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Idol Chit-Chat
This is your place to discuss all things "American Idol." The performances, the judges, the past contestants — it’s all right here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My Complete Recap of the Idols Live in Columbus

You guys count on me to be as thorough as possible, so let me start my recap of the Columbus stop on the “American Idols Live Tour 2009” with a word or two about the venue…

I have to give MAJOR props to the people at the Schottenstein Center for switching one of the men’s restrooms to a women’s since there were WAY more women at the show. Although, I have to say that it was a little freaky walking into a men’s room…

I also have to give them props for opening the doors an hour and a half before showtime, since I was there so early because of the afternoon press hour. It gave me a chance to chill out and have a little snack before the show.

But it also gave me a chance to sweat out the lack of people in the arena. I was a little concerned when five minutes before the show started, the front row wasn’t even full yet. I guess everyone was just running late, because when the spotlight started to roam the crowd, the floor was full. But the upper sections never did fill up. I would say it was a ways away from a sellout…

At first, I was impressed at the massive improvement in the graphics and lights from the last Idols concert I attended (the season six edition), but they quickly got annoying. And during a few sets, they were downright nauseating. Clearly, no one had ever sat dead center in the upper level and saw the effect they had on people…

The season six show altered the tour format and had the Idols sing in different combinations. But last year they went back to the tried-and-true one-at-a-time in order of elimination format. This year, it was handled almost like a countdown show as each Idol was introduced with a graphics package and an announcement of their number…

Up first, was #10 Michael Sarver. Michael was a great way to get it started as he came out with a high energy rendition of “In Love With a Girl” (Gavin DeGraw). He tried the same with his second song, “Closer” (Ne-Yo), but Michael just wasn’t meant to do an upbeat R&B song and it came off a little karaoke…

Then, it was Megan’s turn. And I’m afraid she did nothing to change my previous opinion of her. Her version of “Put Your Records On” was actually decent, but those word pronunciations are still so weird. Then Megan did “Tears Dry On Their Own” (Amy Winehouse) and it just didn’t work at all. The performance was not that good, the song was kind of strange and the graphics department did Megan no favors with a weird animation on the big screen that looked like the rejected opening credits for “Down With Love.” It was totally cheesy. Megan, by the way, was sporting a new afro for the first time. It looked cute in the press room, but it just didn’t translate as well with her hot pink Marilyn Monroe-style dress…

Scott MacIntyre rose from the floor seated at the piano. Scott is a super-talented pianist, but his vocals have improved since the show as well. The Keane song “Bend & Break” was a good choice for him, even though it wasn’t all that familiar. Scott then talked to the crowd about the “high-five heard around the world” before taking his seat back at the piano to do “A Thousand Miles” (Vanessa Carlton). I questioned this song choice when I first heard it, but I was wrong because any song that allows Scott to play the piano a lot is a good choice…

Michael did a decent job getting the crowd into it, but Megan seemed to completely lose them. Scott got them back to a certain extent, but Lil Rounds never had a chance. At the risk of sounding like Paula Abdul, I would say she looked great and she had incredible stage presence. But the vocals just weren’t there. And sadly, she was the first Idol who got to do three songs. I would have much rather heard Scott play the piano some more. Lil did “Be Without You” before breaking into “Just Fine” (both by Mary J. Blige) and she should have knocked them out of the park, but she didn’t come anywhere close. “No One” (Alicia Keys) was a little better, but she blew any goodwill she earned with her rendition of “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It).” She made a big deal about working with Beyonce’s choreographer, but then barely showed us any of the moves. And the vocals were incredibly spotty, especially since she let the backup singers take most of the notes on the chorus...

At this point, I was really starting to have serious buyers’ remorse. But then Anoop Desai took the stage and really surprised me. In fact, it was the first time I let out any kind of yell at all. Anoop had a big following among the college students in the arena and he wowed them and me with “Always On My Mind” (Willie Nelson/Elvis Presley). His vocals are silky smooth live and he did a lot of really cool vocal acrobatics. “Mad” (Ne-Yo) was also solid, but the silly graphics of water drops probably just made people need to run to the bathroom. Anoop closed out his set with his crowd pleaser, “My Prerogative” (Bobby Brown). It was a solid performance, so I was a little disappointed that the crowd didn’t get more into it.

