Wednesday, October 3, 2012

American Idol Season 11 finalists give Manila one unforgettable “Idol experience”

Title: American Idol Season 11 finalists give Manila one unforgettable “Idol experience”
Written by Jamie Ortega

One of the things that makes the American Idol tour a highly-anticipated event is because it gives the concertgoers the full idol experience. You hear the famous American Idol theme song in the background, Ryan Seacrest and the three judges appear on a huge TV screen set-up on stage, and finally, after months of rooting for your favorite idols, you get to see them up close. It’s Idol heaven!

Although it must be said that this year was even more special than the rest because of the presence of the “little girl with the big voice”, American Idol Season 11 runner-up and Filipino- Mexican singer Jessica Sanchez.  There’s a feeling of pride among us Filipinos when one of our kababayans makes it internationally, and that was distinctly felt as early as 7 pm when the Big Dome rapidly began to fill up with people.
Another thing I like about the American Idol Tour is that the Idols sing songs that I am familiar with, that I know, and that I can sing along to. How many times have we sat at a concert just to hear only two hit songs of the artist that we are familiar with? Good thing that didn’t happen as the Idol finalists (minus Idol winner Philip Philips) kicked off the more than two hour musical spectacle with songs we enjoy hearing like Sing by My Chemical Romance.

This was followed by one of my favorites finalists, the gorgeous Deandre Brackensick who performed a riveting rendition of Master Blaster against a flower power backdrop displayed on the screen.  He also showcased his amazing falsetto voice as well as a couple of cool moves by spinning in the middle of his performance. By the time his solo number was over I was wishing he sang more solo songs in the concert like Mawell’s This Woman’s Work which he performed during his final audition.
What followed next was a dash of Idol flavor delivered by Hollie Cavanaugh and Skylar Laine. They performed Undo It by Carrie Underwood. Even if country music isn’t as popular as say rock or pop, the performance of the two girls gathered a great response from the audience. Judging from her awesome rendition of Glitter In The Air by Pink, to say that Erika Van Pelt has the potential to be the next rock princess is definitely not an understatement.  Erika showcased the vulnerability and strength in her voice during her solo number as purple lights played in the air- I cant wait for her album!

Another great thing about Idol is its’ “surprise factor,” if you didn’t watch the concert videos like me you’d be wondering if the next number would be a solo number, or a group number, etc. It turns out a group number was next, a heck of a group number as Erika Van Pelt, Hollie Cavanaugh, Joshua Ledet and Colton Dixon all in denim-inspired outfits, lit the stage with an electrifying performance of Moves Like Jagger.
There’s no denying the popularity of Korean-American Heejun Han, especially in the Philippines where k-pop and koreanovelas are all the rage. It’s also partly due to the singer’s wisecracks and funny antics. However, after watching this performance I must say sometimes his funniness precedes him because man, the guy can sing! I loved his rap in the middle of his performance, and he hit all the keys very well. I wish I saw more of that during Idol. Anyhow we will be seeing more of him because he recently declared on his Twitter account that he will be back in October!

The night was full of all types of music, rock, pop, country, and dance- just like the next number Party Rock Anthem performed by Deandre Brackensick, Heejun, plus it also marked the first appearance of Jessica Sanchez. Apart from my openly ogling Deandre’s dance skills, I could really see the idols let loose and enjoy themselves in this number which made several people in the crowd “put their hands up and have a good time,” as well!
 The next number provided the best kilig-inducing combination of musical testosterone I’ve ever seen provided by Joshua Ledet, Colton Dixon, Deandre Brackensick and Heejun, who all gave a fun rendition of Everybody Talks by Neon Trees. I could tell the four boys were in “charm the audience,” mode as they waved to the people to the crowd and made love to the microphone. There was a lot of great blending, too!!
To be honest with nearly every singer in the country belting out their pipes to kingdom come, it makes me want to hear unique voices- just like Elise Testone. I loved the raspy, sexy quality emanating from her voice during her Rumor Has It number.  Although when Elise sang Whole Lotta Love by Led Zeppelin during the competition I wasn’t too happy about it. Being a huge Adam Lambert fan there is a part of me that wishes that song could only be performed by him, but when I heard her sing it during the concert I was like, wow , she made the song her own! It made me respect Elise all the more.
The next performer was, apart from Jessica, my ultimate favorite this season. And I must say from the mall signings to the concert there is Colton Dixon fever everywhere in the Philippines! Colton really owned the stage with his three numbers Meant To Live by Switchfoot, Piano Man by Billy Joel, as well as his newest single Never Gone. Plus did you know that aside from season 11 winner Philip, Colton is the only singer among the entire roster of finalists who has a single out? Now, that’s talent. The great thing about Colton’s music is that even if it’s Christian rock it’s inspirational and catchy without sounding preachy.  In fact, while Colton was playing the piano during Never Gone people started singing the lyrics to the song and swinging their glow sticks in the air. There’s something about his voice that really touches the heart. I really hope he does come back and holds a solo show here-paging the concert producers! Colton’s number was followed by a mash-up of Just The Way You Are/What Makes You Beautiful performed by top 10-minus Season 11 winner Philip Philips.

