I discovered MJs blog in July, and only started posting last week so most of you won’t know me. But I had the good fortune to attend three recent AI concerts – the first in Newark (8/8) and both nights at Nassau Coliseum (8/11 & 8/12) and wanted to share my experiences with you since I’ve enjoyed so many of your reviews.
I will say upfront that I am a huge (albeit late-to-the-game) Adam fan, but I truly enjoyed the *whole* show, start to finish. And that was an unexpected pleasure. But I do think that parts of my review will not please everyone. Apologies up front, just being honest. I’ll rank the performances I enjoyed best to worst at the end. (Worst is a misnomer, no one was terrible, so let’s say Best to Least Best.)
A little background: I’m a 44 year old businesswoman, married, no kids. I am not a regular Idol watcher. I watched S4 Top 2 & Finale (Bo & Carrie), S5 starting with the Top 10 and was turned off by what I call the “Daughtry debacle.” I did not watch S6 or S7 at all. I have bought albums by Kelly Clarkson, Clay Aiken, Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, Elliot Yamin, Jordin Sparks and David Cook (and a single by Bo Bice) – all based on radio play, not because they were Idols per se. This season, I hadn’t paid any attention to Idol until Top 4. I had heard peripherally about Danny Gokey “the soulful widower with glasses” and it sounded like he was the one to beat. Well, my husband and I were going away for our anniversary, and I decided to put Idol on while I was packing our suitcases. I didn’t even plan to look up, it was meant to just be background noise. But it was Rock Week. I heard the first line from “Whole Lotta Love” and my jaw dropped open…and remained open when I glanced at the TV screen. (Sorry, jaw reopened just now at the memory. *wipes drool from chin*)
Anyway, on to the shows. My first time going to Idols Live. Since I went to three shows, I won’t painstakingly describe each one. I will give an overall summary of the performances (which were pretty consistent), and any uniqueness of any given show. Plus, I’ll give a little color commentary regarding getting to and from, and my personal experience. (Warning: may be overlong, a smidge boring and probably all over the place. Get coffee or skip to end.)
On the Road to New Jersey
I went to the Saturday Newark show with a girlfriend, H. We took the Long Island Railroad to Penn Station, had a lovely dinner (and a couple of beers) in the city before jumping on New Jersey Transit. If we weren’t sure how to get to Prudential Center, it was fairly easy once we got above ground. Basically it was “follow that crowd!” the two blocks to the venue. They did a purse check and a full-body wanding at security. Some kids were wearing AI Tour shirts from previous years. Saw lots of little girls wearing Kris or Adam gear, mostly homemade, and Adam’s had lots of glitter. Plus, gals wearing the requisite black nail polish. (OK, I was one of them. Doh!). The merchandise tables were packed in Newark, at least 12 people across and 7 deep where we stopped. We got on the line because H wanted a shirt for her daughter so I decided to get a program. My Program (with a capital P) figures into the story a little later…The majority of purchases seemed to be t-shirts and photos. I think it’s amazing the kind of crazy money people spend for & at these shows. If you bring a couple of kids and get them each a $35 shirt (kid’s shirts cost the same as adults!) plus food and drink…well, you’re basically BROKE! Anyway, we made our purchases and headed down to our seats.
Where We Sat
For all three shows, I had floor seats in the right-hand sections. At Newark, we were in section A, row 23. First night at the Coliseum I was in the “stage pod” on the right, 4th row, right by the staircase where the Idols come up to join Kris for Hey Jude. Close enough to make eye contact with Michael Sarver, Meghan Joy, Lil Rounds and Danny Gokey. I could have made eye contact with Adam during the Bowie medley had I not freaked out and lowered my eyes like I was being blinded by the sun or something. (*kicks self*). I did get some good photos though, which I’m still cleaning up (cropping, etc) and I’ll post the link soon. The second night at the Coliseum I was in section A, row 19 – practically the same view as Newark but a few rows closer, more toward the center of the floor.
At all three shows, we witnessed the phenomenon of hysterical screams every time Adam’s face (or, in the Ford commercials, just body parts) showed on the jumbotrons.
OK, But Could We See?
At Newark, my girlfriend had the misfortune of several tall people blocking her view and it made her seriously cranky through much of the show. One of said tall people had enormously bouffant curly hair to boot, so it was a lost cause trying to see around her. A nice man in front of us took a few pictures with H’s camera so we might have some good close-ups (she’s got a 16x zoom compared to my 5x). When Adam’s set started, H stood on her chair right up until “Fame.” A security guard chased her down at that point, but she at least got to see most of Adam. I only had one tall person in front of me, and I could sort of bob & weave a little bit to see better. (I’m 5’2″) My view at the other two shows was largely unobstructed.
