Karen and her fellow mom hit the road to the Idol’s concert in Rochester NY. Read her account below…
I won a pair of tickets from the radio station I listen to. My neighbor joined me and we were very pleased to have a suburban moms girls’ night out. I was surprised to see that many of the people were my age (40ish) and older without kids in tow (lots more suburban moms having a girls’ night out). There were plenty of ‘tweens, and a smattering each of younger kids and older kids. Some signs, not a lot.
The Blue Cross Arena in downtown Rochester, NY holds around 7, 000. The place was very near to full, if not totally sold out. There were floor seats and a lower tier and upper tier in a u-shape. We were in the lower tier, house left, just where the curve of the “u” starts to bend toward the back of the house. There were three screens: one directly above the stage and one on either side of the stage. The two side ones were showing various videos of past idol contestants and winners – we saw Blake, Daughtry, and Jordin. During the show, the center one was used primarily for lighting/video effects, and the side ones showed the performers up close via hand-held cameras at the edge of the stage and fixed cameras behind the sound board, which was at the back of the floor seats.
More Recap after the JUMP…
A pre-show warm-up started with someone named Cory yelling a lot. A theme for the evening would be this guy and many of the performing saying again and again “I wanna hear you SCREAM””, which got terribly annoying. T-shirts were blasted into the audience with some kind of t-shirt blasting gun, and the mom in me was concerned that he was going to puts someone’s eye out with that thing.
The screens showed a very fast recap of all the weeks of the show, including the top 24, which only served to remind me of all the good voices some of the top 10 inexplicably beat out. I was surprised to see how quickly the pace of the show would proceeded from one performer to the next – the lights were barely out on one before the stagehands ran out to set up for the next one.
I was very disappointed in the sound throughout the evening. Everything was cranked up so loud that it was very hard to discern the singers from the band at times, and difficult to appreciate the tone of the voice during moments of less instrumentation. I remembered another recap writer mentioned things often sounded better with one’s fingers in one’s ears, and I tried this to some relief. This made me think the problems with balance on the show had more to do with the sound engineers rather than being Bandzilla’s fault exclusively. We perhaps should have been complaining about Soundzilla.
Chickezie was received warmly, maybe more so because he was first and everyone was excited. I thought he really worked hard and sounded great. He’s got a solid set of vocal skills and showmanship of a genuine, not stagey, variety. It would have been nice to see him go a little further than he did.
Ramiele was uninteresting to watch or listen to and there was a lot of coming and going in the audience while she was singing. Poor song choices, as usual for her.
Michael Johns was well received, and his songs were a hit for this age crowd who grew up on bands like Queen and Aerosmith (and are still listening to them). This would also prove to be a theme for the night -the 50’s-ish crowd most connecting to, and unfortunately for me with a row of them behind me, singing along with all these older songs that they actually knew. He was given the full stadium rock band lighting you need for the Queen material. MJ was fine, a lot of swagger and showmanship, but I just don’t see anything original or new coming out of this guy. He can sound great with the right material but I felt much of his material tonight was just as much pandering as… read below…
Nobody seemed to care much about KLC at first, more off going to get snacks, etc. Then she told a story about a mom and daughter out at the buses when they arrived here today having given them each a set of dog tags with their names on (she was wearing hers), that the husband/father was in Iraq, and that the next song was dedicated to those who are fighting or have fought for our country. The crowd subsequently got sucked in by this, and most were on their feet by the end of her second song. She lost them again during the third song (which to me means they were responding more to the song than the singer), and someone behind me commented that she should have sung the second song last. I agreed with this observation, and thought it a few more times throughout the evening – that the performers should have re-ordered their sets, that their strongest songs should have come last to leave a better impression on the audience.
Carly, similar to what I’ve experienced from many Europeans, seemed to think she was in the vicinity of NYC by virtue of being in New York state. She kept saying “New York” in a way that made it seem she didn’t quite have a clue where she was, or wasn’t. NYC is 700 miles, and worlds, away from here. She had on some really weird gloves, which I found incredibly distracting. They were black and covered only the four fingers up to the knuckles, both hands. Made her look like she had no fingers, or like she had a rash that needed covering, or like maybe her husband tattooed all the fingers black… That’s how distracted I was by them – it took me a song and a half to realize they were probably just gloves that she thought looked cool. Otherwise, she looked gorgeous, pretty hair and make-up and I loved her top. She sounded great – so much freer and more effortless than she ever sounded on the show. None of the teeth-baring yelling. The Heart song was especially good, you got the feeling she really appreciated the opportunity she had in that moment. She should have done Heart last, as her final song (Celine) left me flat.
Brook was lovely and warm and effortless and totally open. She sounded good and her voice was strong. I didn’t like her second song, but it showed her quirky, fun side. I can certainly picture her doing a children’s’ album, ala Laurie Berkner. I thought Coldplay was a brilliant choice – showed she could have a much more contemporary vibe than the Carly Simon box she’s in. They gave her gorgeous lighting and effects.
Brook gave the IGB spiel, footage of those receiving the aid showed on the screens, and then the group number to close the first half, sung by the six who had just performed. MJ was announced by name while the others were not; he and Carly had a featured moment in the song, which reminded me of how great they were in their duet on the final show. I would have paid money to hear them do that again. At least this was a decent song, can’t go wrong with U2, although I think One would maybe have been a more appropriate choice.
