Coming off a ratings-challenged season that faced harsh criticism of its talent and failed to produce a substantial hit for either of its top two finishers, the American Idols Live! Tour 2010 hit the road Thursday night (July 1) with perhaps something more to prove than some of its previous incarnations.
And while the 33-song revue, weighing in at two hours and 50 minutes (with a 20-minute intermission) was both exhaustive and exhausting, thinning out a significant portion of the crowd at the Palace of Auburn Hills in suburban Detroit by the time Season 9 champ Lee DeWyze hit the stage, it did establish that some of this year's top 10 merit consideration.
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But first, a note to DeWyze and "Big" Michael Lynche, both of whom called for the folks "up top" to sing along during their sets; that top tier of the half-filled arena was, in fact, completely curtained off. Then again, maybe DeWyze realized that when he noted "I feel like everybody can use somebody once in awhile" before his version of Kings of Leon's "Use Somebody."
What distinguished this year's Idols Live! show was a greater willingness to push the proverbial envelope and be bold in song selection. Following the usual sponsor ads and win-a-backstage-pass texting contests, Didi Benami opened the night with a surprising pair of obscure numbers -- the moody "Lay It on Me" by Los Angeles indie rockers the Rescues and "Terrified," a song co-writen by "Idol" judge Kara DioGuardi for Season 5 runner-up Katharine McPhee's latest album, which came out in January. The show's two 17-year-olds -- Katie Stevens and Aaron Kelly -- ditched their older-leaning TV repertoires entirely. Stevens, fresh from her high school graduation the previous week, took on Demi Lovato's "Here We Go Again" and Christina Aguilera's "Fighter," while Kelly, smooth beyond his years, glided through Keith Urban's "Somebody Like You," a Lonestar-leaning arrangement of Marc Cohn's "Walking in Memphis" (accompanied by vintage Elvis Presley home movie footage) and Rascal Flatts' "Fast Cars & Freedom."
Siobhan Magnus followed her gothic take of the Rolling Stones' "Paint It, Black" with a jarring transition into No Doubt's "Spiderwebs" and an emotive, Evanescence-d rendition of Muse's "Stockholm Syndrome." Tim Urban treated Coldplay's "Viva La Vida" to an arrangement more akin to the Goo Goo Dolls (whose "Better Days" he also performed), and Lynche sang and rapped a smoothed-over version of Justin Timberlake's "My Love." Casey James, meanwhile, played guitar hero on a searing romp through the Black Keys' "I Got Mine."
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Kelly Clarkson's 'My Life Would Suck Without You
Runner-up Crystal Bowersox, cheered on by a healthy delegation from her nearby home town of Toledo (where the tour stops Sept. 2) was confident, but understated as she finally got to perform Four Non Blondes "What's Up" after weeks of lobbying writer Linda Perry along with Melissa Etheridge's "Come to My Window," Patti Griffin's "Up to the Mountain (MLK Song)" and a gliding version of the diva staple "Piece of My Heart." And the leather-jacketed DeWyze was his earnest, heartland rocker self with his re-tooled rendition of U2's "Beautiful Day," a rocked-up take on the Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose's "Treat Her Like a Lady," and a guitar-heavy treatment of Elton John's "Rocket Man" that segued into a bit of Pink Floyd's "Welcome to the Machine."
The ensemble numbers, however, remained somewhat milquetoast, whether it was the first six performers teaming up for Miley Cyrus' "The Climb" or the male Idols encoring with Bon Jovi's "It's My Life" before joining the women for inaugural "Idol" champ Kelly Clarkson's "My Life Would Suck Without You." Doubted as they've been, the Idols Live! opener faced down and even belied some of the abundant "Idol" bashing that went on this year.
The American Idols Live! 2010 set list includes:
Didi Benami: "Lay It On Me" (The Rescues), "Terrified" (Katharine McPhee)
Andrew Garcia: "Straight Up" (Paula Abdul), "Sunday Morning (Maroon5)
Katie Stevens: "Here We Go Again" (Demi Lovato), "Fighter" (Christina Aguilera)
Tim Urban: "Better Days" (Goo Goo Dolls), "Viva La Vida" (Coldplay)
Siohan Magnus: "Paint It, Black" (Rolling Stones), "Spiderwebs" (No Doubt), "Stockholm
Aaron Kelly: "Somebody Like You" (Keith Urban), "Walking in Memphis" (Marc Cohn/Lonestar), "Fast Cars & Freedom" (Rascal Flatts)
Benami, Garcia, Stevens, Urban, Magnus and Kelly: "The Climb" (Miley Cyrus)
Michael Lynche: "This Woman's Work" (Kate Bush), "Ready For Love" (India.Arie), "My Love" (Justin Timberlake)
Casey James: "I Got Mine" (Black Keys), "Don't" (Shania Twain), "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?" duet with Lynche (Bryan Adams), "It's All Over Now" (Bobby Womack/Rolling Stones)
Crystal Bowersox: "What's Up" (Four Non Blondes), "Come To My Window" (Melissa Etheridge), "Up to the Mountain (MLK Song)" (Patti Griffin), "Piece of My Heart" (Erma Franklin/Big Brother and the Holding Company)
Lee DeWyze: "Beautiful Day" (U2), "Rocket Man"/"Welcome to the Machine" (Elton John/Pink Floyd; "Hallelujah" (Leonard Cohen); "Treat Her Like a Lady" (Temptations), "Use Somebody" (Kings of Leon)
Full Company: "It's My Life" (Bon Jovi), "My Life Would Suck Without You" (Kelly Clarkson)
More 'Idol' on Billboard.com: