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American Idols just middle of the road
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American Idols just middle of the road

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

American Idols Live
July 7
Tacoma Dome


Going to the American Idols Live concert this week was like attending a very long wedding reception with a house band that progressively gets better with more booze. It didn't suck by any means, but it failed to impress - at times, the show was so cookie-cutter that I expected at any moment a Black Eyed Peas medley would be served on a Ritz cracker.

The big question for any Gay fan of the hit TV series is, "How was Adam Lambert?" Good, but not exceptionally great because unfortunately he lipsynced a portion of his four-song performance. Lipsyncing isn't uncommon in the live music circuit - Madonna and Janet Jackson have both done it - but the difference with Lambert is that he doesn't do it well enough to hide it.

Lambert came on stage near the end of the concert, opening with a ballsy rendition of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" and a capable re-do of Muse's "Starlight." Tall, spiked hair, and smothered in blue-black eye makeup, the American Idol runner-up looked much different than any of the other nine contestants on this national tour. The crowd, which filled a half-sliced arena, were more excited to see him than perhaps anyone else on the bill - three Gay men in my row cheered relentlessly when Lambert's giant, broad frame showed itself through dark lighting. I, too, had anticipated the presence of this new star in his first Northwest appearance - yet, while he worked the stage from side to side, his 15-minute set time and choice of music resulted in a barely-there performance.

A three-number David Bowie medley - "Life on Mars," "Fame," "Let's Dance" - seemed an appropriate fit for the edgy Lambert, though what it lacked was the edge. Instead, each of these condensed songs, especially the last one, was delivered as a run-of-the-mill pop tune. If you're going to do Bowie, do Bowie justice.

But Lambert is not primarily to blame for his less-than-stellar showing on Tuesday night; it was the tour organizers for handing him and the other performers a list of Top 40 radio fare without any real creativity. Take, for instance, Lil Rounds' version of "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" - there was no deviation from the original cut, it sounded just like Beyonce's, just not as good. Ditto for the Memphis native's take on Mary J. Blige's "Be Without You" - it was nice, but it was safe and took no detours from the original recording.

The silliest of the 10 finalists was Anoop Desai, who sucked all the genuine sweetness out of Willie Nelson's "You Are Always on My Mind" and turned it into a cheesy ballad, and then took a pathetic stab at Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative." Another laughable moment was when Danny Gokey tried re-working Michael Jackson's "PTY (Pretty Young Thing)" - even the guy next to me flipped his thumbs down - and worse was his bland delivery of "Maria, Maria" by Santana and Wyclef Jean. Elsewhere, Scott MacIntyre's rendition of Keane's "Bend and Break" was all right, though his vocals lacked the soul of Tom Chaplin's, but by also choosing to do Vanessa Carlton's "A Thousand Miles," he did an overall reasonable job in matching his piano skills to the right music.

While I was hoping to be blown away by Adam Lambert, it was Allison Iraheta that really impressed me. Yes, she went a little over the top on Heart's "Barracuda," yet she had such wonderful energy and spunk. Whereas Lambert was robotic, Iraheta seemed more loose and confident, even when the pair dueted on Foghat's "Slow Ride."

In Lambert's defense, he doesn't fit the American Idol mold, and maybe he's come to realize this. Once he wraps up this tour and gets cracking on his own career, I expect we'll see a big star rise before us, but for right now he's still trapped in this mainstream, Top 40 puppet-and-string act and unable to flex his true muscle.

Idol winner Kris Allen, wearing a very form-fitting pair of jeans, waltzed through "Heartless" and "Ain't No Sunshine" as fans in the front rows snapped photo after photo of him. He led everyone in an uplifting version of "Hey Jude" before the entire cast dabbled on the jukebox favorite "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey.

It may appear I'm being harsh in my review of this American Idols concert - they are amateurs after all, right? - but these are aspiring singers who want to be taken seriously, who in a matter of months are going to ask us to buy their records and make their musical dreams come true. If they're going to step into reality in the very near future, what needs to be said - and I have no problem saying it - is that they need to convince those outside the Idol bubble that they can go beyond re-recording a pop classic. Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Chris Daughtry and even the Tony-nominated Constatine Maroulis found their footing post-Idol, and these group of youngsters will have to do it as well.

This particular show on Tuesday was too High School Musical, and maybe I expected too much, but at $50 a ticket (with fees) it should have given me something more to talk about. It should have made me want to eagerly see what these kids are going to do in the months ahead, and with the exception of Adam Lambert, who perhaps was trying to fit in with an ensemble that he really doesn't fit into begin with, I'm not jazzed on what any of them do down the road.

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