I always attempt to make these things brief but am rarely successful, so apologies ahead of time.
I’ve only attended the tour once before, in Season 7, when we celebrated my birthday as a family by attending a sold-out show in Atlantic City. New to the tour, and completely naïve, I ordered my tickets through the pre-sale and ended up with lousy seats. We still had a great time, but I vowed if I ever went to another show I’d wait until the last minute to see what I could find. That was an especially good strategy this season since the tour hasn’t been selling as well as it did the past few years.
Now for the disclosures: I was a Casey and Crystal fan primarily this season, as they are the types of artists I enjoy in the real world, but there were no contestants for whom I had an active dislike (unlike prior seasons), so when I discovered that good seats were still available for the Philly show, I asked my son (who celebrates his 13th birthday this week) if he wanted me to take him as an early present. I was almost certain he’d take a pass, since he hasn’t been all that excited about Idol the past two years, but, to my pleasant surprise, he loved the idea. So off we went. He’d loved Aaron during the show’s run, but also was a fan of Casey and Big Mike. Aside from those three, and Crystal, he couldn’t even remember who else had competed (and thought Crystal had won)!
We landed floor seats in the aisle, so we had a great view of everyone. Aside from a catfight that broke out right in front of me during Casey’s first number (more on that later), it was a very laid back group — too laid back really for a pop concert — but this is an American Idols “revue,” so it’s not really like a typical concert – not the types I attend anyway. LOTS of families with young kids and tweens. Lots of moms with teen daughters. A fair number of middle-aged couples and a smattering of great-grandmas and -grandpas.
The ushers were cool. No putting the kibosh on videos or photos with flashes. As long as folks stayed out of the aisles and didn’t get involved in a physical altercation (again, I’ll get to that!), they were cool.
The nice thing about this ho-hum season was that I went into the show with low expectations. Smart move! As it turns out, I really enjoyed the first half. Didi was very good (and GORGEOUS in person). I loved Andrew and wish he could have had a third number. He was very good. I wasn’t crazy about Katie’s Demi Lovato number (I’d taken my son to see her with David Archuleta last year and, frankly, Demi does Demi better than Katie does), but she was fantastic on that Xtina song (I think that’s what that was). I mean really fantastic. While I could have lived without that cheap dress she was wearing (clearly there was no budget for wardrobe this year!), she looked beautiful. And she has great stage presence.
Tim was another BIG surprise. He’s been panned in most of the reviews I’ve read, but I thought he did great. Not an outstanding singer, but he sings on key (!) and just has a personal charm and charisma that few of the others could rival last night. (And, in addition to Lee, received the loudest squeals from the teeny bopper set.)
Like Didi, Siobhan looked gorgeous, and I loved her costuming, but aside from her patented “scream” (which was amazing and in tune, and I actually enjoyed in that setting), I was kind of underwhelmed by her performance. Perhaps because she was an early favorite of mine but didn’t live up to my ambitions for her? I don’t know. She has some vocal issues on the lower notes, and I think some serious vocal coaching would help her tremendously because she’s got an incredible range and great stage presence. She just strikes me more as a musical theater girl playing “rock star” than a serious musical artist. I enjoyed her performing more than her singing if that makes any sense.
Aaron closed out the half, and it couldn’t have been a more fitting end to that portion of the program. I wasn’t sure what to expect with Aaron. I’d read several reviews that proclaimed him the standout of the entire show, but the New York Times’ Jon Caramanica (what does that dude smoke before he goes to these shows?) had anointed Katie the only Idol with any real star potential, so I decided just to go and see for myself.
Well, friends, High School Student Aaron Kelly floored me. He was so, so good. The Rascal Flatts songs (?) were terrific, but “Walking in Memphis” was bloody fantastic. What on earth did they do to this kid on the show? I absolutely can believe now what Aaron told Michael Slezak about last-minute key changes, etc., because Aaron’s voice is a lovely, powerful baritone. In the right key, he just shines. I really think if he can write some of his own material, he has the potential to be the male equivalent of a Taylor Swift. He’s young and handsome, sweet without being cloying, and has a gravitas you rarely see in a young male performer. His stage presence has improved dramatically, as well. I would love to see him have a chance to be an opening act for Carrie Underwood because I could see him ending up on a similar trajectory to hers.