Michael Sarver was a great way to kick off the show. His vocals were mellow and rich and he held his own much better than I expected. I had not seen him on TV, so had nothing to compare him to, but I liked him and both of his song choices. He was very personable, moving around as much as possible, waving to people in the audience and enjoying himself. I could see him singing country-pop, although I understand that wasn’t the genre he was targeting originally. Michael certainly got a lot of love at all three shows compared to some of the reviews I’d previously read (and some of his tweets). Should he have been 10th? Not in my book. I’ll keep my eye out for him.
Meghan Joy was delightful. (What? Did Rowe just say that?) Yes, I enjoyed the heck out of her. She’s quirky and fun, and I liked both her songs. I love Amy Winehouse and while Tears Dry On Their Own wouldn’t have been my choice for Meghan, I thought it was gutsy and I like her voice. It’s different, and with the right material she could really shine. Maybe Bjork-like material, Beth Orton, Michelle Shocked, or even Duffy. And I hope she gets a break. She’s been getting skewered in the reviews, and I think it’s a shame. I’d buy her CD in a minute. I got some great pictures of her. At Newark she had on high heels (I think, from what I could see) and at Nassau Coliseum she had on flat gold gladiator sandals (much better).
Scott McIntyre was pleasant. I guess I enjoyed his set, could have done without the banter. Preferred 1000 Miles (lyrical irony not withstanding) over Bend or Break. Yes, he’s inspiring. But a tad mediocre. Nice voice, nice piano. But…meh.
Lil Rounds had great energy. But like many others have said, her performance comes across like karaoke. The songs chosen for/by her were too “big” for her. No One was not really in her key so she strained. Single Girls was a party and she worked it, but her singing just didn’t rise to Beyonce or Alicia Keys levels. Can’t comment on the Mary J. Blige song, didn’t know it and didn’t care for it. I think Lil has a good voice but needs better material to define her style.
Anoop Desai *killed* Always on my Mind. Really. He sounded lovely. I enjoyed Mad as well. I can take or leave My Prerogative, though I admit to dancing and singing along. I think Anoop could get a record deal. I might not necessarily buy his music, but I think he could be a success in R&B.
Matt Giraud…Does. Nothing. For. Me. I’m sorry…I tried. Three shows, three times I willed myself to like him. I think he did a decent job with Hard to Handle. That’s the kind of stuff I’d like him to try more of (Black Crowes style, not Otis Redding style) and not so much of the piano-bar stuff. Georgia was boring. I felt like he was back in the hotel lobby he talked about. I like the Fray but You Found Me was average. Sorry. Not feeling it.
Group numbers were fun, especially Tell Her About It and Beggin. And I liked the rapping by Lil and Anoop in there. Nice to give Michael another song with Suspicious Minds, and I think it suited him. Lil and Meghan together, not so much. But this was an enjoyable segment and during the choreography they looked like they were having a blast.
Nothing earth-shattering happened at any of the intermissions. Bathroom break, another beer, sitting around waiting for the next half. Tried to win backstage passes, got the answer right but to no avail. Oh well, I didn’t really want to hang around afterwards anyway!
The Show Resumes – and my Program makes itself known
The lights go down and Alison comes bursting out! And in Newark my Program hits the floor (bad Program!) landing in a puddle of soda someone spilled during intermission. And I didn’t notice for about 10 minutes. Oh Noes! Too late! The soda has eaten up the edges of the cover, and soaked through most of the pages! $25 freaking dollars down the drain!!!!!! I’m so mad, I see red and want to smack someone. AND I have to sit through Danny Gokey after this? Get me a sedative! Between my girlfriend being cranky about the view and me about the Program…it’s a wonder we made it through until Adam! Sooo…..back to the show…..
Alison Iraheta comes roaring out with her guitar and wind machine and she looks so cute, like a fiery baby rock star! And she’s good, man, let me tell ya. Yep, she’s all over the stage, a ball of energy. I like her very much, she’s got the voice of a 40 year old smoker and it’s a little Janis, a little Bonnie, a little Melissa…Bring it on. I’ll buy her CD, no question. Best performance of the night so far. BUT she will need to learn how to preserve her voice. She goes all-out right away and she’ll ruin herself way too early like that.
Danny Gokey is…oh. He’s actually very, very good. But he’s awkward up there. He tries so hard to pull off suave, and just looks…well, dorky. Liked PYT, but I’d seen that on the Michael Jackson theme repeat. Maria Maria was a strange transition and the Salsa dancing with the mic stand? Just, no. But, he redeemed himself with the Rascal Flatts tunes. Good, emotional delivery. I like his voice. I’m shocked he doesn’t have a record deal. But I guess no one knows what to do with him in terms of genre. I don’t think doing a set that mashed up 80s dance-pop/Salsa/Country helped him out either. But did he deserve to be in the top 3? In my opinion, yes.