The crowd pleasers continued with Matt Giraud rocking out “Hard to Handle” (Otis Redding/Black Crowes). But what the crowd really wanted to hear was “Georgia On My Mind” (Ray Charles). Matt is an extremely talented piano player and he had a lot of fun with his arrangement on this one. It’s also when he put on his hat for the first time. Matt’s set concluded with “You Found Me” (The Fray), and he did a much better job with it here than he did on the show, but it still had its issues vocally. Matt’s piano playing, however, had no issues…

It was then time for Megan to return the stage (in a new outfit) to start “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” (Four Seasons/Andy Williams). She was later joined by Lil (also in a new outfit). And if I thought these two were weak on their own, well, together was even worse…

Thankfully, they were replaced by Scott and Matt rising from the floor seated at pianos doing a duet of “Tell Her About It” (Billy Joel), which ended in a bit of a piano duel. I could have listened to the two of them all night, so I really wish they could have done more songs together. I also have to give the show props for the way they made things as easy as possible for Scott…

Michael then re-emerged (in a suit) for “Suspicious Minds” (Elvis Presley) and it was pretty good, but then he was totally blown off the stage with the smooth sounds of Anoop returning to start out “Beggin’” (Madcon/Four Seasons). He was joined by Matt, Scott, Michael, Lil and Megan, who each took turns in the spotlight. And then all of them (including Scott) sported some pretty cool choreography (and some pretty cool duds). It was a good way to end the first act…

Then the 20-minute intermission was announced, and the crowd promptly booed. Probably because they knew that would only delay the appearance of Adam Lambert on the stage…

Don’t believe me? During the intermission, the big screens showed a commercial for the “American Idol Experience” at Disney World and every time Adam appeared on the screen, the crowd screamed. I knew if they were screaming that much at a little video, that they were going to go nuts when he actually appeared on stage…

But first, it was Allison’s turn. And as much as I hate to admit it, I was pretty disappointed with Allison’s set. The first thing to note is that the volume was turned up tremendously, and Allison got a little lost in the band. And the nausea-inducing spinning swirls on the big screen didn’t help her any. She shouted most of “So What” (P!nk) and in all honesty, watching a 16-year-old sing about her ex-husband just didn’t work for me. “Cry Baby” was better, but she seemed to totally lose the crowd through the spoken part of the song. I think I would have cut that part out. Her set concluded with “Barracuda” and the band was so loud, it just got completely lost. I think they should have found a younger, more crowd-friendly song for her…

If Allison lost the crowd (and I believe she did), Danny Gokey quickly got them back with “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” (Michael Jackson). I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed the performance. He even managed to do a good job with “Maria Maria” (Santana), which I had thought was a bad choice for him. However, he should have seriously left out the dance moves as they were not good. If you followed my blog last season, you know the big 180 I did with Danny, but I have to admit that he is a pretty good performer. And he managed to hook me with his almost gut-wrenching performance of “What Hurts the Most” (Rascal Flatts). Then, after an inspirational pep talk for the audience, he closed his set with “My Wish” (Rascal Flatts), leaving me as conflicted about him as ever…

But I didn’t have much time to think about that as Danny had barely left the stage when the chants for Adam Lambert began…

Now, at this point in the show, I had a decision to make. As a member of the media, I had the opportunity to go down to the stage and take some pictures of the last part of Kris’ set and the final group number. But in order to do that, I would have to leave the arena to go meet our escort and that would mean missing Adam Lambert’s entire set. So, did I try and take a good picture for you guys, or did I stay and watch Adam? I think the lack of pictures in this post tells you my decision…

