta rocking out on her electric guitar, covering Pink’s So What, Janis Joplin’s Cry Baby and Heart’s Barracuda. My friend C thought Allison sounded the best of everyone on that night and there’s no doubt her voice was in top form. Though she may have said in recent interviews that she ‘hated’ having to sing the same few songs over and over, that sentiment didn’t seem to affect the quality of her performance at all. I did think she unnecessarily fanned the flames of partisanship a bit by deliberately invoking the names of Danny, Adam and Kris in sequence, which got the crowd cheering for their favourites.
Sporting black combat boots and a pseudo military-style jacket, Danny Gokey started his set with one of his best songs from Idol – Michael Jackson’s P.Y.T. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one wondering if he had been getting some wardrobe tips from Adam. I wasn’t familiar with his second song, Santana’s Maria Maria, but I thought it really suited his voice and he did a great job. He followed that with a fine cover of Mark Wills’ What Hurts The Most (made famous by Rascal Flatts). Of course, it wouldn’t be Danny without some inspirational talk. He made oblique reference to losing his wife mere weeks before auditioning for Idol last year and talked about not letting bad things affect one still reaching for his/her dreams and goals. His short motivational speech segued into a powerful rendition of Rascal Flatts’ My Wish.
When the big central screen started flashing images of Adam Lambert, the decibels in the arena ramped up exponentially in anticipation of his entrance. There’s not much more to say about Adam’s showmanship that hasn’t already been said dozens of times in other reviews. His mini set stood out in stark contrast to everyone else’s in the same way his performances did on Idol. He clearly planned out every last detail in his performances, from the song arrangements, costumes and stage movements to the light show, background video images and fog machine (which gave my camera’s autofocus mechanism a bit of a workout).
Adam opened with blistering cover of the Led Zeppelin classic, Whole Lotta Love, which established a high energy tone that remained even through the slow songs to follow. Midway through WLL, someone threw a soft, torpedo-shaped object at him, striking him on the knee. He took one look at it and promptly kicked it back into the audience. Just before his next song, Adam thanked fans for their gifts but asked that they not be thrown at him. Someone claiming to know the person who tossed the item said it was a ‘stuffed penis’ . I presume that means the plush kind of toy and not the latex kind.
I don’t want to get too much into how appropriate it is to throw underwear and sex toys on stage at an AI concert other than to say that any child in attendance who actually recognizes what the items are surely don’t need their parents to explain things to them. Personally, I think people should stop throwing things on stage, more because I’m concerned someone might slip on something and fall off the stage or into the pit than for moral reasons. After all, this is the same tv show that’s sending the message that it’s ok to mock and humiliate others to get cheap laughs, that it’s hilarious when people swear (as long as it’s bleeped out, even though you know exactly what they’re saying), that in 2009, it’s still acceptable to objectify women (e.g. Bikini girl) for amusement and ratings. The same show where guest artist Flo Rida sang to all the AI kiddies about the joys of oral sex. So a few bras and a stuffed penis would seem par for the course.
As I was listening to Adam’s second song, Muse’s Starlight, which I had recently heard him sing on Good Morning America, I wondered if my ears were playing tricks on me. Frankly, it sounded like he was on helium. The effect wasn’t quite as noticeable during his covers of Tears For Fears’ Mad World and the David Bowie medley (Life On Mars / Fame / Let’s Dance) and not at all during his duet with Allison on Foghat’s Slow Ride. My friend C and I both thought the Copps Coliseum sound system wasn’t as good as the one in the Air Canada Centre last year but when I later reviewed my recordings at home, the audio was actually quite good. The only explanation I have is that the unbelievable level of high-pitched screaming from the Adam fans must have adversely affected my hearing temporarily. C was also a bit disappointed in Adam’s vocals overall. I thought that was in reference to ‘helium voice’ but once my hearing had returned to normal at home, I could discern some definite hoarseness in his singing, especially during the slow songs. After reading online reports that he was suffering from laryngitis, I can certainly understand why he avoided reaching for those extra high notes. Even sick, he still managed to put on a great show.
