Kelly's Denver CO Recap

Denver was lucky in more ways than one this season.  After being snubbed for seasons 2, 3, and 4, the Mile High City was finally included on the AI summer tour.  This was obviously due to a couple of reasons--first, auditions were held here (although that didn't help Las Vegas get a tour date); second, and more importantly, a finalist hails from the Denver area.  Even that apparently wasn't enough, as Denver wasn't included on the original itinerary.  It is the first of the "extra" concerts added due to "demand" that were announced on the finale of the show.  It's actually due to the intense lobbying and intervention of the Young family that we got a concert.  And we were NOT disappointed. 
We can always feel lucky when the stars align enough for us to have basically the "entire" show with nobody absent for illness or other reasons and with the sets basically intact.  Denver got that, being fortunate enough to take place after Kat added her third song.  The only thing we were missing that shows up from time to time these days was Taylor's "Don't Let Me Down."  I don't understand why he doesn't just sing it at every show, though there might actually be a reason for that this time.  Yeah, I guess we missed the girls' number that was performed before Kat joined, but I've heard that was nothing particularly special.  The one thing that I really wish had been added at some point was a Kat/Taylor duet.  I don't know why, but I really felt I was missing something by not getting to hear them sing together again...but anyway.
I live in Boulder, about a 20-minute drive from Denver, but we left with plenty of time to spare because the traffic at the so-called "turnpike tangle" outside of Denver can be hideous.  There were three of us--I have a huge case of McPheever, my wife, who likes everybody equally, and my 9-year-old daughter, who has become a Soul Patrol fanatic.  In addition to this, we are huge supporters of hometown boy Ace Young.  Why?  Because I've known his mother Kay for eight years.  We moved to Boulder right before Ace graduated from high school, so I never actually knew him (although it is highly possible that I played pickup church basketball with him in '99--extremely likely in fact...which is very weird).  Ironically, our babysitter for our 6-year-old son grew up with Ace (in our LDS Church community in Boulder--to which Kay [but not Jay] Young belongs, everyone knows everyone).  She said that Ace had babysat HER back in the day.  That's hilarious.  I don't know why she wasn't going to the show.  Many people from the church did go.  And I should say that while Ace attended the LDS church as a kid (from reports) he never actually joined--it's weird when your parents aren't the same religion.  I'm only mentioning this to make my connection with the Young family clear.  Kay and I have worked together on church music many times, and that's primarily how I know her.  She is a wonderful woman who is classy, elegant, intelligent, very musical, and extraordinarily kind.  Jay Young is a terrific man, also with a phenomenal musical (and sports!) background, and he has sent me emails with Ace updates throughout the post-idol experience.
Kay Young got us three after-show backstage passes.  Ace was having a separate meet-'n-greet from the other idols at this concert, and that was what she was able to get for us (and we were very grateful).  We arrived at the Pepsi Center with plenty of time to spare and picked up the passes.  It really is a state-of-the-art, modern venue, one of the newest and cleanest sports arenas in the country.  It has a perfect concert atmosphere.  Our seats were on around the "mezzanine" level, so to speak, on the side of the stage.  We had great sight lines of all the stage action, and it was easy to shift from the performer to the big jumbotron screen if we wanted to do so.
While the Pepsi Center is a great arena and Denver is a great city--the crowd responded lovingly to everyone and over-the-top lovingly to Ace--before I recap the concert I should mention a possible reason for the snub in the previous seasons and something that may keep us from getting another Idols Live show in the future.  One word: altitude.  If a singer isn't used to the elevation, it can take him or her by surprise.  That happened to many of our idols last night, including three of the top four.  You really do have to have some time to adjust to the thinner air, and it usually only takes a day or so.  But I sincerely hope that 19 doesn't use that as an excuse to snub us again--altitude is something professional singers on tour have to deal with.  After all, opera singers do whole summer seasons at Aspen, much higher than Denver.  Also, the Pepsi Center was not completely sold out, but it was very close.  I sincerely hope they'll consider coming here again next season.
Many concert tours make this a regular stop (the Independent tour with Clay and Kelly came).  Most performers know what to expect from the elevation.  Apparently, Ace had warned them about it.  In my opinion, it might have been better to schedule something in between the sea level Seattle area and the mile high city.  Salt Lake (which has proven an extremely popular destination in the past) would have been ideal to place as an intermediate city--while still mountainous, it's about 1000 feet lower than Denver.  But I digress greatly.
My 9-year-old daughter (named Cosette--yes, after Les Misérables) literally had the time of her life at the concert.  She got up and danced in a very cute manner (and she had good rhythm too).  Afterwards, she said that it was the "funnest time I ever had in my life!"  My wife, who is 5 months pregnant, said that the baby enjoyed the concert, and moved with great animation during Chris's loud set.  Heh.  Anyway, enough lengthy background, to the show!
