Check out Risalea’s photobucket of concert and after-concert photos HERE.
Hey, y’all. In the way of background, let me start with a little story. Once upon a time, there was a 40 something, church-going, mom, wife, Junior Leaguer, Arkansas school teacher who was a casual American Idol watcher until she fell in love with the singing talent and wit of a guy named Chris Sligh on American Idol Season 6, and started down the slippery slope of Idol mania that had her friends shaking their heads in disbelief. That was me two years ago, and long story short, after he left the show, I found his blog, made some life-long friends, took many concert roadtrips, worked on fan picnics for his Fro Patro and in general, have had a blast. Chris put out a wonderful post AI Christian contemporary album, “Running Back to You”, a hit single called “Empty Me”and a # 1 song written for Rascal Flatts called “Here Comes Goodbye, ” among other accomplishments. He’ll have a “Back to School” tour this fall and a new album coming out next year…watch for them!
Well, after all that, I made a conscious decision for Season 7…I would NOT become so involved in a season of American Idol ever again. It was too time consuming, my husband only has so much patience, and I have a dozen things I’m involved in besides. So, loved that you won, David Cook, but only casual interest from me from now on, yes sir!
Until Season 8….when a talented young man from Arkansas named Kris Allen (Kristopher to his friends and family) slipped into the AI fold with no backstory, no hoopla, no fanfare, just pure, raw talent. I watched him week after week, thinking each time, “if he can only make it to the top ten and go on tour”, or “it would be awesome to get to the top 5” and then, “top 3, so he can have a hometown visit!” And what a visit that was! Before you know it, I was believing (along with LOTS of other folks) that he could make it to the top, and lo and behold, he did. What made it even more fun for those of us in central Arkansas, is that just about everyone has about two degrees of separation from Kris or Katy or both. Either they went to school with them, or taught them, or go to church with them, or went to school with the parents…you get the picture. Even I have a connection…Katy and her siblings went to the school I taught at, and I know her lovely mama. She was the uber school volunteer, back in the day, and now is a stellar teacher.
Anyhoo, that is what brought me to the July 25th American Idol concert in North Little Rock, Arkansas. I went with two of my best friends, Carol and Cindy. They are not as Idol crazed as I, but they are a good support group. : ) Cindy brought her daughter J, and her daughter’s friend, M (another 2 degrees of separation–friend’s sister was Katy’s HS bud and got to attend the after party). BTW–this is my 4th AI concert. To show how this thing has evolved, friend Carol and I went to the show that came to North Little Rock after season 3, and she was given free tickets, in part I think to help fill seats, cause it was nothing like tonight. Tonight’s show was a sell-out. I also went to two concerts at the end of season 6- here and in Memphis. They were two months apart then. My day started off with good news…Ticketmaster had released more tickets to the sold out event, and I decided I would try for better seats and sell my seats I had in the lower tier that were at the far end of the arena. Sure enough, I scored lower tier, row 7, just to the side and front of the stage, and I had a pretty good spot for pictures. I put my other tickets for sale on Facebook, and they were gone within an hour.
We arrived at Alltel (whoops, Verizon-recent name change) Arena more than an hour before the show to get decent parking. A lot of people were already there, and we enjoyed the pre-show videos and chatted before the start, looking for people we knew. The crowd was on GO–the wave went around several times, and the beach b alls came out, before security confiscated them. Of course, everytime Kris’s face came on screen, the crowd went wild! It was clear this was going to be a night all about Kris Allen. Now, I am not known for having the best timing in the world. I got up about 6:40 to head to the restroom and found out that Kris and his family and friends were in the Entergy suite just behind our seats to the left, and he had come out and waved to the crowd while I was gone. Well, just great! I got over my disappointment somehow, and about 7:15, the show got started.
I’m not going to try to rehash my reaction to every song, as others have already detailed them, and probably better than I could. I’ll just try to give my general impression of each performer. My highly technical scoring system involved a printed out set list and I added a plus or minus as I rated each number. I’ll say to begin with that our Arkansas crowd was loud, enthusiastic, and in other words, FIRED UP! The Idols said it was the best crowd so far, no doubt because of the anticipation of seeing our boy, Kris.
Michael Sarver started the show with a lot of energy. He puts his all in to his performances. I’ve heard folks say that liked his first number best, but I actually liked the second one. He, like most of the folks following him, mentioned Kris and if we had come to see him. Of course, the crowd screamed their agreement. I really hope Michael will consider a career in country music. His gracious demeanor and likability would serve him well in that genre. Good grief, after the show when we got autographs, when I spoke to him, he said “yes, ma’am” twice. While I was thrilled with his good manners, I was sad I looked old enough for a ma’am. LOL
Megan-What can I say about this lovely lady? She’s gorgeous, her outfit was beautiful. That’s about it, I’m afraid. Her style of music is just not for me, and it is definitely not suited to the big arena format. But don’t pay attention to me, Megan, different strokes for different folks.
Scott did a good job of getting the crowd involved with him and I’d give him a thumbs up on both his numbers. He bantered with the crowd and they really seemed to like him. That boy can flat play that piano. Oh, amusing story. My friend, Cindy, hasn’t watched a lot of Idol. She loved Scott tonight, and talked to him as he signed autographs post-show. We talked among ourselves about how his brother was there to assist him, and she still didn’t realize until we got to the car that he was visually impaired. I guess he’s lucky SHE didn’t give him a high-five! : )
Lil Rounds has found her mojo since leaving the show. If she had performed there like she did tonight, I think she would have gone farther. One thing she could improve on, and I would say this about all the lad ies, is they need to work on their crowd interaction. The guys seem to have an easier time with this. “Single Ladies”–good choice, Miss Lil! This is where I wish I had been on the floor. The lower tier tends to be a little more sedate, and that song made me want to get up and dance.
