The Next Great American Band: Top 10

Discuss! All 11 of you who are watching…

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Here is the deal. I’m going to recap this show every week, but I’m not going to drive myself crazy writing down every little detail. The ratings for this show are really abysmal, and actually, that’s too bad, ’cause all in all, it’s an entertaining show. Watching it reminds me of how stale American Idol has become, in many respects, after 6 seasons.

It starts with the judges. Johnny Rezeznik, Sheila E. and Dicko actually–ok wait for this–give constructive criticism! And their remarks are substantive! Dicko, who is playing the role of the Simonesque “tough” judge can be sarcastic, but his remarks are usually spot on. What I love most about Dicko is that, unlike Simon, he appears to be in the business because he actually loves music. Sheila E. can be a bit of a softie, but as a musician, she often comes up with good advice. Johnny Rezeznik needs to ignore the boos from audience when he says something negative. Like some of the bands tonight, he doesn’t seem to take criticism very well. Although his line, “Don’t boo my ass, I’m sick of you already!” was pretty funny.

After 6 seasons, the contestants on Idol often just roll their eyes at the judges when they criticize. At this point, they realize their remarks are a bunch of scripted crap designed to either manipulate or entertain the viewers at home. There is real drama to be had watching the faces of the contestants on NAGB as they take in honest, unflinching criticism from the panel. Some of them, like Laura from the all-girl band “Rocket” behave as if they’ve never been criticised honestly in their lives. The tension in the air makes for really compelling television.

This week’s episode was a big improvement over last week. For the most part, the bands had a hard time making the songs of the Iconic Mr. Bob Dylan their own. Tonight’s show featured the music of the much more user-friendly Elton John and Bernie Taupin. The results were often satisfying.

Tonight’s two-hour show was a mash-up of a performance show plus results. All the bands sat backstage waiting to be called. Ten bands were given the opportunity to perform. The last two bands standing were sent home. In the end, The Likes of You and The Hatch were given their walking papers…

Each band was featured in a video piece describing the hows and whys of naming their band. After, they performed an original tune, launched directly into an Elton John cover and then took remarks from the judges. A very efficient set up. I LOVE the lack of annoying time-wasting filler in this show.

Here’s a short recap of the performances.

Sixwire – “Got to Get Away” – This song has enormous crossover appeal–a pop confection with country flourishes. These guys are totally the ones to beat. They’ve got it all–well written, commercially friendly songs, attractive band members, excellent musicianship and good vocals that feature intricate, pleasing harmonies. Their EJ Cover, “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” was perfect, with an arrangement that took good advantage of their tight layered vocals.

Tres Bien! – Long live mid-60’s garage band psychedelia! Their original “How I Feel” had this whole Yardbirds vibe going on, that I noticed even before Dicko mentioned it. Dicko knows his music–one reason why I think he rules. The EJ cover was a deep cut from “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” “Love Lies Bleeding” was EJ done garage band style. Dicko said they need to remain focused when they play. Yeah, they are a bit sloppy, but that’s part of their charm. Tres Bien! Still my favorites!

Franklin Bridge – Yeah, these guys show off a bit. Sheila E thought the drummer overdid the drum fills in their original, “Love’s Fool.” And, Dicko thought “Philadelphia Freedom” was over-arranged. I dunno, I liked the arrangements. I thought the band was flashy, yes, but impressive. The lead singer seemed a little miffed at the criticism. “The ladies loved it” he said. Ok, stop that crap right now.

Fifi Larue, Gothic Heavy Metal Clown, was in the audience and introduced from the stage. Yay?

The Clark Brothers – I still dig these guys, but I have to say I was not as impressed this week as I’ve been in the past. Their original, “Country Time” was a bit hokey for my tastes, though I can imagine this song, with a fuller band, on country radio. Maybe that’s why I don’t like it. Like Tres Bien!, the band chose an EJ deep cut, “Country Comfort” from Elton’s second album, “Tumbleweed Connection”. I found the arrangement a little somber, though the judges liked the fact that the brothers slowed things up this week. I wasn’t digging “Country Comfort” as a dirge. The tune could have used a little more sweetness, in my opinion.

