Concert review: American Idols Live tour 2009
Before we get rolling, I have a couple guilty confessions to make. First, even though I have interviewed Adam Lambert, I have never seen a complete episode of "American Idol" since it started in 2002. I've caught snippets here and there, but I've never seen a whole episode. I know, I know, shame on me.
All that said, the American Idols Live tour, which came to 1st Mariner Arena last night, was quite the treat, if you dig that sort of thing. The show features performances by the top 10 contestants on the 2009 season of "American Idol." It was, in a sense, a souped-up, flashy, extravagant karaoke show. And what a show it was ...
I got there in time to catch the second half of Matt Giraud singing "Georgia on My Mind." Sporting a fedora and sitting at a piano, he tore through a rendition of The Fray's "You Found Me." Then, a handful of other Idols joined him on stage to sing a medly of old school numbers like "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" and "Tell Her About It." I liked how there was no down time between tunes. When one song ended, they just barreled right into the next one.
A 20-minute intermission came after the medly. The bottom six contestants perform during the first half of the show, and the top four sing during the second. Here's a link to a photo gallery from the show.
Looking around, I realized I was one of only a few guys in a sea of women. There were little girls, big girls, moms -- even grandmoms. My informal poll put the ratio at two or three women for every man in the arena.
I also realized the star power of runner-up Adam Lambert (pictured). He hadn't even performed yet, but every time his picture popped up on the big screen, the crowd screamed. It was wild. I should have brought ear plugs.
During intermission, I asked my neighbor, Doris Ditzler, what I'd missed.
"You missed Megan Joy's first outfit," said Ditzler, who made the 90-minute drive from Carlisle, Pa., for the show. "Megan must have had a shoe horn to get it on. It was very tight; very short."
Anything else I missed?
"They all sounded better than they did on the show."
Sweet. Thanks, Doris!
The first performer after the break was Allison Iraheta, a spunky singer dressed in black leather. Her hair was dyed red with purple points at the end of it. She started with Pink's "So What," and proceeded to wail her way through "Cry Baby" by Janis Joplin and "Barracuda" by Heart.
Next up was Idol No. 3, Danny Gokey. Gokey has a surprisingly soulful voice, but not much of a stage presence. He did Michael Jackson's "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)," Santana's "Maria Maria" and closed with two Rascal Flatts tunes -- "What Hurts the Most" and "My Wish." Good stuff, good stuff.
After Gokey left, it was time to get Lambertized. Everybody knew it. Before he even came out, the screams were deafening. There was an explosion of light and sound, strobe lights and then -- BAM! -- there he was, singing Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love."
Lambert Law #1: If you've got it, flaunt it.
Wow. I've never seen a man scream like that before. Robert Plant could hit some high notes, but Lambert launched into the stratosphere. And if you think Plant's screaming sounded feminine, wait until you hear Lambert. It was like Geddy Lee on steroids. And boy oh boy did he have a stage presence. That crowd ate out of his gloved hand. Even when he was sitting on a stool singing "Mad World" by Tears for Fears, he commanded the crowd's attention. Of all the performers, he seemed the most at ease on stage.
Lambert Law #2: Black is beautiful.
Black hair, black guyliner, black fingernails, black fingerless gloves, a black jacket (which he ripped off to still, yet more screams), black pants, a black sequined vest. His belt buckle was massive and sparkled fiercely. (In case you're wondering, this photo of him was taken during the encore, after he had changed into a new outfit.)
After "Mad World," Iraheta joined Lambert on stage to sing a duet of "Slow Ride" by Foghat. During the song, someone in the audience tossed a large hot pink bra onto the stage (someone must have been "in the mood"). Iraheta tossed it to Lambert, who tried to chuck it back into the crowd. But the bra fell short and landed on the stage instead. Hee hee.
Lambert wrapped up his set with a David Bowie medly. He definitely left the crowd wanting more.
That left one man. And that man was this year's American Idol: Kris Allen. To be honest, I wasn't bowled over by Allen. He's a good-looking dude, sure. And he's got a good voice. It's not a great voice, but it's a good voice, and he knows how to use it. I just wasn't that impressed with him.
The high point of Allen's set was "Heartless" by Kanye West. It was refreshing to hear someone actually sing the song -- not just West's auto-tuned original. Hearing Allen sing it gave me new respect for West's songwriting. It really is a great track, and Allen sounded great on it.
Allen closed his set with the singalong to end all singalongs: "Hey Jude" by the Beatles.
For the encore, the cast regrouped and sang the '80s anthem "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey. For a few more minutes, the crowd sang along to this one last number with the contestants they'd come to know and love in the past few months. Then the house lights came on and it was time to go home.
(Baltimore Sun photos by Gene Sweeney, Jr.)