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As the 2011 “American Idol Live” tour blasts its way through 47 stages across the continent this summer, the Top 11 are sure to make lots of memories along the way. But Friday’s concert at Los Angeles’ Nokia Theater brought plenty back, as the season 10 finalists returned to the spot where the May 25 finale took place.
“I have a lot of good memories from this stage,” Idol’s reigning winner Scotty McCreery said after his first song. “Right here is where my life changed forever.”
One of the elements that made this year such a strong season — musical diversity in that not one of the Top 6 was what you’d call a pop singer — also created a consistently engaging show. From Jacob Lusk’s impressive range with ’60s soul number “You’re All I Need To Get By” to Haley Reinhart’s effortlessly sultry and jazzy take on “Bennie and the Jets” (or “Jetsssss” as she sings in her trademark style) to Lauren Alaina’s powerful country ballads, the two-hour show oozed variety and talent.
Still, throughout the concert, one can’t help but wonder which of its stars are getting their first taste a performer’s life, destined to dazzle audiences around the world, and which ones should be savoring every moment of their summer before they disappear into the “where are they now” category.
If Thia Megia doesn’t make it, she could easily find an alternate career path as a Disney princess, and not just because she performed “Colors of the Wind” on American Idol. Her cover of Selena Gomez’s “Who Says” seemed to be sung right at the scores of young girls in the room as she pointed at the audience and swayed with wavy arms and palms outstretched.
Pia Toscano and Alaina both showed they’re ahead of the game with their own singles — Toscano in particular as she poured more passion into her own “This Time” than any other song on the tour.
But it was the high energy James Durbin who showed he’s most ready for show business. The first chords of his cover of Guns N Roses’s “Sweet Child O’ Mine” immediately got people on their feet. Where for the most part, the audience sat during most of the show, as if they were watching it on their own living room TV, and only reluctantly stood when commanded to by the performers, not when Durbin was onstage.
The 22-year-old rocker livened up the show, leaping off the upper riser, running across the lower stage and leaning against the show’s guitar player while demonstrating his own air guitar prowess. Durbin of course then performed his biggest hit from the season, his cover of Muse’s “Uprising.” No marching-band drum section for the live show, but there were still plenty of crowd-pleasers during the number, like the smoke machines shooting toward the ceiling of the stage that framed Durbin as he held the mic stand like a scepter casting a spell over the audience.
Naima Adedapo was featured in two other stand-out songs. Her cover of Janelle Monáe’s “Tightrope,” sung along with Toscano, Reinhart and Megia was the one of the most theatrically pleasing numbers of the night. The screens around the stage displayed fast-moving graphics of black and yellow lines and arrows that seemed to be straight out of an early James Bond opening credits sequence. That paired with the ladies’ Supremes-like synchronized dance moves as they alternated lead singers with the other three expertly backing made for a lively number that felt like it was right out of the Summer of Love.
Adedapo rivaled Shakira with her hip-shaking as she covered Jennifer Lopez’ “On The Floor.” After she sang the lyrics “Straight to L.A., New York, Vegas to Africa” the Milwaukee native wowed the crowd with an interlude of traditional African dancing to African drumming, finishing off with a one-hand cartwheel and split.
McCreery didn’t make his first appearance until part-way through the second half, when he delivered the Josh Turner line that made him an instant national sensation: “Baby lock the door and turn the lights down low.” Though it would have been nice to see him perform more with the others, the crowd went crazy as the 17-year-old country crooner first took to the stage, with mothers and teenagers alike screaming their lungs out. With his line-up of ballads and boot-kickers, McCreery impressively showed that, not only does he have the chops, he knows how to connect with an audience without giving the cameras a constant come-hither look.
Alaina’s sprained ankle made for some limited movement during songs that could have had more complex choreography, like Katy Perry’s “Firework,” but the Season 10 runner-up gave it her all, and that bejeweled cast boot actually made for some sweet moments as her fellow singers held her hand to help her up and down the stage stairs.
Ultimately, what made the concert a fun night out was seeing the Top 11 talent enjoy themselves throughout. For proof, look no further than their final bow, a Journey-Whitesnake-Aerosmith medley, which featured a free-spirit moment when the whole group was just running and jumping around the stage. It ended with Durbin and Casey Abrams striking a Charlie’s Angels pose. As is the nature of American Idol, this group of hopefuls shot to fame in an outrageously short time, but it’s those moments when you realize: with these kids having such a good time, it’s OK to jump out of your seat, too. And that’s a memory worth keeping.
Check out the full set list here.
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