Light of Doom – Ugh. Send them and their fame whoring parents home. Please, I beg of you. Last week, Dicko told them to put shirts on. Thank Jeebus they did. Still, their original, “Light of Doom, ” sounded like a bunch of 12 year olds wrote it. Oh, right. Near the end of the song, as my mind wandered, I thought “I bet they sing ‘Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting'” Ding! I am the winnah! The little boy on lead vocals was out of tune the whole song. Yeah, the kids have potential as musicians, but right now, at their age–Dicko got it right–it’s still a gimmick. And I wasn’t amused in the least when one of the little boys mispronounced Bernie Taupin’s last name. Come back when you grow up, boys.

Dot Dot Dot – “Duran Duran” “Talk Talk Talk” “Dot Dot Dot” Get it? Why don’t the judges mention the fact that this band is a total 80’s new wave retro outfit? They are, as evidenced by their original, “Stay” which made me want to break out my leg warmers. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Last week, they stunk up the joint, pretty much. This week, there was much improvement. Manic lead singer, Adam, dialed it back like the judges asked and performed a nice arrangement of an unpredictable EJ pick, “Your Song.” I threw them a few votes. I think they deserve to live another week.

Cliff Wagner and the Old #7 – I think these guys have run their course. I agree with the judges, they are “fun.” But “fun” can only take this band so far. For me, the pleasure of bluegrass is listening to really good musicians wail on their instruments. I don’t think of the genre as a very appealing pop vehicle. “Little White Chapel on the Strip” was FUN, but a bit ho hum. Their EJ cover “Honky Cat” was a good pick for them, but I hated the vocal, and thought the arrangement lacked energy. Bleh.

The Muggs – Just as Dicko made the remark that the band needed to suck it up and find a new front man, I was thinking the exact same thing. The lead singer is an awesome guitar player, but he’s a terrible singer completely lacking in charisma. He managed NOT to sound like complete ass on the band’s original, “Should’ve Learned My Lesson.” But, when he attempted to sing the beautifully melodic EJ song, “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues, ” he totally mangled the melody. It was way beyond his ability. Boy, did he look pissed when the judges criticised his singing. Too bad. They are right. The Muggs seem completely resistant to change. Oh well, hope they enjoy playing bars for the rest of their lives.

Rocket – Lauren, the lead singer looked devestated as the judges criticised her vocals. It’s true, she’s all affectation and little emotion. Her breathy delivery worked out ok on their original, “Future Ex-boyfriend.” But, she rendered the lyrics of EJ’s “Rocket Man” meaningless as she breathlessly, and quite sloppily, ripped through the song with her band. They are one of a kind in this competition, which will probably help them stick around, at least for a couple more weeks.

At this point, 3 bands were left. One band would be chosen to close the show, the two left standing would be eliminated.

Before the last band to make the cut took the stage to perform, Dominic Bowden–who is still coming off as non-descript, except for that annoying accent–interviews the eliminated band members. Dominic asks The Hatch what they think about “America’s choice.” The lead singer–who always seemed kinda douchey to me–replied “300 people in Nebraska chose.” Sore loser. The Likes of You stayed upbeat. They insisted, once again, that they didn’t just get together so the front guy would be eligible for the show. No, really! We’re a band! We’ll be touring! Well, good luck to them! That left….

Denver and the Mile High Orchestra – I think these guys should have been sent home tonight. There are a number of problems here. Denver, the front guy seems affable enough, but he’s as bland as Wonder bread. The band’s original songs are really lame. And, their cover strategy is to take pop songs and turn them into lounge music. Yuck. These guys do not swing. No, they do not. I nearly fell asleep during their EJ cover, “I’m Still Standing.” Oh really Denver? It sounds like you’re about ready to nap. The original song, “All Night” was like Lawrence Welk doing disco. Time to go home, boys.

Next week–Two more bands are eliminated as the Top 8 perform the musical stylings of Billy Joel.

About mj santilli 34980 Articles
Founder and editor of mjsbigblog.com, home of the awesomest fan community on the net. I love cheesy singing shows of all kinds, whether reality or scripted. I adore American Idol, but also love The Voice, Glee, X Factor and more!