'American Idol' Summer Tour Hits Los Angeles: Concert Review

Chris Godley
On Nokia Stage, season 11's finalists go above and beyond their TV performances.

Season 11's Phillip Phillips, Jessica Sanchez and Colton Dixon take the stage with the rest of the top 10 in the city where they became famous.

If you want to know what the audience for Fox's American Idol looks like, just show up at the annual American Idols Live tour that hits town every summer. Last night at the Nokia Theater in downtown Los Angeles, it was – everybody. Parents with young children. Senior citizen couples without kids. Teenagers. And every ethnicity in the city. And by their overwhelmingly positive response to the talent on stage, none of them were disappointed.

They had come to see the 10 finalists they had been watching all season, young singers they felt they knew, even though most of the folks who bought tickets for the live show have never met them. That’s one of the keys to the dominance of American Idol and why the top 10 received so much enthusiastic applause and a few standing O's.

The show was a mix of songs familiar from season 11 and some tunes that the Idols were tackling for the first time, including one original. Colton Dixon, the 20-year-old alt rocker and devout Christian from Tennessee performed his own song, “Never Gone,” a summer tour rarity. That performance, along with his covers of Switchfoot’s ”Meant to Live” and Billy Joel’s “Piano Man,” proved that Dixon is ready for the Billboard charts and should be one of the first from the class of ’12 to launch a successful career.

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Also ready for the charts and platinum sales is 19-year-old preacher’s son Joshua Ledet from Louisiana. When he sang James Brown’s "It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World," a song he performed on Idol, he was the furthest you could possibly be from karaoke. He inhabited the song, not copying the Godfather of Soul, but clearly inspired by him. While he has an old school soul, Ledet was just as outstanding on Bruno Mars’ "Runaway Baby," proving that in the hands of the right producer, he should be a major contemporary recording artist.

While there were a number of favorite songs reprised from the season – including Elise Testone’s "Whole Lotta Love," Hollie Cavanagh’s "Rolling in the Deep" and Skylar Laine’s "Gunpowder and Lead," the Idols were also up to some new tricks, proving that they are capable of going above and beyond what they’ve already shown us they can do on Idol. The earliest sign of that last night was Erika Van Pelt’s stunning take on Pink’s "Glitter in the Air," which elicited a loud response from the audience. Heejun Han also proved a surprise, shunning his comedic side to show off his dancing and rapping skills, especially on his rendition of LMFAO’s ubiquitous "Party Rock Anthem." Joining in the shuffling were DeAndre Brackensick and Jessica Sanchez.

Unlike some previous summer Idol tours, where solo numbers were emphasized and group activity kept to a minimum, this batch of finalists supported each other throughout the 2 1/2-hour show, backing each other up vocally and appearing on stage while other Idols were the main attraction. Van Pelt and Brackensick backed up Testone on Adele’s “Rumor Has It,” Brackensick and Ledet were Sanchez’ Ikettes for the Ike & Tina Turner version of "Proud Mary" and Sanchez graciously backed up winner Phillip Phillips on Damien Rice’s "Volcano."

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Although she made some group appearances in act one, Sanchez didn’t take the main spotlight until act two, when she sang Beyonce’s "Best Thing I Never Had," Prince’s "How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore" and "Proud Mary," offering proof of why she deserved her finish in the top two and was many viewers’ pick to win.

At 9:12 p.m., one hour and 57 minutes after the show began, Phillips made his first appearance, to the biggest crowd reaction of the night. His set list included Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” (with Testone),  “Volcano” and his coronation song, “Home.” The last time he performed “Home” on the Nokia stage was on the final Idol episode of the season, and he broke down crying, immediately after being named the winner of season 11. This time his performance was pure joy, without tears, and backed by Brackensick and Dixon.

Then, for the first time in the evening, all 10 finalists were on stage at once, to close the show with a medley of Pink’s “Raise Your Glass” and the Wanted’s “Glad You Came.” And everybody was.

Twitter: @Idol_Worship