Where’d our “American Idol” summer go?
Sun-drenched days outside and scorching night performances from Season Eight’s best have given way to shorter, mostly cooler days.
But not so fast. Join me in one last, up-close savoring of a flaming 50-city fare served up by the show’s most recent Top 10 finalists.
Thanks to a generous birthday gift from an enduring spouse who pontificates Glambert-mania, this writer had the chance to practically see the pores of Allison Iraheta’s clinging leather pants, graze the spiky double-varnished hair of Adam Lambert and join in a same-bench piano duet with winner Kris Allen. Well, it seemed that close.
A more orderly review than past years, the tour programme had this season’s “Idol” finalists in reverse-order. Stocky Texan Michael Sarver and svelte songbird Megan Joy coaxed the audience and compensated them with Gavin DeGraw’s “I’m in Love with a Girl” and Corrine Bailey Rae’s “Put Your Records On,” respectively. Sarver’s steely eyes and rugged handsomeness were offset by a soft croon and light southern drawl. Joy’s curiously quirky–and quickly developing–vocals, modest demeanor and elegant pink chiffon captured a packed Phoenix house July 20.
The pair was a warm-up for hometown Scottsdale, Ariz. native Scott MacIntyre, Lil Rounds and Anoop Desai. The oft-perceived dry intellect MacIntyre was quick to crack wise on a replay classic high-five with host Ryan Seacrest and quicker to apply his Royal piano pedagogy to Keane’s “Bend and Break” followed by a smoothened Vanessa Carlton’s “1,000 Miles.” Without judge scrutiny, Rounds, a perennial Season Eight punching bag, showed a natural flow and stage comfort during Alicia Keys’ “No One” and Mary J. Blige’s “Be Without You” she had struggled to find all season. Monster bespectacled Anoop Desai offered a variety plate of soul, hip-hop and grind with “Always on My Mind,” Ne-Yo’s “Mad” and signature pelvis-shaking “My Prerogative.”
He may have taken fifth place in the competition, but Matt Giraud nearly hijacked the show with a Jerry Lee Lewis-esque rip on the Black Crowes’ “Hard to Handle” and a heart-tugging “Georgia on My Mind” that Ray Charles would have approved–houndstooth hat and all. Giraud broke free of regular-season ghosts with a driving, soul-filled, fitting comeuppance in The Fray’s “You Found Me.”
With growl, saunter and the swing of a six-stringed axe, flaming-haired Allison Iraheta torched Pink’s “So What,” hammered Heart’s “Barracuda” and gave a chillingly intimate, connected interpret of Janis Joplin’s “Cry Baby.” Iraheta’s reprise duet of “Slow Ride” with showstopper Lambert was a case that the 17-year-old is front line industry ready.
Thick with back story and Michael McDonald-like timbre, Danny Gokey showed plenty of vocal chops and versatility with Michael Jackson’s “P.Y.T.” and Santana’s “Maria Maria,” but it was the Midwesterner’s passion and message that left its greatest mark. No longer could accusers deem Gokey as a footloose, loafing goof Hicks 2.0; his sweat-laced narrative to the congregation “you can do anything…don’t let adversity get in your way” segue into Rascal Flatts’ “My Wish” was not only a sincere and compelling ode to his departed wife, but to living each day with gusto–and the Lord’s help.
And then there were two.
Adam Lambert and Kris Allen are both, in very different ways, champions of the stage. (The state of Arkansas–which some speculate rose up, outsmarted and outvoted an entire nation–may beg to differ.) One blasts away with the highest, most wailing of vocal fireworks; his counterpart delivers songs in their most bare, humble and caressable form.
Both demonstrate genius and artistry. Both are praise-worthy. And both brought fan clamoring at U.S. Airways Arena to decibel levels of a U.S. Airways jet on the tarmack.
Lambert, draped in a Road Warrior-styled leather coat from LA designer Skin Graft and reptile-covered boots cavorted across the stage as he belted out Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.”
A whole lotta people needed coolin’–including my eternal ride-share partner and Glambert maniac spouse. The crowd’s electricity left no doubt that Lambert is a bona fide rock star.
Hearing “Mad World” live heightened its clarity even if its hurried tempo caused it to loose some of its original stardust. Lambert’s five-octave capabilities were on cruise control during fun loving, showman-focused David Bowie songs “Life on Mars,” “Fame” and “Let’s Dance.”
Then there’s Kris Allen. The slight, cherubic-faced Season Eight champion stood center stage to the same building-rattling ovation as his predecessor–but with none of the adornments. He sported only a guitar.
Instead, the small-town Ark. resident Allen grips listeners with a vocal color and warmth on pared-down takes “Heartless” (Kanye West) and “Ain’t No Sunshine” (Bill Withers) that make it easy to understand why he’s the champ.
Oddly enough, Allen seems uneasy in front of the throng, who most have come to see him. He stammers a bit into the microphone, searching for the right words to greet the crowd while nervously shuffling between songs and instruments. It’s part of the humility that makes Allen easy to embrace.
But as the accompaniments launch into a song and Allen effortlessly merges, his Mojo returns; his body swaying to and fro, uniting the audience together in round of “Hey Jude.” Looks like the slight, brown-and-white gingham shirt clad lad in denims and tennis shoes has taught us a lesson: Superman comes in a variety of forms.
Sometimes he even wears Vans.
Tune in each mid-week for “American Idol” news and notes–until tryouts air January 2010–from me, fourth year SheKnows.com Entertainment Contributor Bob Benedetti.
For now … Happy Idoling!