Review: American Idols Live at Rupp Arena

Lee DeWyze, winner of American Idol season 9, and finalist Crystal Bowersox perform during the American Idols Live at Rupp Area.  Photos by Mike Weaver | Staff

Lee DeWyze, winner of American Idol Season Nine, and runner up Crystal Bowersox perform during American Idols Live at Rupp Area. Photos by Mike Weaver | Lexington Herald-Leader

The central conceit of American Idols Live is that you can take 10 singers who were begging to be heard last summer and have them command an arena concert tour this summer.

More than the American Idol TV competion, this event could really tell us who is ready for the big time.

After all, the American Idol series is as artificial an environment as any reality/competition show. Singers deliver a song a week – maybe a handful if they make it deep into the competition – and usually it’s not even the entire song. Everything is tailored for TV, and the singers are immediately judged to their faces.

American Idol finalist, Michael Lynche, performs during American Idols Live at Rupp Area.

American Idol finalist, Michael Lynche, performs during American Idols Live at Rupp Area.

On Idols Live, the Top 10 contestants play to a live audience, which is essentially what they will have to do if they are to have successful musical careers. The audience passes judgement by getting on its feet and singing along to every word and by buying your albums and T-shirts. Or not.

Saturday night, before an estimated crowd of 4,000 at Rupp Arena, some artists seemed right at home and some should probably savor this tour while it lasts.

Like the TV show, the concert counted down the Top 10 from No. 10 Didi Benami to American Idol winner Lee DeWyze.

Even with five full songs near the end of the concert, it was still hard to see what propelled DeWyze to the championship. He’s certainly a good performer and seems like an amiable fellow. But basically he boiled a bunch of established hits like U2′s Beautiful Day and Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah into mid-tempo country-pop tunes.  Of course, there are numerous artists touring the country selling pretty much the same thing. It will be interesting to hear what DeWyze has to offer when he puts out his own album.

But several artists seized the opportunity to make good second impressions, particularly third place finisher Casey James. On the show, James always seemed to be a little lost trying to make the judges happy. But taking the stage playing The Black Keys’ I Got Mine, he quickly established himself as a Texas bluesman who had a Stratocaster and wasn’t afraid to use it.

Similarly, in the first six performers, No. 6 Siobhan Magnus was able to let her freaky flag fly to wonderful effect. She hit the stage wearing a bustier, tutu, ripped fishnet stockings and combat boots that must have left the shoemaking world with a buckle shortage. She started with a haunting, histrionic take on the Rolling Stones’ Paint it Black and later showed herself to be a more-than-adequate stand-in for Gwen Steffani performing No Doubt’s Spiderwebs.

There were several good performances in the show’s first half from artists like No. 9 Andrew Garcia, doing his too-cool acoustic rendition of Paula Abdul’s Straight Up. But Magnus and 17-year-old Katie Stevens showed the greatest promise in being able to play to a big house.

No. 4, Big Michael Lynche already mastered it. He kept a friendly patter going while working the stage and delivering his emotional rendition of Kate Bush’s This Woman’s Work and a party-starting version of Justin Timberlake’s My Love. Sitting alone at center stage with his guitar, Lynche showed how one man can command a huge room with a huge, versatile voice.

Runner up Crystal Bowersox continued her reputation as Season Nine goofball, juggling a harmonica and water bottle at one point and joking about messages written on her equipment when stagehands brought it to her. She also delivered rousing renditions of show favorites like Janis Joplin’s Piece of my Heart.

The show closed with all the performers singing Season One champion Kelly Clarkson’s My Life Would Suck Without You.

Clarkson has, of course, made it as an arena artist, along with fellow Idol alums like Carrie Underwood and Daughtry. It remains to be seen who will make it back to the big stage after this edition of Idols Live ends, but the show gave us a few ideas.