Adam Lambert. Well, now. The YouTube videos I saw of his entrance did nothing to prepare me for the build-up and absolutely deafening roar that preceded his appearance onstage. Newark and the first night at the Coliseum were similar in strength and decibels. The second night at the Coliseum, people added stamping feet to the noise. It was like the Second Coming or something. It was almost a little scary, like the boy would be descended upon and eaten alive by human locusts! Then came the explosions, the video, the static….and the opening notes of WWL…at which point, I just got a shit-eating grin on my face and stared like a hypnotized fool. Adam was mesmerizing. No need to review his performance, it’s been done to death. And he and Alison are on fire when they duet. But one thing I can say from sitting in the 4th row of the pod is that Adam is truly otherworldly in his command of the stage, his vocals, and his movements. He glows.
Kris Allen rose up through the stage after the curtain drops to hide the band. There was A LOT of applause. Do I have a clapometer? No. Did he get the kind of reception Adam got? Mmm, no. But people sustained their “thank you Adam” applause and stayed on their feet for Kris through much of Heartless. Then they mostly sat. Not disrespectfully, but to listen. Including me. Yes, a few people seemed to leave. Not a ton, though, and to be fair, some of the movement may have been to get out of their seats and into the aisles for pictures. Kris (as well as Danny and Alison) got lots of love. But. (And here comes the buzz kill in my review…) I just don’t ‘get’ Kris Allen. As I mentioned, I saw the Idols for the first time during Rock Week. I honestly didn’t even remember Kris except for the Renegade duet with Danny. I was away on vacation during Top 3 and didn’t see the show. When I heard Kris made it through to Top 2, I was surprised. And when I watched Top 2 and the Finale…well, he is not, to me, someone I would have expected to win American Idol. I would have thought Danny or Alison might have been the ones to beat Adam if anyone could.
Now, like I said regarding Matt, I tried. No, I mean I TRIED! I saw three shows. I mentally prepared. I closed my eyes and just let the music take me. I even wanted to like Kris because Adam likes him so much! It just wouldn’t happen for me. Kris has a pleasant voice, but its unremarkable. Unmemorable. Sometimes he sounds even a little (omigosh) off-key. The piano and guitar don’t impress me, though I did think Kris wailed some nice electric guitar on Bright Lights. But I just don’t enjoy Kris’ style or sound. That said, I DID enjoy Heartless & Bright Lights, because he really gets into his performances.
Group numbers. It was noticeable (at Newark especially) that the crowd roared back to life when Adam emerged during the Hey Jude “na na nas”. Really liked Don’t Stop Believing; it was fun seeing everyone back out again, and again the standouts to me were Adam (only hit the DSB glory note at the 8/12 Coliseum show, but oh, what a sound), Michael, Anoop and Danny. Scott/Matt dueling pianos again during this number was a nice touch. The girls seemed lost with all that testosterone flying around them.
The Program Saga Continues
Ah yes, the soaked program. H and I headed back upstairs after the floating bubbles and mass exodus and surprise! The merchandise tables were still open. I begged one of the merch’s to swap out my program for a clean one and was scorned! No, actually, she passed me onto her manager. I waited the requisite five or so minutes for said manager to appear…and he gladly exchanged my soiled nasty program for a fresh one. “Care for a bag this time, ma’am?” Hells yes!!! (Hmmph, if they’da done that in the first place, yada yada yada…) All’s well that ends well! And I am VERY grateful for the brand spankin’ new program.
As for the remaining details:
- after Newark show, we did the reverse train thing and I stayed at my girlfriend’s house overnight – a planned sleepover since it was close to 1 AM when we got home.
- My husband doesn’t do Idol…so the first show at the Coliseum (in the pod) I attended alone. That was fine. I was poised for some good shots and was happy with how close I was to the performers. (Though I wasn’t expecting the boxer shorts/shirt/white whatever that got tossed to Adam by Drake; didn’t get that on camera. Stick to the script, boys! No toys from the left pod when I’m in the freakin’ right pod! My trigger finger ain’t that fast!)
- The second show at the Coliseum I attended with a co-worker, drove there directly after work and I took virtually no pictures. Simply ENJOYED it. As far as the venue, Nassau Coliseum did just a purse check at security. The merchandise tables were not as busy as at Newark, but could have been the timing of our arrival. And at that second show at the Coliseum each performer was so positively ON it seemed like someone extra-important might have been in the audience. Could it just be that it was the last night in NY therefore important to all of them? That show was the best one for me anyway because I got to experience it “in the moment.”
Oh yes, I promised ranking of performances of *my* favorites, best to um, least best. I hate to put anyone in the last spot…because I really did enjoy the concert as a whole.
1. Adam (all songs)
2. Alison (all songs)
3. Danny (3 out of 4 songs)
4. Michael (all songs)
5. Megan (all songs)
6. Anoop (2 out of 3 songs)
7. Kris (2 out of 5 songs)
8. Lil (1.5 out of 3 songs)
9. Scott (1 out of 2 songs)
10.Matt (1 out of 3 songs)
If you got this far, thanks for sticking with it! If you just jumped down to the list of my fav performances and feel cheated, please keep the tomatoes to a minimum.