Going through American Idol withdrawal since the show ended its fifth season with a Taylor Hicks/ Katharine McPhee face-off on May 24th? Well, Idol's Top Ten finalists are taking the show on the road this summer for an energy filled concert that aims to satisfy any fan's appetite for all things American Idol until the show returns in January.
American Idols Live, presented by Pop Tarts, rolled into Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, July 15, minus fifth season runner-up Katharine McPhee, who has yet to perform on the tour due to a nasty case of laryngitis. In a testament to American Idol's tremendous popularity, every seat in the stadium was filled; the crowd, in a testament to its wholesome entertainment, being made up of mostly moms with young kids and preteens.
First to take the stage was American Idol Season 5 ninth place finisher Mandisa, who tried her hardest to get the audience behind her during her take of "I'm Every Woman." Mandisa's strong vocals soared during this song, especially during the power notes at its end when she was able to fully overpower the band's stadium accompaniment. She even exhibited a sense of humor (well, let's hope she was kidding) when she dedicated her next song, "If I Were Your Woman," to American Idol Season 2 champ Ruben Studdard. Unfortunately, most of the crowd was not there to see Mandisa, a fact that she openly recognized.
Most of the crowd was, in fact, there for the next performer, Ace Young. As soon as Ace took the stage, preteens decked out in sparkly makeup started jumping out of their chairs screaming and frantically waving their "Marry Me Ace" signs. Ace took full advantage of being one of American Idol's heartthrobs, making bedroom eyes at the audience and slinking around the stage with a sexy saunter throughout his set, all the while driving the audience wild. The pinnacle of Ace's cheesy showiness came when he stripped off his jacket during an otherwise well done rendition of George Michael's "Father Figure."
Next up was the American Idol Season 5's youngest performer and tenth place finisher, Lisa Tucker. Her first song, a sweet as sugar version of Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," revealed her age, however, her next two songs, versions of the Elton John classics "Your Song" and "Someone Saved My Life Tonight," during which she accompanied herself on keyboard, gave hints of a truly gifted young performer who has more talent than the average Teen Pop Queen.
American Idol fifth place finisher Paris Bennett took the stage next with a rendition of "Midnight Train to Georgia" that succeeded in bringing the crowd to its feet. Unfortunately for her, she lost the crowd with her next song. Her take on "Crazy in Love," complete with plenty of fake ponytail twirling, booty shaking, and, oh yes, a chair routine, made her out to be nothing more than a second rate Beyonce. Paris is actually a much better singer than this performance showed. She has a deep and soulful singing voice which is much better suited for singing the jazz classics that she performed on American Idol, instead of giving lackluster performances of day old R&B.
The show then shifted gears, as two of American Idol Season 5's country singers took the stage. First up was Bucky Covington, a man who is as unassuming as his name would imply. Bucky let loose during his performance of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" and, while talking to the audience, showed some of that "aw-shucks" persona that got him so far in the American Idol competition. He was then joined by sixth place finisher Kellie Pickler for a cute country take on "You're the One that I Want" from the movie Grease. During her solo songs, Kellie did not stray from anything she had not already performed on American Idol, which led to a set that was entertaining to watch, albeit not very different from what Idol fans have come to expect from her.
Next up after a half hour intermission was crowd favorite Chris Daughtry. Chris got the crowd rocking and rolling with a set that included Styx's "Renegade" and Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive." Chris' voice is perfect for rock music and Saturday he was able to sound raspy without sounding strained. He exhibited a strong stage presence, commanding the audience as he traveled the stage, mic stand in hand. Chris also accompanied himself on guitar for "Wanted Dead or Alive" and for his duet with American Idol Season 5 second runner up, Elliott Yamin, a take on Nickelback's "Savin' Me." This duet was one of the best performances of the night. Both singers sounded amazing together, each one's voice complementing the other's. The song also allowed Elliott to showcase more of a rock edge to his voice, which was previously known for a soulful jazz style.
Elliott Yamin was among the night's strongest performers. Along with his duet with Chris Daughtry, he sang three solo songs and he nailed every one of them. His smooth as silk voice breathed soul into the little known "Moody's Mood for Love" and his rendition of Elvis Presley's "Trouble" was so alluring that the King himself would have been proud. Please somebody give this guy a record deal!
After Elliott Yamin, the male contestants, minus American Idol Season 5 winner Taylor Hicks, performed a group song and dedicated it to missing idol Katharine McPhee, the first and only mention of the American Idol Season 5 runner up's absence. The girls followed the boys with a group song of their own, but by this point the crowd was getting impatient for Taylor to come out. And come out he did - out of the audience to the tune of "Jailhouse Rock!"
The concert at Nassau Coliseum may have been in Uniondale, New York, but during Taylor Hicks' set, the arena felt like it was in another Long Island town - Hicksville. With a voice to rival that of Michael McDonald and enough energy and personality to get away with his original funky dance moves, 2006's American Idol was easily the most entertaining to watch. After watching him perform, it was abundantly clear that Taylor Hicks doesn't go on stage to mug for the cameras or for the girls in the audience; he goes on stage because he truly enjoys performing. He is even able to make his first single "Do I Make You Proud," the usual inspirational drivel given to all American Idol winners, heartfelt and listenable thanks to the nuances he puts into it to make it uniquely, Taylor. His last solo performance, "Taking It to the Streets" was another highlight of the evening, even featuring some spirited harmonica playing from the American Idol champ himself.
The other eight American Idol finalists then joined
Taylor for two group songs, which felt a little anticlimactic after Taylor's
"Taking It to the Streets" spectacle. It was fun, however, to
get one last look and listen at the night's other performers; which, for
some, will be the last look America gets at them before they fade into
obscurity with four seasons of other would-be American Idols.