Live Review: American Idols Live in Glendale, AZ
It's pretty sketchy when the "opening act" of a concert is a giant strawberry/blueberry Pop-Tart dancing to Akon's "Smack That." It's safe to say things can only go up from there.
But, for the most part, the opening night of the "Pop-Tarts Presents American Idols Live!" tour Tuesday (7/1) at Glendale, AZ's Jobing.com Arena surpassed expectations. Rousing performances by Top 10 finalists Michael Johns, Arizona's Brooke White, runner-up David Archuleta and winner David Cook highlighted the three-hour show.
In years past, the campy part of the tour was group performances by the Top 10 finalists. This year, producers wisely took a step back and allowed each of the finalists to perform mini-concerts of songs of their own choosing, allowing time for only two group numbers.
The evening kicked off with No. 10 finalist Chikezie Eze and his soulful, choreographed performances of songs such as Usher's "Caught Up" and John Legend's "So High," which were much stronger than his days on "Idol."
"I pray that you enjoy it because this is for you," Eze told the crowd early on.
Ramiele Malubay, No. 9, kicked off her performance with a paltry rendition of the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back." She suffered from the same malady as when she was on "American Idol"--an inability to project her vocals. Her voice was barely audible during the Jackson 5 song, but improved as she went through her three numbers, which also included Taylor Dayne's "Love Will Lead You Back" and Maroon 5's "If I Never See Your Face Again." She should have worried more about her vocals than waving to the crowd.
No. 8's Johns brought the crowd to its feet for the first time by coming out from under the stage singing Queen's "We Will Rock You," which segued into a powerful cover of "We Are the Champions."
"This next song got me voted off 'American Idol' but I don't think it'll get me kicked off the tour," he said about Aerosmith's "Dream On."
He was right; although he was a little shouty at times, he hit the high notes effortlessly, evoking a standing ovation.
Kristy Lee Cook, who frequently finished in the bottom three each week before landing at No. 7, overused her sexuality as a way to get the crowd riled. During her set of country numbers, Cook opened with Carolyn Dawn Johnson's "Squeezin' The Love Outta You," while shaking her, well, assets, and tossing her hair back. She kept it clean, however, for Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA," which she dedicated to the veterans.
Irish songbird Carly Smithson, No. 6, delivered a pro-worthy version of Evanescence's "Bring Me to Life," followed by a revamped cover of Heart's "Crazy On You." She wrapped up her enthusiastic set with Cyndi Lauper's "Drove All Night."
Johns may have brought the crowd to its feet, but during the first half of the show, the audience favorite was hometown girl White, No. 5. She arose from under the stage sitting at a piano for the crowd-pleasing "Let it Be."
"Thank you so much. It's good to be home," she said simply.
In a show of solidarity--and modesty--winner David Cook stood backstage in the wings during White's take on Coldplay's "Yellow," encouraging those sitting side stage to cheer her on. When her number was done, he stood and allowed fans to take pictures of him.
After a break during which the giant Pop-Tart made a repeat performance, dread-locked No. 4 finalist Jason Castro offered a lackluster performance. His aching voice ably took on "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," but he didn't show the stage presence to pull off a solo show; perhaps it was opening night jitters.
"This next song is a song that helped make my dreams come true," Castro said. "I sang it in every audition but the final 24." That song was a partially acoustic offering of Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy."
"A lot of people call me crazy because I’m always dreaming, but look where it got me," he said in introducing the Lovin' Spoonful's "Daydream."
Like Christy Lee Cook, No. 3's Syesha Mercado banked on her sexuality to bring the crowd to it collective feet. Screaming "everybody sing," she playfully sang Rihanna's "Umbrella" and slowed it down for Alicia Keys' "If I Ain't Got You."
But girls--and, sadly, some middle-aged women--cried and shouted during runner-up Archuleta's performance. Like White, he took the stage by arising from under the platform while sitting at a piano surrounded by a dense cloud of smoke. He offered favorites from his "American Idol" performances: Robbie Williams' "Angels," OneRepublic's "Apologize" and Ben E. King's "Stand By Me" mashed with Sean Kingston's "Beautiful Girls." He was given the opportunity to play four songs, the last of which was "When You Say You Love Me."
While introducing Cook, the gee-whiz Archuleta teased, "You're in for a real treat here. Enjoy the wild ride."
Despite Archuleta's fervent following, winner Cook was hands-down the star of the show. His rock take on Lionel Richie's "Hello" showed a superstar of the future, following in the footsteps of former contestant Chris Daughtry. Between the chorus and the verse of "Hello," Cook smiled and said, "I like this," in response to his fans' shouting.
It's easy to like the "American Idol" performance--just make the marketing a little more subtle.