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Concert Reviews:
"American Idol" Finalists Push The Envelope At Tour Opener
 

By GARY GRAFF
of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

AUBURN HILLS -- Note to new "American Idol" champ Lee DeWyze and fourth-place finisher Michael Lynche: it's time to get some glasses, boys, or set up the lights to get you a better look at the crowd.

Or at least make sure there are people in the sections you're asking to sing along.

Both singers shouted out to the folks "up top" during the opener of the American Idols Live Tour! 2010 Thursday night (July 1) at the Palace of Auburn Hills -- when, in fact, the half-filled arena's entire upper bowl had been curtained off. That was an unfortunate reminder of both the economy, which is wreaking havoc on the concert industry this summer, but also of "Idol's" teetering status in the wake of a ratings-challenged season, during which the perennially popular reality show was roundly criticized for the quality of its talent pool.

That perhaps gave this year's Top 10 finishers something to prove as Idols Live! hit the ground at the Palace, and the genre-hopping 33-song revue -- whose nearly three-hour length thinned out the crowd considerably by the time DeWyze hit the stage -- made a case for reserving judgment about this year's class.

The sets from DeWyze and runner-up Crystal Bowersox, who was cheered by a strong contingent from her home base Toledo, were a bit on the pro forma side. Bowersox, in a flowing, Earth Mother black skirt, was understated as she strolled the stage with her acoustic guitar, displaying her singer-songwriter roots with Four Non Blonde's "What's Up," Melissa Etheridge's "Come to My Window," Patti Griffin's "Up To the Mountain (MLK Song)" and the diva staple "Piece of My Heart." The leather-jacketed DeWyze, meanwhile, was his earnest, heartland rocker self with his re-tooled rendition of U2's "Beautiful Day," a guitar-heavy treatment of Elton John's "Rocket Man" that segued into a bit of Pink Floyd's "Welcome to the Machine" and a rocked-up take on the Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose's "Treat Her Like a Lady."

That made the Idols Live! "undercard" seem that much more interesting, however, as the finalists without recording contracts were daring in their song selections, pushing the parameters into interesting new territories. Didi Benami, for instance, opened the night with a surprising pair of obscure numbers -- the moody "Lay It on Me" by Los Angeles indie rockers the Rescues and "Terrified," a song co-written by "Idol" judge Kara DioGuardi for Season 5 runner-up Katharine McPhee's latest album, which came out in January. Siobhan Magnus followed her gothic take of the Rolling Stones' "Paint It, Black" with a jarring transition into No Doubt's "Spiderwebs" and an emotive, Evanescence-style of Muse's "Stockholm Syndrome." Tim Urban treated Coldplay's "Viva La Vida" to an arrangement more akin to the Goo Goo Dolls (whose "Better Days" he also performed), and Lynche sang and rapped a smoothed-over version of Justin Timberlake's "My Love."

Casey James, meanwhile, played guitar hero on a searing romp through the Black Keys' "I Got Mine," though he also managed a mainstream straddle with Shania Twain's "Don't" and a duet with Lynche on Bryan Adams' "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?"

Even more striking were the show's two 17-year-olds -- Katie Stevens and Aaron Kelly -- who ditched their TV repertoires entirely. Stevens, fresh from her high school graduation the previous week, took on Demi Lovato's "Here We Go Again" and Christina Aguilera's "Fighter," while the smooth-beyond-his-years Kelly glided through Keith Urban's "Somebody Like You," a Lonestar-leaning arrangement of Marc Cohn's "Walking in Memphis" (accompanied by vintage Elvis Presley home movie footage) and Rascal Flatts' "Fast Cars & Freedom."

The ensemble numbers -- Miley Cyrus' "The Climb" by the "bottom" six and Bon Jovi's "It's My Life" by the guys, who joined the women on inaugural "Idol" champ Kelly Clarkson's "My Life Would Suck Without You" -- were largely milquetoast, and the latter two in particular an anti-climax to a show that faced down and even belied the abundant "Idol" bashing that went on this year.







Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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