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'American Idol': Banjos, Accordions and "Big Sexy" Rock Kansas City

American Idol's search for a superstar continued in the "Show Me State."

Joey Cook American Idol Audition Still - P 2015
Michael Becker/FOX

You know things are different on American Idol when a Golden ticket winner like Stephanie Gummelt references her love for Steve Perry, and we don't have Randy Jackson at the table to remind us all he played with him.

But viewers had a glimpse of the old days on Wednesday night's episode in Kansas City when Leo Sayer wannabe Ian Subsara tried to make the judges feel like dancing, and Harry Connick Jr. went to his piano and got Subsara to push his limited vocal limits to attempt a high "C."

Read more 2014's Top 'American Idol' Stories

While not nearly as nasty and mean as the old Idol could get — Simon Cowell would have sneered "that was like a cat falling from the top of the Empire State Building"—it was at least semi-entertaining in a season that seems to be playing it a little too nice. There are still fun moments. Connick and Keith Urban were adorable, sending banjo-slinging, yodeling country girl Ellen Peterson to Hollywood with a jam of The Beverly Hillbillies theme. And who didn't love Big Ron, who deemed himself "Big Sexy" and serenaded Jennifer Lopez with Marvin Gaye, and got a ticket? Was it a "Pants on the Ground" moment? Or the same as the creepy guy that wrote a song for Paula Abdul? The short answer to that is no, but at least we'll remember him tomorrow.

In the show's continuing search for a superstar, there were plenty of guitarists, and the return of hopeful Casey Thrasher, who was passed over after surviving an a capella sing-off with  CJ Harris last season (Thrasher was a part of the "Backstreet Cowboys" group with Dexter Roberts  and Ben Briley). There were also rejected country guys, and more of the judges goofing around.

For those keeping score and playing along with the "match the voices to the silhouettes" game we started last week, it is becoming easier to figure out who has the goods to go top 24.

Although Connick said the show has "raised the bar" finding the talent, several put through already reek of being cannon fodder: earnest homeless growler Kohlton Pascal was different in a Hosier kind of way. He's dark, and great for rock radio, but doesn't have the look or what this show really needs to win: the appeal of an across the board pop star.

Did they find one last night? Here are three that we liked:

Joey Cook: The blue-haired accordion player (extra points for calling it a squeeze box) has a quirky style, a voice that stands out, and is a talented musician.

Alexis Gomez: The self-described "hippie Mexican hillbilly" has the look and feel of a star. She's country, with a rock sensibility that is unique. She's the type that can score some fans even this early in the competition.

Anton Bushner: Sensitive cowboy Bushner made Urban tear up, and Connick absolutely loved him. Bushner is likeable and easy to root for. He needs to work on stage presence for Hollywood, though.

So far, Idol has uncovered some talent, but we haven't found an Adam Lambert yet. Thankfully, he will be on the show tomorrow night (and he will recreate his own audition) when the auditions continue in New York.

Twitter: @MicheleAmabile @Idol_Worship