And color me Miley, but I really enjoyed the group performance of “The Climb.” Having taken my son to see the Hannah Montana movie, I can appreciate the song for what it is. And the Idols sounded much better in person than it comes across on video.
There was a thankfully short intermission (sans dancing Pop Tarts!) before the final four performances. I loved Big Mike’s first two numbers, especially the India.Arie one. I’m not a big fan of Mike’s falsetto, so I didn’t care for that last song as much, but he is a great entertainer, and the crowd loved him.
Finally, time for my two favorites!
The crowd started screaming before Casey even came out, and that opening number was seriously mind-blowing. None of the awkward smiling or self-consciousness Casey portrayed on the show. I only wish he could have brought the entire band down with him to the front of the stage to interact with. And, it must be said, he is seriously gorgeous. I always thought he was cute and love that whole tall lanky thing, but he looks like a movie star in person. (As do Siobhan and Didi.)
[And this is probably heresy amongst Casey fans, but I’m actually looking forward to when he cuts his hair for that “Locks of Love” program, because it concealed too much of his face for a solo performance like that. I love his hair, but he doesn’t need it. It will grow back soon enough, so I say, cut it all off! That will rid him of the BSCs, which I’m about to get to, and allow him to re-launch as a serious musical artist.]
I was surprised that I actually enjoyed Casey’s first and last performances the best, since I tend to prefer acoustic numbers, but he really is a different person when he’s got that electric guitar (or several) in his hands. The Shania song was lovely but would have fared better in a more intimate setting, I think.
And that brings me to the two women who literally came to blows in front of me. I think one had snuck in the row to record Casey, but she was standing in front of another woman (a Lee fan, I surmised) who was pissed that her view was being blocked by an interloper. It was pretty annoying! They were arguing and shoving each other throughout Casey’s first two numbers, and it ended up ruining my video of “Don’t,” but others have captured that, so I’m not going to worry about it. But seriously. Grown women fighting in front of their kids? Not cool. It took the ushers forever to deal with it (the downside of their being chill throughout the evening, I suppose).
The crowd loved the duet with Mike, and I did too. Those two are so fun together. I had been disappointed that Casey chose to reprise the “Rolling Stones song” for his final performance, but he completely transformed it. It was fan-freaking-tastic. Hoping my video does it justice.
Sadly, I don’t have a lot to say about Crystal. This kind of shocks me to admit, but her set was my least favorite. I don’t know if she’s under the weather, but it was like she came out in her street clothes with no make-up and little energy. Her voice was in good form, but her whole set was just so underwhelming. She sang the Patty Griffin song (I’m a HUGE Patty fan) sitting down on the stage with her remote microphone. It was so odd to me. She definitely needs to take her show to a smaller, more intimate setting. I think my biggest frustration with her is that she’s the same artist we met when she first sang back in Hollywood Week. It’s a cliché, but we want to see these young artists grow; without that growth, there’s just something missing.
Admittedly, Lee was never my favorite, and I still think his vocals are very weak in comparison to most of the top 10, and that he lacks a certain “star quality,” but he put on a very good show last night, and I loved all his song choices. The crowd loved him too, but I was surprised he didn’t seem to get much more love than the rest of the Idols. I guess that kind of describes the entire season, though. This Top 10 didn’t attract many passionate fans, but it was a very nice group overall. And the smaller crowds they attracted made the experience much more relaxed and comfortable for those in the audience.
I’m not going to try to predict the future for any of these kids. I wish them all well in their various endeavors. I hope that Aaron and Casey get signed because, for me, they were the two whose music I could see myself buying in the future.
If you’re wavering about going to the show, just do it.
First appeared on MJ’sBigBlog. Published with permission from the author, BootStar. Please credit author for all photos.
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