Tonight is The Next Great American Band’s final performance show, and I’m gonna savor it, ‘case this show ain’t coming back next year. I think FOX thought they could command Friday nights with the magic of the 19 production team, but that thinking was, alas, a lot of hubris. Perhaps this experience has been a little humbling. No, everything you touch DOES NOT turn to gold, 19. But in the meantime, a really entertaining show was mishandled by the network, and it’s gone forever after next week. Dang.
Dominic starts the show by announcing that, “After an amazing 2 million votes, only 3 bands will take the stage…for the last time.” By the way, this is the first time they’ve announced vote totals. I’m guessing prior weeks have been pretty pathetic.
There are four bands waiting, Denver and the Mile High Orchestra, The Clark Brothers, Light of Doom and Sixwire. Only 3 bands will get to perform. Each of the top 3 will play 3 songs: One picked by the judges, one picked by the producers and one picked by the bands.
The first band up is…Denver and the Mile High Orchestra.
Sheila picked the judges song for DMHO. She chose “September” by Earth, Wind and Fire. She says, “I think the audience is going to enjoy them doing that song everyone is familiar with…let’s see if the band can do it justice.”
The band sounds fantastic. The guys are great musicians. But, as usual, Denver delivers a really bland performance, and his falsetto is thin. I’ve been watching this band through the competition, and Denver has yet to convince me that he has the charisma and chops to front a big band.
John says, “I think that you guys are an incredibly impressive live act and you do great cover songs but I’m just worried about how it’s going to turn out when you have to make a record…I’m not feeling it…you guys are great, but I’m just not seeing it translate into an album.”
Sheila says, “Every one in Earth Wind and Fire are my personal friends, and I think that they would be proud of the job that you just did. I think that you guys did great and I really like the fact that I didn’t know that other members of the band had sung and I think you should utilize all these other gifts…”
Dicko says, “Well Sheila is well aware that whenever I see you guys do disco, I got the collywobbles. As it is her birthday, she thinks she can torture me, I’ll give her this one. You all are always impressive, I’ve got to side with John…you would make a great record as a souvenir for a terrific live show, I don’t know how it’s gonna go on its own in the big bad record industry.”
Next up…The Clark Brothers
John picked the song, “I went with “Change the World” which was actually made popular by Eric Clapton. I really love this band, my money is on them to actually do something interesting with it.”
If you’ve heard Eric Clapton’s version, you know his is arranged as a mid-tempo ballad, sweet with layers of vocals and bright guitar embellishments. The Clarks strip it down, and turn it into a raw plea for social consciousness. Ashley’s vocals are as powerful as ever, and the guys play their asses off, as usual. Fantastic.
John says, “That was a really unique, original interpretation of that song, and you guys hammered it. It was great. The lyrics in that song are very very deep and I think what you added at the end added depth to the original lyrics.” Ashley says, “I was so nervous, man….” John says, “You got to stop being nervous, man, cause you’re a star, right?”
Sheila says, “I think you guys just have to let your hair down and just be who you are It’s ok, you shouldn’t be afraid. You have a natural gift and we really appreciate your musicianship and when you can take a song like that and make it your own, it’s awesome.”
Dicko says, “That song is a laid back, almost solemn song but you breathe so much fire into that performance that I thought you were going to set the sprinklers off. I’m a cynical old hack, but when I see you guys play, I’m a believer, I really am.”
After the break, it’s down to Sixwire and Light of Doom…
Sixwire, Sixwire, Sixwire…
Dominic says breathlessly, “These two are so close to winning, they can’t stand it! Let’s go back to our green room.”
Sixwire, Sixwire, Sixwire…
“Americer, ” says Dominic in his Kiwi accent, “Has voted and the final band who will be playing for your votes is…”
Awww, buh bye metal tots! They’re good musicians, for their age. Come back when you’ve grown up a bit, boys. There’s lots of hugging all around. Dominic says, “We’re really going to miss these guys, lets go to the judges!”
Unlike last week, the tots get a send off from the judges. Well, Ok, just from Sheila, but it’s better than nothing.
Sheila says, “I just want to tell you guys that I’m so proud of you…of what you’ve accomplished in all these weeks. Use this experience, go out and learn some more, do your homework, listen to your parents, and go make a record.”
It’s the end of the rode for Light of Doom.
Sidenote: The dude who put LOD together is calling shenanigans on last week’s show. He thinks the boys were set up to fail (OMG that NEVER happens on Idol!11! /sarcasm) and you can read all about it over at Vote for the Worst. VFTW had backed the boys during their run on the show.
Sixwire takes the stage.
Dicko picked their song, “We decided on “Reeling in the Years” by Steely Dan. I think this song…you’ve got to work it as a band, you’ve got to work it with a swing. There are some tricky harmonies, and there is a very tricky double guitar solo. We want to look out for those sort of things.”
I’m not sure the band’s ability to copy perfectly Steely Dan’s intricate harmonies and tasty licks is a measuring stick for success here. Of course they reproduce the bits flawlessly. Because, as they’ve demonstrated throughout this competition, they are effing pros. They finally make it a Sixwire song, sorta, when they change up the arrangement a bit at the end. They satisfy Dicko’s checklist, but unfortunately sound like a tribute band.
John says, “You know, I’m one of those anti-progressive rock types. I’m not a fan of Steely Dan, but you guys really welded a set right on to that song and its really really great.” Huh? I have no idea what he’s talking about.
Sheila says, “That was a great song for you guys to do because of all the elements that are in that song, the vocal harmonies, that great memorable guitar line that you guys nailed. The pocket was there. The drummer, he’s awesome, I love him. It was incredible.”