Intermission, more Cory yelling at us, Guitar Hero shenanigans, giant walking pop-tarts, more t-shirts blasting into people’s eyes. Middle-aged man fighting and winning against two little boys for a t-shirt he handed to his wife. Really? You couldn’t let one of the boys win and go buy your wife a shirt?
There was a palpable shift in the crowd’s energy as we settled in for the second half of the show. Jason was announced and the row of late high-school/early college aged girls two rows down from us started losing it, really losing it, Beatles-on-Ed Sullivan style losing it. Intermittent squeals all over the audience throughout his set, and more signs than for anyone so far. I was surprised how great he sounded – his voice was so much stronger and fuller than it ever sounded on TV. Made me see this guy could have more commercial success than we might expect – I’m thinking Jack Johnson/Jason Mraz/Matt Nathanson. He also seemed really warm and open and himself, not struggling with talking to the audience like some idols. I started wishing they were not going in loser-order, because I didn’t want to listen to Syesha after the nice vibe Jason set down.
It was distractingly obvious what Syesha spent her first paycheck on. She looked cheap when all the other girls looked really natural and pretty. Her ballad sounded good – really genuine and deeply felt, but the other songs didn’t do anything for me. The audience was overall excited to see her, though I felt it was more out of respect for the fact that she was #3 than for the actual performance. I would have preferred her material more in the vicinity of Chikezie and Ramiel than amongst the final 3 boys. Her banter was really uncomfortable, bordering on high-school recital-ish.
You could now definitely feel that this is what everyone was here for, the final two performances, the Davids. There was a bit of a delay with Archie’s rising from below, but once his silhouette was in view, the ‘tweens went ear-splittingly nuts, and the screams and squeals continued throughout his set. He sounded excellent, and I thought his song choices were solid and in the correct order. (One could quibble with whether or not he should invite comparison to Groban.) He’s got a good, solid voice and consistent technique. On this account, you have to keep reminding yourself that he’s still only a kid. He had some really lovely moments in his songs, which were generally better suited to his age than some of the material on the show. His banter came across as very sweet and innocently charming, not bumbling or uncomfortable.
Arch was very good, and the crowd loved him. I was glad he had four songs, because I actually wanted to hear more of him after the third one. My biggest criticism of DA is that, like many singers and most of what we heard here, was that he’s got the technique but he doesn’t have any real gift with phrasing or style, which for me is what really sets great singers apart from the pack. I do think this is something Little David can develop with maturity and and by continuing to listen to great singers.
When Big David was announced, for the first time the entire crowd was on its feet, cheering, whooping, yelling, really excited. His whole set was punctuated by really dramatic rock concert stuff – dramatic lighting, effects, all the stops pulled out. The crowd was on its feet throughout his first song. He’s taken “Hello” even further – more of a raw sound, edgier vocals, it’s been pushed all the way to the edge of being undeniably a rock song. I love the jangly guitar sound and I love that his arrangements are constantly shifting and changing and evolving. Rather than the band accompanying him, he was fronting a rock band and the band was in there with him throughout the set, like they’d been let out of a cage of accompaniment to staid arrangements and allowed to fully contribute. Girly squeals continued throughout the set, but also cheers and clapping in reaction to great vocal moments.
Magic Rainbows came next, and of all the different ways I’ve heard it performed in the weeks after the show, it was pretty straight-forward, closer to the original coronation performance but without that level of warm emotion, and it felt a little rushed. Not that I wanted him to dwell on it, but I was surprised how quickly it went by. (The irony of that song being that the guy with the biggest vocabulary has to sing lyrics rife with trite cliche.)
IDWTMAT was big and full and rich. He had some gorgeous vocal moments, big notes, unexpected change-ups in phrasing or styling, everything I noted above that the others don’t have or do.
My Hero followed, and the time saved from MR was spent here. This was played and sung full out, big stadium rock style. Cook was all over the stage, big instrumental breaks, immersed in his element and living the moment. He was by far the freest and most natural onstage; this was nothing new to him, more like it’s just been a matter of time and dues-paying and he’s loving it. He left the stage as if this was his last song, then came back, setting up BJ as his “encore.” This again, like Hello earlier, was even more and bigger and fuller and further along the path he initially took it down. His vocals were great and the band rocked.
When I first learned of the set list a few weeks ago, I was bummed about some of DC’s choices. I felt like I’d heard Hello and BJ and didn’t need to hear them again. But I loved that what he’s doing continues to evolve and I didn’t feel at all like I’d heard the same songs or arrangements he’d played on the show. The thing I really like about him is that he’s a well-rounded, accomplished musician, not *just* a singer, and that he’s going to keep moving and changing and shifting and bringing something new to the table, and I’m on board. The first thing my neighbor and I said to each other after DC’s set was “he’s such a rock
My only, teeny-tiny criticism is Dave, if you’re gonna wear eyeliner, please let the professionals apply it. I’ve got no problem with boys in eyeliner, but when it makes your eyes look all squinty, you’re not doing your cute self any favors.
Quick change for Dave, everyone was in a new outfit, and a final, terrible group song to perpetrate a buzz-kill. It was more for the purpose of bringing everyone back for bows, like at the end of a musical. It was weird seeing the likes of Chikezie and Ramiel again, because it seemed like hours since we’d seen them. My neighbor and I commented to each other how weird it was that these idols we’d watched on tv for months were right here, in our town, standing in front of us, but that we were so used to watching them on tv that we had to keep reminding ourselves to actually watch them on the stage instead of on the giant screens. We made a pact that if Cook comes anywhere near here on his own tour, the kids and husbands will have to fend for themselves because these moms will be hitting the road.