Yesterday, Brooke White told me to “get my snap on.”
Okay, she didn’t just say it to me but also to the approximately 17,000 other people who filled the Nassau Coliseum to near-capacity status to enjoy the American Idols concert featuring this year’s top 10. But before I get to that, here's a recap of the concert.
The show started with Chikezie’s rousing three-song set of Donny Hathaway’s “I Believe To My Soul,” Usher’s “Caught Up,” and John Legend’s “So High.” Chikezie worked the stage and the crowd like a seasoned performer and demonstrated a ton of natural charisma. Completely comfortable as a live performer, he got the audience going and demonstrated his serious musical chops.
Next up was Ramiele Malubay who was entertaining and showed off some power vocals on The Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back,” Taylor Dayne’s “Love Will Lead You Back,” and Maroon 5’s “If I Never See Your Face Again.” Though she’s definitely got talent, Ramiele would seem to benefit most from a little more experience. She seemed a little uncomfortable on stage and could benefit from a boost in confidence.
When Aussie-transplant Michael Johns came out singing “We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions,” the crowd exploded and the show reached a new level. Johns’ soulful delivery on all his songs - which also included the re-imagined Dolly Parton classic “It’s All Wrong But It’s All Right” and the song that, as he reminded everyone, got him booted off Idol, “Dream On” – reminded me that this guy is radio ready and should have a successful career ahead of him.
Cowgirl sweetheart Kristy Lee Cook, who’s already got a record deal and a single which comes out on August 11, showed off her country sass during a set that included a couple of lesser known songs that she put her own stamp on – “Squeezin’ the Love Outta You” by Carolyn Dawn Johnson and “Cowgirls” by Kerry Harvick. The livelier numbers were separated by one of Kristy Lee’s favorite songs, “God Bless the USA.” While the song can seem hokey depending on who’s singing it, Kristy Lee’s performance was a sincere tribute to the United States and those who fought and are still fighting on its behalf. Kristy Lee bore what I felt was a lot of unfair criticism during her time on Idol. Her concert performance proved she deserves to be a part of this tour and to have a record deal that will hopefully help her follow in the footsteps of other successful Idol country artists like Kellie Pickler and Carrie Underwood.
Carly Smithson is America’s best Irish import since Guinness. Though she knows how to caress a ballad, she stuck with numbers to show off her powerhouse vocals – Evanescence’s “Bring Me To Life,” Heart’s “Crazy On You” and Cyndi Lauper’s “I Drove All Night.” While Carly sometimes seemed a little serious during Idol, she appears to have reached a point where she now completely enjoys herself onstage thereby making her already impressive voice and performances even better.
My favorite performance on Idol all season was Brooke White’s rendition of The Beatles “Let It Be.” There was something about the feeling she put into that song that made it, at the risk of sounding melodramatic, a transcendent moment. Happily, Brooke recreated that moment at the start of her set as she rose out of the stage playing a grand piano (barefoot of course) and singing this beloved classic. After “Let It Be,” Brooke picked up her guitar and headed to center-stage while mentioning that there was an “incident” with the microphone stand the night before which resulted in her getting smacked in the face with the stand. There were no mishaps this time so Brooke told all of us to “get your snap on” before Feist’s catchy “1, 2, 3, 4.” Though I’d never gotten my snap on before, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. Brooke’s final song, Coldplay’s “Yellow,” was the capper on a fun set. Other than David Cook, I’d say Brooke has the best rapport with the audience probably because she’s got such a joyful spirit that you can’t help but smile when she’s talking and singing.
That didn’t end Brooke’s time onstage however. As someone who is sincerely socially conscious and would no doubt use her celebrity to help the less fortunate, Brooke made her pitch as spokesperson for Malaria No More’s “Save the World Summer” campaign which aims to raise awareness and money to prevent and end the spread of malaria. This led into a performance of U2’s “Pride in the Name of Love” by the six performers we’d already seen. While group numbers didn’t always work well on TV, this one – accompanied by video of the people in Africa the campaign would help – was both entertaining and effective.
Post-intermission was when screaming young girls (and probably older women too) pushed their vocal chords to the limit. Accompanied by constant squeals of delight from the audience, Jason Castro opened his set playing ukulele and singing the Israel Kamakawiwo'ole version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” He followed with Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” and The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Daydream.” I admit that I wasn’t a big fan of Jason’s while he was on Idol but he won me over with his performances here. He demonstrated a newfound confidence and even some power-vocal ability that I didn’t know he had.
The crowd next erupted for Syesha Mercado who, besides throwing a free Idol T-shirt into the crowd, sang Rihanna’s “Umbrella” followed by Alicia Keys “If I Ain’t Got You” and Beyonce’s “Listen.” Though the Idol judges often criticized Syesha for not being distinct enough or knowing her niche, she seems to have found it here. Freed from the constraints of theme weeks, she found songs she felt comfortable singing and the audience was totally impressed.
Next of course was the moment every girl in the audience was waiting for – the emergence of David Archuleta behind a piano singing and playing Robbie Williams’ “Angels.” Archuleta could have stood onstage for 15 minutes doing nothing but smile and he would have earned a constant stream of applause and screams from the crowd. The fact that he’s got actual musical talent to back up his popularity is a welcome fact. After singing One Republic’s “Apologize” and Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me,” he finished up with Josh Groban’s “When You Say You Love Me.” Groban is the artist Archuleta most reminds me of so if he follows in his footsteps, he’ll be okay.
Appropriately enough, the loudest cheers and stomps of the evening (yes, there was stomping) greeted American Idol winner David Cook who opened with the killer version of Lionel Richie’s “Hello” that first put him on many people’s radars during the course of Idol. Be it through his first post-Idol hit “Time of My Life,” Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” or the Foo Fighters’ “My Hero,” no one seemed more at home onstage in front of thousands of people than Cook. He’s got a swagger that some people interpret as cocky but I think it’s simply confidence because he loves what he’s doing and knows he’s good at it. Nothing wrong with that. In addition to throwing several guitar picks into the audience to the glee of a few fans near the front, Cook also mentioned that he usually dedicates “My Hero” to his brother Adam who’s suffering from brain cancer. This night, however, he said he was changing his dedication to a nameless girl who also faced a heroic struggle. He didn’t share any more of the story so I don’t know if the dedication was for someone he met that day or for the young cancer patient named Lindsey Rose who he’s mentioned before in interviews. Either way, it was a nice gesture. Cook closed his set with his popular version of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”
Before the evening ended, the top 10 performed Rihanna’s “Don’t Stop the Music” together to give everyone a final opportunity to say good-night to the crowd. It was a fine way to end nearly three hours of pure, unadulterated fun. If you get the chance to see the Idols tour, you should definitely do it. All ages from kids to seniors were represented in the audience so it’s a night out that really can be a family affair.
(Note: Photos above are generic, not from the actual concert)