Mandisa--She completely rocks.  I love her.  She was a perfect choice to open the show.  Her voice is strong and full, and she can belt it out like nobody else.  She was one of the very few of them (besides Ace) who seemed completely unaffected by the elevation.  Both of her songs got the crowd excited, and her diction--as well as her belting skills--was spot on.  I thought the dedication of "If I Was Your Woman" to Ryan Young was a nice variation on the tired Ruben shtick.
And then there was "I'm Your Angel."  As soon as Ace took the stage the place EXPLODED!  He was so completely in his element with Mandisa on the duet, and obviously the altitude didn't affect him at all.
Ace--During his set, his usual jacket-shedding revealed a Broncos jersey, much to the delight of all.  "Father Figure" really is a highlight of the show, and he really knew how to milk the false ending for all it was worth.  I really think he got a bum rap in certain weeks of the show.  He is a phenomenal performer, and can rock it with anyone, as his performance of "Harder to Breathe" showed.  Ironically, that performance became a bit of a mantra for the rest of the performers.  He was of course showered with love, and responded.  His leaps around the stage at the end of "Harder to Breathe" caused ear-piercing screaming.
Lisa--Following Ace in his hometown must have been difficult for Ms. Tucker.  She availed herself well, though, making perfect comments about how much Ace has been preparing them for this.  You know what?  She was the surprise of the show for me.  I really don't know why she didn't connect as well as she could have during her stint on the season.  She is an impressive performer.  "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" is a great entry song, and her keyboard skills on the other two numbers should delight everyone.  Like Mandisa, she has flawless diction and is extremely polished.  She plays the keyboard and sings without a note of sheet music, and does both almost effortlessly and without error.
She introduces her "best friend" Paris Bennett, and the "Waterfalls" duet is a lot of fun.
Paris--You know, in hindsight, I almost think that she might have gone too far on the show.  I enjoyed Lisa much more.  That's not to diss on Paris at all.  "Midnight Train to Georgia" was specatcular.  The dancing on "Crazy in Love" was a lot of fun too (this was the first time my daughter got out of her seat and started to move).  It's just that overall--I enjoyed Lisa's set much more!  Yes, I did.  I wouldn't go so far as to call Paris a "disappointment," but seeing her after Lisa really makes me wonder why the 10th and 5th places weren't reversed.  Paris did note Zoe, a little girl in a wheelchair, and left the stage to sing to her directly (something Ace had also done without mentioning her name).
Bucky--I think the reviewers who love to diss Bucky just don't get what he is trying to do.  He is GOOD at what he does.  He may not have had the best performing skills as the tour began, but he has settled in and seems very comfortable now.  I think it's almost ironic that he has put such a personal spin on a Stevie Wonder song.  And I enjoyed "Drift Away" quite a bit.  His banter with the audience gave us one of the most priceless moments when he called Denver the "beautifulest" place they had been.
The "Grease" duet with Kellie seemed a little "off."  Bucky was more balanced than she was or something.  But they have some fun dance moves.
Kellie--She really availed herself well here, I thought.  She kept the banter down (which, for the Pickler, still means she talked quite a bit).  "I'm the Only One" was powerful and assured, and I loved the merging of "Walking After Midnight" with "Somthin' to Talk About."  She is stronger than people give her credit for and was a perfect ending for the first half.  I guess the VftW crowd still aren't going to give her her due, but I really hope she can move past that.  She is making the right moves for herself.
At intermission, we did the usual things.  Posed for cheesy free photos with cardboard cutouts and such.  At the concession stand, we decided we would buy a shirt for Cosette, but only something small for us (we went with the key ring).  We tried to talk her into the shirt with all the idols, but she absolutely wanted a Taylor shirt, so we got if for her.  My wife was going to offer to buy me a Kat shirt, but I knew I would never wear it in public and it would just be a souvenir, so I decided against it--shocking, I know.
Cosette was really in a version of Nirvana--she's never experienced anything like this before.  She's been dragged to many classical concerts (I review classical concerts for the Boulder Daily Camera, and know Greg Glasgow, who wrote the big spread on Ace that appeared this last Sunday), but never anything like this.  She was giddy with anticipation for Taylor.
Chris--He is a great way to begin the second half--really gets the energy going.  He was the first one of the performers to really exhibit signs of being affected by the altitude.  He frequently had to drink water, and even admitted it was getting to him.  No matter, he brought it.  It was during "Renegade" that my wife said the baby jumped around a lot.  I must say that, while not a huge Daughtry fan, he is the most natural arena performer among them.  Taylor, it must be said (and I think he has said as much) seems more suited for smaller venues, but this is absolutely Chris's element.  I really enjoyed his acoustic picking on "Wanted, Dead or Alive."  I do think that when Chris slows things down, he does himself a favor by showing that he CAN slow down and still blow people away.
Savin' Me duet with Elliott was wonderful.  It deserves the praise I have read in other recaps.  Mr. Yamin came out in an Elway #7 jersey, to the delight of the crowd.