Anoop! Ok, his rendition of “Always on My Mind” had friend Cindy in a little puddle to the left of me. Anoop, you definitely have won over another lady with that one. His other two songs went over equally as well. Oh, and the cutest thing. Some girls had a big sign that said “Anoop, will you marry me?” that they brought close to the stage, and he gave them a little wave. He made their evening.
I can’t say enough good things about Matt. Matt, son, you have came out of your shell! That’s all I can say when comparing your performances on the show to tonight. And my gosh, his piano skills are second to none. I would definitely pay money to see Matt in concert again. Matt, be sure you come back to AK! (whoops, that’s AR, that’s what I get for following your tweets!)
Enjoyed the production number and eagerly anticipated the start of the second act. After an approximate twenty minute intermission, Allison came out and did her rocker thing. There were a lot of Allison fans in the crowd. She’s a good performer, energetic, and I can definitely see her continuing her career in the rocker vei n and as good as she is, improving her performances with more experience and maturity.
Danny Gokey-Let me tell you, that for a good part of the AI season, I didn’t want to like Mr. Gokey. I felt like he was in competition with Kris, and I was having none of that. I had also heard enough of his backstory till I was really tired of it. But Danny, you won me over this evening. He’s a great stage performer, and the crowd loved him. I didn’t find his motivational talk to be out of line. It was short and sweet and promoted following one’s dream. Nothing wrong with that.
Adam was everything I expected and more. He definitely had the crowd appeal and his experience on the stage stands out in his performances. The teen girl from the 70’s in me loved his rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta’ Love” and my favorite song of his from the show, “Mad World” was magical. And so was the video I was making of it till someone came back in front of me with their snack 2/3 of the way through! “Slow Ride” with Allison was definitely a highlight of the show. I’ll have to say Mr. Adam knows how to move on that stage and I think we lost our PG rating sometime during his last number.
Now, the moment of truth….the part of the show that the whole arena had been waiting for. The tension in the room was palpable as the crowd waited for Kris’s arrival. And then, KRIS!
The thunderous applause and crowd screaming went on FOREVER! It was truly one of the most moving things I’ve ever seen at a show. And Kris was visibly moved at the crowd reaction. Just as he was overwhelmed with his homecoming welcome back in May, this was another unbelievable event for him. (I was privileged to be there for that, as well.) He had the people in the palm of his hand. There are not many performers who are so adept at portraying the emotion of a song, and Kris is one of those. He tells a story when he sings, and I think we’re going to see a lot of that in his upcoming album as well. He opened up with the wonderful “Heartless.” Love, love, love when he sings that. The Killers song was a great substitution for “No Boundaries, ” though I’ll have to say the seatmates to the right of me hadn’t heard it was dropped and they were disappointed they weren’t going to hear it. Then Kris did what every good Arkansas Razorback fan does…he called the Hogs. WOOOOO, PIG, SOOOOOIE, RAZORBACKS! (I’ve got that on video to put up later). Another beautiful rendition followed, probably my fave from the show, “Ain’t No Sunshine.” “Bright Lights’ and “Hey, Jude” finished out his set, as the other performers came back on stage. No, go back, people, I’m not ready for this to be over! Can’t Kris sing one or two extra songs for his homies?
Group number “Don’t Stop Believing” was a fave of mine. I love Journey, and while others may find this song cheesy, I found it to be like a bridge to my teen/young adulthood. My only complaint was, there should have been an encore number. The ending sort of came abruptly, and I needed more closure. Or maybe I just wasn’t ready to leave!
But wait, despite my long-winded account, this isn’t quite the end of my tale. I convinced Cindy and Carol that we needed to go around by the buses and wait for the Idols to come out and sign autographs. Carol found herself a seat and kept herself amused by texting, while Cindy, J, M and I took our places against the barricade. After a bit, M’s parents picked her up and the rest of us waited a good 45 minutes for the performers to begin to come out. Finally, we saw the first one–Scott! We ended up getting autographs and pics and chatting a bit with him, Danny, Matt, Kris, Anoop, and Michael. (Thank you, Cindy and J for getting my autographs while I snapped pics). Adam sort of whizzed by…not sure why, unless they were about to get on the bus and they had to hurry. It was a fun experience, but a little bittersweet. Two years before, I had also come out after the show, with my dear young friend and fellow Arkansan, Amanda, who passed away from leukemia in June of 2008. Amanda was the ultimate AI fan, and a ray of sunshine who I first met on Chris Sligh’s blog. We do Chris’s picnics as fundraisers for St. Jude in her memory, and I will never forget my Idol experiences in North Little Rock and Memphis two years ago with dear Amanda. This one was for you, sweetie.
Another Idol experience, come and gone. But what an exciting evening for all the Idols, but most especially for Kristopher Neil Allen. It was a night he, his family and friends will never forget, nor will his fans. I can’t wait to go see him at one of his own concerts soon. Ok, I’m finishing this at 4 AM and I’ve got church in the morning. ARGH! Night, all!