Concert: "American Idols Live" in Glendale, AZ
This summer's "American Idols Live!" concert tour has been overshadowed by the controversy surrounding the departure of two of the television show's three judges, Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez.
However, as soon as the performances started Friday (7/27) at the half-filled Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, AZ, it was easy to forget about the exodus, and just focus on the talent.
The most talented of which was winner Phillip Phillips, who suffered from well-documented kidney problems throughout his run on Season 11. At Jobing.com Arena, he was hidden until the end of the show, when he kicked off his set with Stevie Wonder's "Superstition."
It was clear that Phillips was feeling better after the surgery he underwent following his "Idol" win. His color was better and there was more oomph behind the Georgia-born singer/songwriter's voice. His rendition of "Superstition," was enthusiastic, raucous and funky. But nothing compared to his sexy, acoustic rendition of Usher's "Nice and Slow." Phillips stood on the catwalk, with his eyes closed, surprising the audience with his choice.
Everything he sang fared well. His performance -- which also included a duet of Goyte's "Somebody That I Used to Know" with Top 9 finisher Elise Testone, and his coronation single "Home" with fellow contestants DeAndre Brackensick and Colton Dixon -- was revered by fans, whose screams drowned out Phillips' between-song banter. Ticketholders stuck around until the end to see their winner, too. In years past, for example when Lee DeWyze won, many fans headed for the exits after Crystal Bowersox played.
But the two-and-a-half-hour show was filled with highlights besides Phillips' set. Erika Van Pelt Dixon as well as Hollie Cavanagh showed off voices that were improvements over their performances on TV. Dixon has the rare opportunity on tour to perform an original number, "Never Gone." The 20-year-old Tennessean's ballad was the perfect vehicle for his voice. Not so perfect was Billy Joel's "Piano Man," which sounded pitchy in the beginning. But what he lacked there he made up for in charisma.
Erika Van Pelt served up an amazing rendition of Pink's "Glitter in the Air," complete with an over-the-top glittery scarf. Her throaty voice did the song justice. However, for the rest of the show, she was, unfortunately, relegated to background singer. It would have been nice to hear more of her.
Joshua Ledet was given a three-song set, on the other hand, and had a pitch-perfect voice. Bruno Mars' "Runaway Baby" (with backing vocals by Elise Testone, Brackensick and Van Pelt), James Brown's "It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World," James Brown and "I Knew You Were Waiting (for Me)" by George Michael and Aretha Franklin (with Jessica Sanchez) aptly showed off his soulful voice.
Brackensick, who was recently revealed to be Jessica Sanchez's boyfriend, seemed to get the most stage time out of all the other contestants. Rightly so, he's a talented young man. His version of Wonder's "Master Blaster" in the beginning of the show was spot on.
Skylar Laine pretty much represented how she performed on the show. She's a little spark plug adding energy to Carrie Underwood's "Undo It," which she did with Cavanagh, as well as Miranda Lambert's "Gunpowder and Lead" and Rod Stewart and the Faces' "Stay with Me."
While Laine was all smiles, Testone put on her typical pout during her renditions of "Whole Lotta Love" by Led Zeppelin and "Rumour Has It" by Adele. She showed some enthusiasm by getting to her knees during the bridge of "Rumour Has It," but she just didn't appear to be having fun.
Heejun Han was the comic relief of the night, shaking his rump and thrusting his hips to John Legend's "Green Light." Apparently unable to hit the high notes, Han was helped out by recorded vocal tracks during the chorus, which was reserved for comments like "I'm ready to party! Are you?" He, Sanchez and Brackensick were ready as they did LMFAO's "Party Rock."
The runner up, Sanchez kicked off the second half with a few songs she did on "American Idol." Beyonce's "Best Thing I Never Had" was typical Sanchez --good but lacking in personality. For "Proud Mary," she, Brackensick and Ledet did a little dance during the instrumental parts of the song.
The campy, fun show represented "American Idol" well. It's a shame that more folks didn't see it.
