American Idols Live! Shows Best of Lee DeWyze, Crystal Bowersox
Casey James, Andrew Garcia, Katie Stevens also sound better on Newark, New Jersey stage than they ever did on TV.
By Jim Cantiello, MTV
Fans of all ages donned their finest homemade puff-paint T-shirts for the American Idols Live! tour (Get tickets Here!)stop at the Prudential Center on Tuesday night. And judging from the excitement in the healthily populated arena, they did not leave disappointed.
Without a TV-friendly two-minute time limit for songs (and without a panel of judges ready to lay into them for any missteps), many of the season-nine performers were well-served by the live setting, particularly winner Lee DeWyze, who smiled more in his five-song set than he did in his entire run on "American Idol."
Also-rans like Didi Benami and Andrew Garcia each delivered sets that reminded the crowd why they emerged as faves during Hollywood Week. In particular, Garcia's take on Paula Abdul's "Straight Up," now with added funked-up fuzzy synths, suggested he may have made it farther had he brought that energy and ear for arrangement to more of his "Idol" performances.
The most-improved award goes to the youngest performers, high school student Aaron Kelly and recent grad Katie Stevens. If a Nashville scout saw the way Kelly owned the stage during uptempo country hits by Keith Urban and Rascal Flatts — and the crowd's warm reception to him — he or she would be insane not to scoop him up and groom him to be a Justin Bieber for the NASCAR crowd.
Meanwhile, Stevens took her "Idol" persona (wear the clothes of a middle-aged secretary, sing like an untrained teen with self-esteem issues) and completely flipped it on its head. She's now dressing her age (in a fun, flirty dress and killer knee-high boots) and singing like a seasoned veteran. Demi Lovato might regret clearing "Here We Go Again" for Katie, because it will never sound this good live again.
For some singers, the "Idol" tour is a shot at redemption. Heartthrob Tim Urban boldly tackled the Goo Goo Dolls' "Better Days," the song that got him eliminated on the show, and then followed it up with an earnest "Viva la Vida." It was a surprisingly serious set from a guy whose greatest asset is his smile and charming personality. When Urban finally did show off his pearly whites, the little girls in Newark shrieked loud enough for folks at the Jersey Shore to hear. Here's hoping it didn't interrupt Snooki from important business.
Speaking of shrieks, Siobhan Magnus delivered her signature wail at the end of "Paint It Black." While the audience appreciated the energy she brought to that Rolling Stones classic and No Doubt's "Spiderwebs," Muse's "Stockholm Syndrome" flew over the heads of the young ticketholders. It was a bit like watching a Tim Burton character stuck in a Ron Howard movie.
Michael Lynche (a.k.a. Big Mike) kicked off the second half of the show with a smooth, mellow R&B set that relied heavily on his falsetto. (He was, after all, performing songs by Kate Bush and India.Arie.) But it was an uptempo Justin Timberlake track, "My Love," that proved to be the most entertaining, if only for his out-of-left-field rap. (Don't worry, T.I., Big Mike ain't stealing your job anytime soon.)
Casey James, often stiff and awkward on "Idol," had one of the more effortless sets of the night. His impressive guitar work on the Black Keys' "I Got Mine" and the Rolling Stones' "It's All Over Now" made many forget they were watching an "Idol" concert.
Season-nine runner-up Crystal Bowersox kept that energy going with a showstopping set that further proved that the dreadlocked singer is more than just your everyday coffeehouse troubadour. If MamaSox can connect this deeply and emotionally with karaoke staples by 4 Non Blondes, Janis Joplin and Melissa Etheridge, (not to mention a chill-inducing "Up on the Mountain" reprise), it's downright scary to imagine how well she'll perform her own self-penned music. We're in for a hell of a debut album this fall, folks.
As much love as Crystal received, there was no question whom the audience was there to see. "Idol" champ Lee DeWyze's entrance caused near hysteria from his New Jersey fans, and not just because his pants' zipper was accidentally down. (Whoops!) The winner appeared to be positively giddy as he darted back and forth from one side of the stage to the other. The singer rarely stopped moving while putting his laid-back, gruff spin on '70s lite-FM staples "Rocket Man," "Hallelujah" and "Treat Her Like a Lady," showing off a looseness rarely seen on "Idol." Like Crystal, Lee gave the impression that his talents would be better displayed by performing originals. On the other hand, then we'd be deprived of a massive audience sing-along of Kings of Leon's "Use Somebody."
Much has been said (often snarkily) about the latest crop of "Idol" finalists, and while the live concert might not turn haters into slobbering fan-girls, it may leave them pleasantly surprised.
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