Blake Lewis, Didi Benami & Tim Urban are on a boat!Some people book vacations to the Bahamas to get away from it all. I, of course, am not one of those people. So when it came time for me to take a winter holiday, I chose to fly out to Grand Bahama Island for the Grand Lucayan resort's Inaugural Celebrity Weekend, a charity gala organized by entertainment industry veteran Lisa Tenner (founder of Las Vegas's EAT'M Festival), to see some of my favorite reality singers--"American Idol's" Blake Lewis, Didi Benami, and Tim Urban, and "America's Got Talent's" fabulous fop Prince Poppycock--perform in a seaside setting. Now that was a proper vacation, as far as I'm concerned. Velvet-sand beaches, bottomless Bahama Mama cocktails, AND Prince Poppycock covering Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" in the Grand Lucayan ballroom? Yep, this was a total Bahamian rhapsody.
Blake & Indy the dolphinThe weekend involved other awesome extracurricular activities--the highlight of which had to be swimming in a lagoon with a pack of Idols and a dolphin fittingly, quite musically named "Indy"--but the festivities mainly centered on the Grand Lucayan resort's big relaunch, a major local event in the small city of Freeport (population: 60,000). Night number one, Friday, began with exotic cocktails--as Friday nights in the Bahamas often do--followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony with the Idols, Vegas showman Clint Holmes, and property CEO Gary Gilbert. (Prince Poppycock, divo that he is, was still getting ready for his red-carpet appearance, prepping his first fabulous costume change of the evening.) Poppycock later magnificent emerged in full plumage on the red carpet, where he and the other participating performers discussed the charities they'd respectively handpicked to support at the event. (Poppycock performed for the Trevor Project, Blake for the Cure JM Foundation, Didi for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Tim for the International Justice Mission, and Clint for Poker Gives.) How wonderfully surreal and random it felt to run into all these West Coast-based stars in what was basically in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
Tim Urban poses with his posterFriday's concert featured Tim, Didi, and Poppycock, and while they faced the challenge of playing for a ballroom full of middle-aged tourists and local businesspeople who, frankly, possibly didn't exactly know who they were, all three singers gave it their all. Tim entertained the crowd with his perfect hair and sardonic wit, announcing his OneRepublic cover with, "Anyone know who OneRepublic is? No? Cool, this is an original song, then. It's called 'Secrets.'" (He followed that with, "If you don't know who OneRepublic is, then you definitely don't know who Augustana is...so here's another original song, 'Boston'!") Tim's covers of Adele's "Rolling In The Deep" and Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" were more readily recognized by the audience, and overall, his set went down as smoothly as a piña colada. ("Anyone vote for me on 'Idol'?" he asked, semi-rhetorically, and when a handful of spectators applauded affirmatively, he quipped, "Cool, I feel better about myself!")
Didi, Prince & TimDidi stuck mostly to originals, though she did reprise her "Idol" signature song, Katharine McPhee's "Terrified"; covered Fleetwood Mac's "Rhiannon"; and led the audience in a very vivacious "Happy Birthday" singalong for an amused VIP in the front row. But the highlight of her set was her best original tune to date, "Release Me," aided by Tim on guitar and a beatboxing Blake Lewis. The Idols later confessed that they'd barely rehearsed the number together, but the audience was none the wiser, as everything gelled when this trio hopped onstage.
Prince Poppycock closed the show Friday, after a gushing intro from diehard fan Lisa Tenner--who, as a longtime Vegas resident, could certainly appreciate the good Prince's over-the-top foppery and gilt-trippy glamour. Unsurprisingly, not all of the Grand Lucayan spectators shared Lisa's enthusiasm--some of their jaws pretty much hit their salad plates when, during this dinner-theater revue, Poppycock proudly sashayed out in midriff-baring metallic satin lederhosen, sequined stiletto boots, and Goldmember bodypaint, trilling a pelvis-thrusting rendition of his original pop ditty "I Pop For Poppycock" while flanked by two tutu'd dancers in Louise Brooks wigs. But the baroque 'n' roll Fauntleroy was undeterred, fearlessly going where no Bahamas resort performer had probably ever gone before. And by the end of his set, he'd won over a decent-sized chunk of the crowd, just as he improbably won over "AGT's" extremely mainstream television audience last year. So Prince Poppycock definitely put the "Grand" in "Grand Lucayan" this evening.
Blake Lewis climbs a table during his final numberAfter a Saturday of idyllic and Idolicious dolphin-swimming (and repeatedly pinching myself to confirm that this indeed was my real life and not some fanciful tropical dream), night number two kicked off with Blake performing on the Grand Lucayan lawn, exhibiting the same bravery that had made Poppycock's performance such a dandy delight. Blake didn't care that he was at a sedate garden party that in many ways resembled a wedding reception, and instead played it like it was a rock concert. He rushed into the audience and hopped onto a flimsy party-rental table during "Break Anotha," nearly slipping on the tablecloth and toppling over a lit candle in the process; he almost broke the precious acoustic guitar he'd borrowed from Tim, who audibly gasped while sitting on the lawn; he sang a mashup of Maroon 5's "She Will Be Loved" and U2's "With Or Without You"; and he brought Didi and Tim back up onstage, along with a couple of intrepid hotel guests, for one of his legendary freestyle loop-pedal jams.
Blake LewisLater that night, Vegas vet and self-described "rhythm guy" Clint Holmes, clearly impressed by Blake's beatboxing skills, invited Blake onstage during his headlining set for a little cross-generational scat-off. Their impromptu duet played out like a playful rivalry as the two vibed back and forth off each other, and I have to say, Clint totally kept up with Blake. The mutual respect between these two very different entertainers was fun to behold, a great way to end the weekend...and probably something I'll only ever get to witness in a far-flung place like Grand Bahama Island.