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9 Responses to Review: American Idols Live at Rupp Arena

  1. Kathy Tribble says:

    As 55 year-old grandmother attending with 8 yr old granddaughter, I thought this to be a weak and biased review. First, after 9 season’s of the sucessful Idol show do you really think we need a tutorial on the show itself..I thought a reviewer job was to review the show? ..which you did go on to eventually, but I absolutely disagree with your assessment of Lee DeWyze’s performance which I was MOST impressed with, if you were there you could actually FEEL him bringing down the house, the crowd went crazy which sent vibrations all throughout my body! On the contrary I believe that Lee DeWyze PROVED that he has a bright and secure future in the music industry, watch to hear great things from him in the future! I have to give it to the reviewer about Siobahn and the others reviewed… closer to being spot on …but, way off on Cystal Bowersocks’ performance which I felt to be very powerful and moving…loved her Janis, Crystal definetly did not disappoint…the crack about “goofball” I found offensive and way off base! All in all I didn’t feel that the reviewer was objective in his view of American Idol the show and it really came though in his review. This show was truly a way~ for just months ago amateur perfomance to show appreciation for their great opportunity to persue their lifes dream and that’s what this 55 year old took away, they were giving back to their audiences and I felt they ALL shined and gave it their all~ as a long time concert goer( and I have seen many ) felt this was one of the better ones.. :-)

  2. News2Me says:

    With all respect to this lady’s comments, does she really consider 4,000 people in Rupp Arena to be a crowd? Also, if this type of concert was one of the better of the many concerts she’s been to, as she claims, I’d hate to have seen the others. American Idol is winding down. Not the season, but the run of the show as a whole. The concept was good at first, but it’s about played out, and in a year or two, it will exist no longer. And that’s fine by me!

  3. Rich Copley says:

    Just to be clear on Crystal Bowersox, my “goofball” comment referred to her stage patter because, in concert, she was fun and goofy, like on the show. But I also said she, “delivered rousing renditions of show favorites like Janis Joplin’s Piece of my Heart,” which is a positive comment about her performance.

    Thanks to all for commenting.
    ~ Rich

  4. Dustin says:

    Sorry pal, but Siobhan was awful and naisly as normal. I do agree Casey looked the most comfortable and ready to rock arena’s, also that Katie as the biggest upside out of the 10. But, Dewyze and Bowersox let you feel why they were 1 & 2. I was dragged to this concert not expecting much, yet was pleasantly surprised with the top two and see them both having decent career’s. I’m guessing you were a Lambert fan last season and “love” you some Lady Gaga (gag)!!! Let’s see who can dress the worst come up with the next big shocked set and just “OMG LOVE IT”… Media=gag me..and you my friend just made me gag!!

  5. Vickie says:

    @Dustin

    Why did you even bring Adam Lambert into this article. It has absolutely nothing to do with the subject of this article.

    I wish all of the finalis from this season a good career. But there is absolutely no reason to bring Adam into this. If you have to put down an artist to upfift other(s), it only shows your ignorance. Your true colors are showing through.

    If you don’t like Adam or Lady GaGa’s style music, simply don’t listen to it. And if you think the top two show promising careers, then when their new CD’s come out, by all means go out and purchase them and help them have a successful career.

  6. Liam says:

    I was also dragged to this concert not expecting much, but I was really impressed with Casey James, he is not what you would expect to find on a idol stage, it was a pleasant surprise. I think the review is spot on Casey James and Siobhan Magnus were the ones who really got the crowd going. I was also impressed by Aaron Kelly’s stage presence even though I am not a fan of country music, but overall it was a good show.

  7. Brenda Pauley says:

    We just took our 89 year old Mom to her very first concert – she was totally in awe and loved the concert, as we all did. Siobhan is my brother and sis-in-law’s niece and is very dear to all of us. We spent 1 1/2 hours backstage after the concert with all 10 Idols; yes, we think they are all idols! This is the most genuine, honest, loving and down-to-earth bunch of young adults I have ever had the pleasure to be around. They are exceptionally talented in their own right. We loved the concert – but whoever believes there were only 4,000 people is totally nuts! There were at least 1,500 on the floor, if not more – I would venture to guess there were 10-11,000 at Rupp! We love Siobhan but we really love them all and wish them a fabulous future!

  8. Rich Copley says:

    Brenda, The 4,000 figure was an estimate given to us by the spokesman for Rupp Arena on Saturday night. We were told the tour promoter declined to release the actual attendance number. Sunday night, Idols Live pulled 6,000 in Atlanta.

  9. abbie says:

    I drove 275 miles with my two sisters. I am 50 years old and the oldest sister. We had a GREAT TIME. DIDI was great Andrew was not. Everyone else was Good. But LEE was a totally GREAT. Crystals keep her eyes closed to much. I really rocked with LEE, Katie, Aron, Big Mike, Didi , Casey and Tim.

    I hope they all have a Great career in music.

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