"American Idols Live!" setlist
"Sing," My Chemical Romance (Top 9)
"Master Blaster," Stevie Wonder (DeAndre Brackensick)
"Undo It," Carrie Underwood (Skylar Laine and Hollie Cavanagh)
"Glitter in the Air," Pink (Erika Van Pelt)
"Moves Like Jagger," Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera (Colton Dixon, Erika Van Pelt, Joshua Ledet, Hollie Cavanagh)
"Green Light," John Legend (Heejun Han)
"Party Rock," LMFAO (Heejun Han with DeAndre Brackensick and Jessica Sanchez)
"Everybody Talks," Neon Trees (male contestants, except Phillip Phillips)
"Whole Lotta Love," Led Zeppelin (Elise Testone)
"Rumour Has It," Adele (Elise Testone with backing vocals by Erika Van Pelt and DeAndre Brackensick)
"Meant to Live," Switchfoot (Colton Dixon)
"Never Gone," Colton Dixon (Colton Dixon)
"Piano Man," Billy Joel (Colton Dixon)
"Just the Way You Are"/"What Makes You Beautiful," Bruno Mars/One Direction (Top 9)
"Best Thing I Never Had," Beyonce (Jessica Sanchez)
"How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore," Prince (Jessica Sanchez with backing vocals by DeAndre Brackensick and Joshua Ledet)
"Proud Mary," Ike and Tina Turner (Jessica Sanchez with backing vocals by DeAndre Brackensick and Joshua Ledet)
"Gunpowder and Lead," Miranda Lambert (Skylar Laine)
"Stay with Me," Rod Stewart and the Faces (Skylar Laine)
"Rolling in the Deep," Adele (Hollie Cavanagh with backing vocals by Elise Testone and Erika Van Pelt)
"Give Your Heart a Break," Demi Lovato (Hollie Cavanagh)
"Runaway Baby," Bruno Mars (Joshua Ledet with backing vocals by Elise Testone, DeAndre Brackensick and Erika Van Pelt)
"It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World," James Brown (Joshua Ledet)
"I Knew You Were Waiting (for Me)," George Michael and Aretha Franklin (Joshua Ledet and Jessica Sanchez)
"Superstition," Stevie Wonder (Phillip Phillips)
"Nice and Slow," Usher (Phillip Phillips)
"Somebody That I Used to Know," Goyte (Phillip Phillips and Elise Testone)
"Home," Phillip Phillips (Phillip Phillips with Colton Dixon and DeAndre Brackensick)
"Raise Your Glass," Pink (female contestants)
"Glad You Came," The Wanted (all)
30 - Lafayette, LA - Cajundome
31 - Jackson, MS - Mississippi Coliseum
2 - Orlando, FL - Amway Center
3 - Sunrise, FL - BankAtlantic Center
5 - Duluth, GA - The Arena at Gwinnett Center
6 - North Charleston, SC - North Charleston Coliseum
8 - Washington, D.C. - Verizon Center
9 - Baltimore, MD - 1st Mariner Arena
12 - Nashville, TN - Bridgestone Arena
14 - Pittsburgh, PA - Consol Energy Center
15 - Rochester, NY - Blue Cross Arena
16 - Toronto, Ontario - Air Canada Centre
18 - Manchester, NH - Verizon Wireless Arena
19 - Worcester, MA - DCU Center
21 - Philadelphia, PA - Wells Fargo Center
22 - Uniondale, NY - Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum
25 - Portland, ME - Cumberland County Civic Center
26 - Providence, RI - Dunkin' Donuts Center
28 - Newark, NJ - Prudential Center
30 - Albany, NY - Times Union Center
1 - Bridgeport, CT - Webster Bank Arena
2 - Uncasville, CT - Mohegan Sun Arena
4 - Syracuse, NY - Oncenter Complex
6 - Wilkes-Barre, PA - Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza
7 - Atlantic City, NJ - Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall
8 - Reading, PA - Sovereign Center
10 - Cincinnati, OH- U.S. Bank Arena
11 - Milwaukee, WI - BMO Harris Bradley Center