And for the record, I don’t regret it. Sorry…

When Adam’s bold, bright and loud intro package hit the screens, the place went nuts.
Adam emerged through a mass of bright lights to do “Whole Lotta Love” (Led Zeppelin) and he completely embraced his role as a rock god. His stage presence is something I can’t even explain. You know how when people parody fashion photographers they always say, “Make love to the camera”? Well, it almost seemed like Adam was making love to cameras all over the arena and the crowd loved it. Adam then did “Starlight” (Muse) and he showed every rock god pose in his repertoire. He then took a seat for a gorgeous rendition of “Mad World,” which the crowd—and I—loved. Adam then welcomed Allison back to the stage to do “Slow Ride,” which was Allison’s best song of the night. They have a great chemistry and sound fantastic together. Adam had some fun with Allison by smacking her on the behind with one of the bras someone had thrown on stage (Yes, there were several underwear items thrown on the stage during Adam’s set.). Adam closed his set with a David Bowie medley of “Life On Mars”/“Fame”/“Let’s Dance.” During “Fame,” Adam removed his jacket and did some more suggestive dance moves. And the more risqué Adam got, the more the crowd loved it.

I said in my earlier post that Adam is a freak of nature, and I mean that as a total compliment. His singing is so effortless and his stage presence is beyond words. If this guy is handled correctly, he could be a gigantic star. And yes, I’m totally upset that he was not part of yesterday’s press hour…

Finally, the countdown reached #1, quieting the Adam chants. Kris Allen got a lot of cheers himself, but it was a totally different kind of energy. Kris started his set with a great rendition of “Heartless” (Kanye West/The Fray) and then went into the song that replaced “No Boundaries,” “All These Things I’ve Done” (The Killers). I was concerned about that one, but it was a good performance and the crowd got into singing the “I’ve got soul, but I’m not a soldier” refrain. The crowd really got excited when Kris sat at the piano to do “Ain’t No Sunshine,” (Bill Withers) and it was gorgeous—even though he once again just barely missed that last note. Kris then went into “Bright Lights” (Matchbox Twenty) at the piano and it was probably one of the shrewdest choices for any of the Idols. It made me wish that Kris had done more Matchbox Twenty/Rob Thomas songs on the show. Kris closed his set with “Hey Jude,” which elicited an “Awww” from the crowd. Everyone in the arena sang along on the “Na Na Na Nas” and Kris was joined by several of the other Idols at the song’s end…

Usually at this point, the performers do a fake exit when you know they’re returning for an encore. But they didn’t even attempt to fake anyone out and instead launched right into Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” bringing the Idols out two at a time kicking off with Matt and Scott coming out of the floor with pianos. Kris and Adam came out last—also out of the floor—to lots of screaming from the crowd. Even though that song is starting to get seriously overused, it still worked. The Idols threw in a chorus of “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” in the middle just for the fun of it, before closing with the final refrain of “Stop”…

Overall, I would say the show was good, but that’s as strong of a compliment as I can muster. In the first act, Anoop and Matt—as well as the “Beggin’” number—were solid, but they weren’t enough to save the act from the issues of Megan and Lil. In fact, I would say that the two acts were like night and day both in style and—unfortunately for my ear—in volume. Adam was amazing, but I would’ve liked for him to sing some more recognizable, crowd-friendly songs. And Kris was amazing as well, but after the spectacle of Adam, his set kind of lost something. I think they should’ve staggered the performers like they did in season six when Blake performed before the intermission. Maybe they were afraid people would leave (I did see some people leaving after Adam’s set.)…

Usually after a show there’s one performance that I just can’t stop talking about, and that just wasn’t there for me after this one. If I had to choose a favorite, I would probably go with Adam’s “Mad World,” followed by—believe it or not—Anoop’s “Always On My Mind.” I also really liked the group number, “Beggin’.”

I would say that it was worth the money just for Adam and Kris, but it would have been nice if the ladies could have stepped it up a little too…

So were any of you there? If so, be sure to let me know what you thought…

And later this week, I will share with you my complete interviews with Matt, Megan, Scott, Danny and yes, Kris. So stay tuned…