It was my wife’s birthday and the American Idol
season had just wrapped up with Taylor Hicks emerging the victor, long thought by many to be a long shot (at best). Knowing how much she enjoyed this year’s show, I thought to myself, “what would make a better gift than a pair of tickets for the tour?” So after a feverish 48 hours of online Ticketmaster auction bidding, my printer spit out two magic pieces of paper – the experience was “Wonka-esque” – 3rd row seats!
Weeks of waiting for the tour date came to an end yesterday. Luckily my wife Krissy works in downtown Hartford and as such, had a parking pass at a nearby garage, allowing us to zip past the masses congregating around the entrance. Arrival at the Hartford Civic Center came with much of the typical frustration one gets with large crowds but we didn’t let it get to us. After the pushing and bumping and “excuse me’s,” we took our seats right up front. Unfortunately one of our favorites, Katharine McPhee, was not on the list due to illness.
My first observation was the demographic of the crowd; anyone who’s seen the show knows it has a “teeny bopper” appeal, and that’s just who came… in droves. At least 60-75% of the group composed of young girls; many of them near us were jacked up on cotton candy with parents nowhere to be seen.
This being only the finalists’ 2nd stop, we weren’t sure what to expect. Would they be as good as they were on the show? Would their stage presence be better in real life? The time had come – the lights dimmed, the band cued and to lead off the show, Mandisa came out with a stirring rendition of “I’m Every Woman.” Everyone was very excited – there was a palpable energy in the air, as if months of bottled up anticipation were being released with each ear-numbing screech.
Mandisa wrapped up her set with a transitional-duet with Ace. The crowd again went crazy. Ace gave the teenage girls exactly what they wanted – a sultry version of George Michael’s “Father Figure,” complete with (what I found to be very cheesy) pseudo-strip tease and pectoral pumping. That being said, he knew how to work the crowd.
The introductions of each finalist were very similar to one another-each would complete their respective sets with a duet with whoever was up next. Chris came out with Ace and then belted out a few great songs, including his signature, Bon Jovi’s “Wanted: Dead or Alive.” I found his talent in real life to be even more amazing than what I saw on the show. Elliot Yamin gave us a few great soul/R&B tunes, some of which I remember from the competition. Less raw than Chris’s, Elliot’s voice was a good way to switch up the tempo of the show.
Lisa Tucker arrived with a poppy dance tune that I wasn’t too impressed with but then she pulled up a seat to the keyboard and sang some Elton John songs that really displayed her talent. She didn’t have quite the stage presence as the others but I had to keep reminding myself that she’s only sixteen and has a bright future ahead of her.
Paris was cute and did a few songs to get everyone on their feet. Her version of “Midnight Train to Georgia” got me (and many others) up and dancing. She was quite entertaining.
Complete with microphone twirls and tosses, Bucky came out with Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” and it was just as good as his television version. The boys also got together for Guns n’ Roses’ “Patience” as a mini-tribute to Katharine.
Kelly Pickler was fun to watch, stomping around the stage in her big, erÃ¢Â?Â¦ boots, but lined up against the other acts it was less than spectacular. She didn’t disappoint though, if people came wanting to see her ditzy side. Grabbing a “talking” teddy bear someone gave her during her trip through the 1st row group, she had trouble making it work and told us all, “aw you must be sleepy!”
Last but not least was Taylor Hicks who unlike all the other artists, made his entrance onto the stage from far in the back of the stadium, singing his Elvis favorite as he ran past fanatical, screaming fans. He was clearly the act everyone was waiting for-without question, the adrenaline was flowing as he jumped on the stage.
To prevent spoiling it for anyone who has tickets for future concert events, I’m just going to say that his show was much better than expected. After his set, the whole group came out for a greatly coordinated song, and the requests for an encore were answered with a healthy extension of the show.
One thing I took particular interest in was the use of instruments. Chris, Elliot, Bucky, and Taylor all strummed guitars (albeit not lead), Lisa the keyboard, and Taylor pleased everyone when he picked up the harmonica. It was nice to see this additional side to the artists and it added a whole new dimension to their acts.
We left the Civic Center thoroughly satisfied and very glad we were able to go. Undoubtedly, their show will become more refined as they get into the tour groove but I was still surprised that everything went as well as it did. My guess is that anyone who enjoys watching the show, regardless of age, will take pleasure from seeing the American Idol tour.