Music News & Reviews

Idols Live shows who may live on stage

Lee DeWyze, last season's American Idol winner, performed Saturday night at Rupp Arena.
Lee DeWyze, last season's American Idol winner, performed Saturday night at Rupp Arena.

The central conceit of 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 competition, which is artificial and tailored for TV, this event could really tell us who is ready for the big time.

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

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

Like the TV show, the concert counted down the Top 10 from Didi Benami to winner Lee DeWyze.

Even with five full songs near the end of the concert, it was hard to see what propelled DeWyze to the championship. He's 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 selling pretty much the same thing. It will be telling to hear what DeWyze has to offer on his own album.

But several artists seized the opportunity, particularly third-place finisher Casey James. 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, No. 6 Siobhan Magnus was able to let her freak flag fly to wonderful effect. She hit the stage in 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 Stefani performing No Doubt's Spiderwebs.

There were several good performances in the 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 (No. 8) showed the greatest promise playing to a big house.

Michael Lynche, No. 4, already mastered it. He worked the stage and delivered an 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 built on her reputation as Season Nine goofball, juggling a harmonica and water bottle and joking about messages written on her equipment. 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, of course, has, made it as an arena artist, along with Idol alums Carrie Underwood and Chris Daughtry. It remains to be seen who will make it back to the big stage after this edition of Idols Live, but the show gave us a few ideas.