My experience watching the American Idols Live! 2011 Tour

Watching the tenth season of American Idol was a family thing for me this spring. We had watched up from season two as a family up to season seven, and somehow along the way jumped ship. Perhaps it was because of the hype surrounding the “No Simon!” thing anymore. Either way, my mom became a fan of the show and frequently commented that “everyone is so talented!” so naturally, this time around, we bought tickets for their tour.

We took BART to Oracle Arena, really pleasant and hassle-free, got some good reading in (The Good Soldiers by David Finkel, highly recommended!), and was there promptly at 6:50. The show started late and was opened up with a cover of “Born This Way” by Haley Reinhart, Pia Toscano, Thia Megia, and Naima Adedapo. It was a good rendition and definitely showcased each lady’s strength. I dig.

Before I continue, let me warn you: I am not a fan of Pia Toscano. Every since she sang “I’ll Stand By You”, I knew she was a great singer. But I didn’t like her. I focused on my dislike of the fact that she had to belt the last note of the song which was clearly done to show off the fact that she could do it, not some sort of artistic rendition or anything. And seriously, I wouldn’t mind of she kept doing ballad after ballad (which she did, and which the judges pointed out) if she would at least develop some sort of stage presence. So coincidentally, when she sang “River Deep, Mountain High” by Tina Turner, she embarrassed herself and was sent packing. Now Pia fans have all the reasons down — “J. Lo was jealous of Pia’s youth!” “The little 13-year-old girls were jealous of Pia!” “Everyone thought she’d be safe anyway!” — but it’s all bullshit. I was reading Us Magazine of all things, and they had a little quarter of the page asking will.i.am of all people on his input. I remember his exact words because I agreed so effing hard: “She sang a Tina song but didn’t move like Tina.” You’re so right will.i.am! But really. She walked around the stage like she was walking along a sidewalk. In other words, the opposite of upbeat and hell, the opposite of Tina! J. Lo, clearly not jealous of Pia, tried to sugarcoat things and told her to observe the movement of LEGENDS such as Fred Astaire and Michael Jackson. Pia: go watch a J. Lo video — singing will only get you so far, if you can shake your ass like Jennifer Lopez you’ll go far.

You would think that ever since that disaster, Pia would step her game up. IDK, take a dance lesson or two? Aren’t you dating Mark Ballas? Tonight she sang beautifully and technically flawlessly as usual. Yet she still “dances” like she has a stick up her ass. For every song that didn’t require group choreography, Pia literally had her legs stuck together (visualize a mermaid) and she would just twist her hips and bend her legs, occasionally sticking her arm up. You call that a dance!? It didn’t help that they put Pia next to little firecracker Haley or dancehall queen Naima. Even Miss Thia Megia was getting down tonight — props girl!

She already has a record deal with Jimmy Iovine’s Interscope Records. I’m sure that she’ll get a lot of digital downloads, but I doubt her fans would even go to a Pia Toscano concert. She needs to put herself out there a bit more and take actual risks. People whine about how the great singers get overlooked but the reality is that if people are going to shill out 70+ bucks for a concert, they’re gonna want a show. That’s why Rihanna, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga are the female powerhouses as of now. But you don’t have to be a bass-thumping pop songstress to be successful — Celine did it and she has a whole auditorium dedicated to her, damnit!

So Pia sang a wonderful rendition of Alicia Keys’s “Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down“. I named the song’s predecessor with Jay-Z as one of my top songs of 2009 and it’s one of my go-to songs, but Alicia Keys released “Part II” in 2010 and if I’m feeling in a more mellow, chill mood, it’s a winner. She would later do her new single, “This Time”, which sucks.

Now I’m just gonna comment on things I remember. It’d be boring if I wrote commentary on boring performances like Thia Megia’s (oh wait, at least she got a mention).

Paul Simpson, the raspy-voiced chicken dancer did a performance from the show, Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May”. It was a joke but I got a laugh so at least it was a successful one.

Naima Adedapo did Jennifer Lopez’s “On The Floor”. I do wonder if she got to choose the song because it definitely didn’t feel all that “Naima” to me. I wouldn’t doubt that the producers wanted to continue to promote their new judge and dumped the hit on Naima. Either way, she worked it and added her flavor to it with an interlude of African dancing. I was hoping that she’d get to sing something more edgy, though.

Stefano Langone was working it tonight! He sang Bruno Mars’s “Grenade”, a song I personally can’t stand, and “DJ Got Us Falling In Love” by Usher, a song which I liked for exactly eight plays then got sick of it. I enjoyed the performances because Stefano showed the signs of becoming a successful artist.

Stefano, Casey Abrams, Jacob Lusk, Paul, and James Durbin finally got all together and sang “Animal” by Neon Trees. I was nervous about it because “Animal” has never been one of my obsession-status songs, but I think everything about it is simply perfection. To see it performed live (and even more perfect than the recording, watch the vid below).

The guys, however, pulled it off. I was hoping that it’d be a guy with Haley Reinhart. As you can see in the video, the lady sings gorgeous backup vocals. Haley would have been a great enhancement to the song. It seems that Stefano assumed that role, though, so go figure.

Everyone except Scotty McCreery (the American Idol) sang Cee-Lo Green’s “Forget (Fuck) You” before Intermission.

I’ll tell you that I preferred the first half much more than the second half and that is because Lauren Alaina and Scotty McCreery were featured heavily. They were the top two, so that’s fair. But they both sing country and it just got a little bit boring for me. I did enjoy Scotty’s signature song, “Your Man” originally by Josh Turner; that song’s a turn on for me (just listen to the lyrics!). Jacob Lusk also performed two songs, a Luther Vandross song (I forget what it’s called) that I felt didn’t do much for his amazing voice. But he followed it up with one of my favorite performances from the season and of all time, “You’re All I Need To Get By” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell.

Jacob Durbin, a Santa Cruz resident, opened up with style from coming in the entrance virtually right in front of my seat with “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns ‘n’ Roses. If you don’t know it, you might recognize it from Step Brothers.

Awesome, right? He also sang “Uprising” by Muse, which was better with the theatrics during the season.

Haley sang two of my favorites from the season, “House of the Rising Sun” but not the Animals version. It was followed by “Benny and the Jets” by Elton John. Unfortunately she modified it for the Tour, in which she kind of whispered “Benny! Benny! Benny Benny Bennayyyy and the Jets”. If you watch the below video, she belts it, which just sounds awesome with her raspy soulful voice.

They finished with a medley started by a duet of “Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake with James Durbin and Lauren Alaina. Lauren ruined it for me; I would have preferred James by himself with simple backing vocals. The rest of the Top 11 would gradually join in with “Faithfully” by Journey, “Walk This Way” by Aerosmith (homage to Steven Tyler?) and finally “Any Way You Want It” by Journey.

Overall, it was a very good show and I’m glad I went. My mom enjoyed it as well, so it was a fun night for the both of us!

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