Dicko says, “What can I say. The fact is, I saw Steely Dan play this year. I love the band. They didn’t play that. This was my selfish indulgence, you turned a judge into a fan. Fantastic, guys.”
After the break, it’s the producer’s song choice.
Denver and the Mile High Orchestra – “Vehicle” by the Ides of March – Ok, taking Denver seriously singing, “I’m the friendly stranger, in a black sedan, won’t you hop inside my car…” is well, just, uhhmm…NO. The band is good, Denver, not so much. The faux snarls and growls don’t help.
John says, “It’s a really really exciting live performance…you always bring the energy to the stage.”
Sheila says, “You guys were PO-WER-FULLL!” She loves these guys.
Dicko says, “I want to start by saying something nice. Denver, you look really sharp tonight…you are growing into a really engaging performer, I couldn’t take my eyes of you.’
‘I’ve got to ask you this question. If I was the guy who was going to be making your record, what would you say to me, about the sort of record you want to make?”
Denver answers, “I would say that this band is a group of guys that is very passionate, we want to be able to give a message of hope and love to everyone around us. I think that when this band plays, there’s joy, and that’s what people see all the time. I think a lot of people in America want to feel good about themselves. I think that we can do that.”
Errr. That’s nice. The sentiment does not sell records though. The band will be alright. They’ll probably sign with a Christian label, and do very well.
The Clark Brothers – “Amazed” by Lonestar – I think the producers probably wanted to showcase the brothers performing something conventional. The performance was simple and lovely. Ashley’s vocals were beautiful. But, I’ll say it again, this sort of conventional country pop is NOT what I want to hear them sing. Guys, let me know when you release the gospel album, k?
John says, “I think every woman in America wants you right now. I feel like a giddy little girl. Ha ha, no. That was really really amazing, you showed a lot of confidence in your performance and that’s the most important thing…it was a beautiful version of that song.”
Sheila says, “What you guys just did was simply fantastic. It was very passionate. I could listen to you again all night long. ”
Dicko says, “For me, it was the wrong sort of song for you. Somebody got you mixed up with Sixwire.”
People start booing. “Yeah, get on with it you peasants!” Hee! I love Dicko.
He continues, “I think you feed off a certain energy…and you feed off your brothers and take it someplace else. That sort of boxed country is not what you’re about. You’re better than that.”
Sixwire – “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight” by England Dan and John Ford Coley. Eww. What a lame song to get saddled with. They do the best they can with little. They slow it up a bit to make it more romantic. Andy brings some passion to his vocal. The harmonies are nice. They definitely improve the song.
John says, “That was really well done, but it was just bordering a little bit on smooth jazz for me. I was expecting Sting to come out and play a lute there for a second…You did pull it off pretty well.”
Sheila says, “I think the approach you guys had for this song was great cause it lets us experience your acoustic abilities and versatility. I thought it was great.”
Dicko says, “You’ve already got one fantastic performance in the bag tonight. I’m sure in your minds, the stools and the ambiance felt like the greatest Sixwire unplugged concert ever. But to me, it felt like an old boy band that forgot to break up.” The band cracks up.
Next round, the bands reprise their favorite song from the series.
Before each performance,
we’re subjected to we see video clips of sentimental messages from the wives and family. Eep.
Denver and the Mile High Orchestra – “The Way You Move Me” – Am I filled with joy yet? Not quite. The orchestra plays their hearts out, and Denver gives it as much oomph as a whiter-than-white boy can, but it’s still all too much Branson lounge act for me.
John says, “It’s a really well-written song, for you guys. Denver, you are really on top of these guys, and you’re leading them. That’s what you need to do.”
Sheila says, “I just want to say that hearing you guys play on stage every week, if I was youth in America, I would be inspired to want to play an instrument. To me, that’s what it’s about…and you guys inspire us.”
Dicko says, “Denver, Not only does he sing well, not only does he scrub up well, but he dances as well! Well done…that song is great. It’s so good, that it sounds like an old standard. You never shortchange the audience…don’t let the industry shortchange you. Whatever you are going into next, be clear in your mind what it is you want, and how you’re going to get there.”
The Clark Brothers – “This Little Light of Mine” – This was their audition song, and the very moment that the Clarks totally flipped me out. Passionate, intense, soulful. This? Fills me with Joy. Oh please, please make a record filled with music like this rather than watered-down country pop.
John says, “I don’t think anyone deserves to win this contest more than you guys.” Enough said…
Sheila says, “You guys have let the light of God shine through you every single week and that’s why you’re still here.”
Dicko says, “I’ve travelled backwards and forwards to Australia every week to do this show. Sometimes that’s been tough. One thing’s made it all right every week and that’s when I see you guys take the stage. Magical.” Ashley looks like he’s about to cry. I think the Clark Brothers deserve to take it all.
Sixwire – “Good to be Back” – A good pick. The song shows off the band’s songwriting skills and tight harmonies. Sixwire is radio ready right now. Though, interestingly, Nigel Lythgoe said in a recent interview, that he thought “their time had passed.” Nigel seems more interested in signing the young Clark Brothers. I guess I should not be surprised.
John says, “I love that song, and you guys wrote it which makes it even more impressive. Great stuff.”
Sheila says, “That was the song that you played for us in Vegas and that’s what got you through to the Top 12, and it’s still a fantastic song.”
Dicko says, “Fantastic way to sign off with what I’d regard as your statement song–a song that says a lot about you and your potential. The other statement it’s making is you’re real contenders. Well done, boys.”
Next week is the finale. The winner will be announced and Sheila E and John and the Goo Goo Dolls will be performing.