American Idol Live | 08.25.10


Lee was a clear reminder of what this show is really about after all the judging is said and done – raw, undiscovered talent and making dreams come true.

Photo: Steve Galli
Scottrade Center, St. Louis
As a long-time American Idol fan (all nine seasons start to finish), it may seem surprising that, until Wednesday night, I had never seen an Idols Live tour. I truly enjoy the competition aspect of the show, and as much as I root for certain contestants, I typically stop caring much after the season is over. I will confess, what pushed me to attend this year’s tour was my six-year-old daughter. We watched the show together all season and she is a big fan, so I thought this would be the pefect first concert for her.  It turns out we both enjoyed it more than we thought.
The show was structured with the top 10 appearing in reverse order, beginning with 10 and down to the “winner,” in this case Lee DeWyze. The bottom four each sang two songs, the next three sang three songs each and the top three sang four songs each with a couple of group numbers before the intermission and at the finale. In theory, this arrangement seems most logical, however starting out a show with Didi Benami followed by Andrew Garcia could not have been duller.
It seems many folks anticipated this, as the venue was barely half full at the show’s start, although eventually most of the lower sections filled up (the upper deck was closed). It’s not surprising considering that the tour has cancelled eight shows already due to poor sales in what has turned out to be a record low summer for the concert industry.
If the first half of this year’s Idols Live tour was any indication, the best idea would have been to take just the top five on tour and give them each more time. I could have done without most of the first half aside from a standout performance by Siobahn Magnus, who sang a fierce trio of covers including the Rolling Stones’ “Paint it Black,” No Doubt’s “Spiderwebs” and a dark, heavy rendition of Muse’s “Stockholm Syndrome,” all while wearing buckled combat boots and fishnets with a pink and black tutu and bustier. As she proved during the show’s season, this girl has some pipes and she knows how to use them. She will certainly be one to watch once she’s free of Idols creative chains.
Katie Stevens, who failed to ever really “find herself” on the show seems to have come into her own a bit and her cover of Christina Aguilera’s “Fighter” was at least passable and the first "spark" anyone showed onstage all night. Tim Urban was as lackluster live as he was on TV, although by the collective squeal let out by the under 16 set as he launched into Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida,” they didn’t seem to mind.
Last season’s youngest contestant, Aaron Kelly, stuck to his country roots and actually did a fairly good job – I’m not a country fan, but the kid can definitely sing and he has really begun to develop a solid stage presence that seems well beyond his 17 years.
The first half of the show ended with a group number (with the addition of Crystal Bowersox) – Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb,” to the delight of the many young Hannah Montana fans in the audience (my daughter included).
After a brief intermission, the show resumed with Michael “Big Mike” Lynche. The second half of the show definitely balanced out the first. Lynche talked about his life-changing year including Idol and the birth of his baby daughter during the show’s season. He started out with his signature slow R&B style, covering “This Woman’s Work,” a song written by Kate Bush more recently covered by Maxwell, and India.Arie’s “Ready for Love.” He then kicked up the energy level with Justin Timberlake’s “My Love,” getting the crowd on its feet and dancing (and even attempting the rap parts).
The top three was where the show really took off, and probably the biggest surprise of the night was Casey James. Now Casey had a rough climb to the top three and oftentimes was noticed more for his rugged good looks than his voice, but make no mistake, he can sing; and what’s more, the boy can shred on the guitar. He came out wailing with a killer solo for the Black Keys’ “I Got Mine.” He then slowed it down for “Don’t,” a Shania Twain cover he played on the show, followed by a duet with Big Mike on Bryan Adams’ “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman.” James closed out his set by getting to his roots again on “It’s All Over Now” (most notably known for the Rolling Stones’ version) and playing a mean slide guitar. Judging by James’ guitar skills on display in the live show, I can’t help but think he was made to hold them back during the show. It makes sense, being that the focus of the show is a singing competition, but James is easily as good a guitarist (if not better) as he is a singer.
Next up was resident hippie chick Crystal Bowersox (lovingly called “Mama Sox” by her fans), who was my absolute favorite during the competition and the one I was betting on to win. In the end, I’m glad she didn’t because her style is much more suited to her doing her own thing and hopefully she’ll be able to do that once this tour is over. Her voice soared as she belted out songs perfectly suited to both her soulful and powerful tone including 4 Non Blondes’ “What’s Up,” Melissa Etheridge’s “Come to My Window,” Patty Griffin’s gospel-infused “Up to the Mountain” and the Janis Joplin classic “Piece of My Heart.” 
Crystal can’t sing a bad note. As Idol judge Randy would say, she can “sing the phone book” and it would sound good; but something about her performance still felt less than expected live. I think Crystal is an artist that clearly needs to be making her own music instead of covering other people’s to really reach her full potential. I would have loved to see a duet with Crystal and Casey as their styles would have "meshed" well onstage.
Finally this year’s American Idol, Lee DeWyze took to the stage to the opening notes of U2’s “Beautiful Day.” After those initial notes, the song was virtually unrecognizable as Lee’s arrangement was truly all his own. As much as I was rooting for Crystal to “win,” Lee proved in his performance that he deserved the title. He had great stage presence and his voice sounded stronger and better than ever. Lee has the ability, like the very best Idol winners and finalists, to take a song and put his unique spin on it. Covers of Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” were no exception. Lee was a clear reminder of what this show is really about after all the judging is said and done – raw, undiscovered talent and making dreams come true. As Lee thanked his fans for getting him there, his emotion was palpable. He rounded out his set with soul classic “Treat Her Like a Lady” followed by a strong rendition of “Use Somebody” by Kings of Leon.
The show ended with the entire top 10 on stage for two finale songs, which I suppose is necessary but seemed hokey and boring following Lee’s crowning performance. All in all the show was entertaining, and as a fan, it was fun to see them perform without the pressure of judging, voting and competing. Whatever your thoughts are on the TV show, its contestants are undeniably talented. | Amy Burger


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