There was no way Kris Allen could top the showy extravagance of Adam’s set. Instead, he very smartly opened with Kanye West’s Heartless, the song that helped propel him to victory. He followed that with a high energy cover of The Killers’ All These Things That I’ve Done, otherwise known as the song for which No Boundaries was dumped. He reprised Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine from the tv show and it was every bit as a good as the first time I heard it. Heartless may have been the song that put Kris in the finale but Ain’t No Sunshine in Top 9 week was the first time I think I really took notice of him as a legitimate contender. For his cover of Matchbox Twenty’s Bright Lights, Kris introduced something new for the fans ‘ a mean electric guitar solo at the end. He closed his set with C’s favourite Beatles song, Hey Jude. Overall, I thought his vocals were quite strong and he showed off his musicianship, going from acoustic guitar to electric guitar to piano to electric guitar again and finally back to acoustic guitar. I suspect one day, he might even find a way to work in his viola too.
The grand finale was a rousing reprise of the Top 9 week group song, Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing. All in all, it was a thoroughly enjoyable concert and the 3 hours went by very quickly. C wanted to meet some of the Idols at the barricades but once we got outside and saw the huge crowd waiting for them, we decided to start the long trek back home instead. Since this recap has gone one long enough already, I won’t bore you with the details of our getting lost on the highways outside of Hamilton (heading towards Niagara instead of Toronto) or the major traffic jam at midnight on Canada’s widest highway due to road repairs. We maintained our good mood from the concert by listening to season 8 studio recordings on the drive home.
C’s favourite of the night was Allison. I liked too many performances to pick just one. Standouts for me included Mad (Anoop), Hard To Handle (Matt), Tell Her About It (Matt & Scott), Beggin’, Barracuda (Allison), Maria Maria (Danny), Whole Lotta Love (Adam), Starlight (Adam), Slow Ride (Adam & Allison), All These Things That I’ve Done (Kris) and Bright Lights (Kris).
My concert videos:
Megan Joy – Tears Dry On Their Own – AI8 Tour – Hamilton
Scott MacIntyre – Bend & Break – AI8 Tour – Hamilton
Scott MacIntyre – A Thousand Miles – AI8 Tour – Hamilton
Lil Rounds – Be Without You / Just Fine – AI8 Tour ‘ Hamilton
Lil Rounds – No One – AI8 Tour ‘ Hamilton
Lil Rounds – Single Ladies – AI8 Tour – Hamilton
Anoop Desai – Always On My Mind – AI8 Tour – Hamilton
Anoop Desai – Mad – AI8 Tour – Hamilton
Anoop Desai – My Prerogative – AI8 Tour – Hamilton
Matt Giraud – Hard To Handle – AI8 Tour ‘ Hamilton
Matt Giraud – Georgia On My Mind – AI8 Tour ‘ Hamilton
Matt Giraud – You Found Me – AI8 Tour ‘ Hamilton
AI8 Tour – Beggin’ ‘ Hamilton
Allison Iraheta – So What – AI8 Tour – Hamilton
Allison Iraheta – Cry Baby – AI8 Tour ‘ Hamilton
Allison Iraheta – Barracuda – AI8 Tour ‘ Hamilton
Danny Gokey – P.Y.T. – AI8 Tour ‘ Hamilton
Danny Gokey – Maria Maria – AI8 Tour ‘ Hamilton
Danny Gokey – What Hurts The Most – AI8 Tour ‘ Hamilton
Danny Gokey – My Wish – AI8 Tour ‘ Hamilton
Adam Lambert – Whole Lotta Love – AI8 Tour ‘ Hamilton
Adam Lambert – Starlight – AI8 Tour ‘ Hamilton
Adam Lambert – Mad World – AI8 Tour ‘ Hamilton
Adam Lambert & Allison Iraheta – Slow Ride – AI8 Tour ‘ Hamilton
Adam Lambert – Life On Mars / Fame / Let’s Dance – AI8 Tour ‘ Hamilton
Kris Allen – Heartless – AI8 Tour ‘ Hamilton
Kris Allen – All These Things That I’ve Done – AI8 Tour ‘ Hamilton
Kris Allen – Ain’t No Sunshine – AI8 Tour ‘ Hamilton
Kris Allen – Bright Lights – AI8 Tour ‘ Hamilton
Kris Allen – Hey Jude – AI8 Tour ‘ Hamilton
AI8 Tour – Don’t Stop Believing – AI8 Tour ‘ Hamilton
Here’s a playlist for all 31 videos in order:
Since I was concentrating on recording videos, I didn’t take any photos. However, I was able to capture these screenshots from the vids: http://photobucket.com/AI8Tour-Hamilton