Elliott--I must say that I was never his biggest fan, but he impressed me tonight.  His vocals are unimpeachable.  I really enjoyed his set much more than I thought that I would.  "Never too Much" was a precision performance, and I loved how he matched the canned backing vocals perfectly.  Since I've heard "Moody's Mood" before I really was able to enjoy it more than if I hadn't already known the song.  And "Trouble" was a great deal of fun.  I do have to wonder why he chews gum during his set, though.  It doesn't affect his vocals or his diction (which are spot-on), but it does look rather odd.
Elliott said that he needed to bring his friends out for "Patience," and of course there was another loud eruption when Ace came out again.  This really is the best number of the show--no holds barred.  The acoustic accompaniment, with Bucky and Chris playing, the gorgeous harmonies, Ace's falsetto, Chris's lead--it's all quite magical.  For any other number, I would have been mainly anticipating Kat, but not this one.  Great job all around.
2-3-4!  Whoo-Hoo!  Oh, yes, Kat was strong on her first two numbers.  The "Black Horse" was better than many I have seen posted on the internet at previous venues.  Some have criticized the opening on the floor, but I think it's a terrific affect.  Vocally, she was great here.  "Think" was absolutely phenomenal (and my wife grinned at me when she told the ladies to "keep the guys in check").  It must really kill her that they didn't allow her to sing it earlier in the tour.  It really does fill out and add balance to her set.  She mentioned that her parents met in Denver, but it was her first time here.  But if it weren't for Denver, she wouldn't exist!  Hah!  Like Chris, she admitted that the altitude was affecting her breath, and while it was not noticeable on the first two songs, she was obviously winded by "Rainbow."  It was still a terrific performance, but the opening a capella section showed signs of the affect.  She picked it up for the main portion, and there was a great response to her set in general.  I'm still a big fan, but not as obsessed as I was a few months ago.  I was not disappointed with her set, and was glad that she has stopped mentioning missing the first part of the tour and has even dropped references to her foot and the cast.
And then came the Idol himself.  My daughter was screaming!  It was a little hard to spot him at first, but we managed it about halfway through "Jailhouse Rock."  "Hollywood Nights" was as great as has been reported throughout the tour.  He did the full version of "Do I Make You Proud," and availed himself well.  Like Chris and Kat, though, he obviously had breath problems after "Hollywood Nights," particularly on "Livin' for the City."  But he is still as high energy as ever, and the trademark dance moves had my daughter giddy with delight.  He seemed to recover his breath for TittS, and the harmonica solo was the absolute bomb--I mean it soared through the arena.  I wish we had heard "Don't Let Me Down," but he was obviously winded like the others--who knows if he had planned to do it or not, but that might have swayed him.
The final encore numbers were cheesy, but fun.  More general screaming as Ace entered again.  "We are the Champions" has achieved a rather nice choreography at this point.  "Livin' in America" was kind of funny--Kat's voice failed her in her line, and she kind of laughed and deferred to Taylor.  She may get slammed for that, but don't slam unless you've sung here before--and people who have lived here for a year or more don't count!  They all deferred to Ace at the end--it was very much "his" show, and he did some more stage jumping at the very end.
It was a great outing for our family, and in hindsight, we should have taken our son.  We just didn't know how he would manage, but he would have been OK.
After the show, the wait for the Ace Meet 'n Greet was kind of long.  Kay tried to push us forward in the line, but there was some general chaos, and we just had to be patient.  The man is genuine.  Don't let anybody try to tell you he isn't.  He gave hugs to everybody, whether he knew them or not (many, like us, were acquaintances of his parents), and was especially wonderful with the kids.  He took time to talk to everyone and was never insincere.  He appreciates his fans more than any of the other Idols, I think--I believe they all love their fans, but there is something special about the way Ace treats them.  I should mention that Bobby Bennett from the top 24 (remember him!) was milling about the room in a 3-piece-suit.
When we got to Ace, he melted Cosette's heart with a hug and a smile.  I told him how we knew his parents, etc., and mentioned that a girl he had babysat was at home babysitting our son, and he laughed.  He signed our program, and we got a couple of great pictures with him.  It was with a new digital camera, and I haven't installed the software yet, but I'll get them to MJ as soon as I can--it might not be until tomorrow or Friday, though.
Obviously with a 9-year-old, LiMBO was not an option for us (and even without her, the babysitter and work today ruled it out), but meeting Ace made up for that in spades.  Sure, I would have liked to have met the others, but I'm not complaining.  It's kind of ironic--if we had been anywhere but his hometown, Kay would probably have been able to get us passes for the general meet-'n'-greet (which had far fewer attendees here than Ace's), but if we lived somewhere else, we wouldn't have known her!  I guess I could have asked, but that would have been extraordinarily tacky.
It was time to go home--we were exhausted.  The drive back to Boulder seemed really long, and Cosette, completely spent, fell asleep in the car.  But we will never forget our experience, and can only hope that the show comes here again.