Come to think of it, as the second half of the concert started, I began to miss Philip. He was nowhere to be found!  Turns out the next part of the show was practically dedicated to Phil as he sang a total of 6 songs- Superstition by Stevie Wonder, and Nice And Slow by Usher. One of the best duets of the night was Volcano by Damien Rice performed by Philips with Jessica Sanchez on backing vocals. Philip, who was not much of a talker during the Idol competition, communicated surprisingly well with the audience, saying, “I hope you all are have a good time tonight, let’s slow this one down,” before launching into his eerie yet sexy rendition of Volcano. It made me feel like I was in a bar in the US in the country, just before the bar was about to close. I also loved how Jessica, even if she had a powerful voice, didn’t overpower Phil. Their voices blended perfectly!

Then there were also the songs that Philip performed during the competition like Superstition and a really cool Philip-fied rendition of Nice And Slow. Admittedly, I wasn’t much of a Philip fan during the competition, but his sexy voice combined with his skills on the guitar showcased during the concert made me change my mind. Another of my favorite duets during the competition was Somebody That I Used To Know by Goteye, and I was really happy as the two “raspy in their own way,” voices of Philip and Elise made musical magic onstage. By the time Philip was singing Home alongside Colton and Deandre Ipads and cameras were in the air and people were jumping up and cheering.
Not to be outdone, season 11 runner-up and the American Idol winner (well, in my heart anyway,) Jessica Sanchez brought the house down with a string of amazing performances. I was nearly in tears with goosebumps all over me as she sang because her voice is utterly amazing in person. Words cannot begin to describe it. Jessica mesmerized the audience with a riveting medley of Best Thing I Never Had looking like the diva she was meant to be with teased hair, a black glittering gown and pipes that made me so proud to be Pinoy! This was followed by How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore by Prince and Proud Mary with Joshua Ledet and Brackensick both on backing vocals.  
Before I forget I also have to give props to Joshua Ledet and Hollie who each had their own moment in the concert as well. Pretty biritera Hollie Cavanaugh, who I know for a fact made a lot of Filipino guys swoon during her Manila visit, gave an entertaining rendition of Rolling in the Deep with Elise and Erika on backing vocals. However, I enjoyed her version of Give Your Heart A Break more because I felt it was more of an age-appropriate number for her to sing. It made me think of the kind of album she will produce in the future, more along the lines of the music of Demi Lovato and Miley Cyrus. With her powerful pipes and pretty face she really has the makings of the next teen musical sensation!

On the other hand, Joshua Ledet’s performances were in a league of their own. People may label him as theatrical or over the top but I personally liked the soulfulness and bluesy quality in his voice as well as the energy he puts into his performances.  He really commanded the stage with his sexy growls during his performance of It’s A Man’s Man’s World by James Brown. If Philip made me feel like I was in a country bar, Joshua made me feel that I was in a blues bar in New Orleans. By the time Joshua was on his knees hitting the high notes I wanted to be there with him, wailing and cheering him on! I hope Joshua and Jessica have more duets in their respective albums, I am sure it will top the charts all over the world!

Overall, the American Idol Season 11 tour had all the ingredients for an unforgettable concert- from the glittering costumes, lights, group numbers and solo performances everything made for a one of a kind Idol experience concertgoers will NEVER EVER FORGET!  I cant wait for next year, who knows we might see a Pinoy Idol winner performing on stage for the very first time?! We all can dream.

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