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Idols Live Revue: The Reality Rocks Review

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

As ginormous an American Idol fan as I am, I've never really cared for the hokey group-singalong numbers on the show, whenever the very different contestants are forced to perform together and subsequently drag each other down to the level of a bad Lido Deck dinner-theater act on the Good Ship Lolligag. That is why, over the course of seven AmIdol seasons, I have never once made even the slightest effort to see the Idols Live Tour when it comes to my hometown.

But when the fine folks at Sony/BMG kindly offered me two 10th-row tickets for the Idols Live 2008 concert at L.A.'s Staples Center, right across the street from the Nokia Theater where just a few weeks ago my mom and I witnessed David Cook's triumph--and my mom, a real Cougar For Cook, showed keen interest in attending---well, they made me an offer I couldn't refuse.

So LP Sr. and I went last night, and I braced myself for three hours of Sanjaya-level variety-show antics. But I'm pleased to report that the concert was not nearly as cringeworthy as I'd feared. In fact, in many parts it was downright enjoyable!

Of course, the night was not without its iffy moments. A preshow danceoff between concertgoers and a giant felt Pop Tart, a 30-minute audience Guitar Hero competition, and a constant loop of jumbotron ad spots for So You Think You Can Dance, Guitar Hero, and the debut album by already-been-dropped Blake Lewis sometimes made me feel like my mom and I were trapped inside a giant, insufferable infomercial. It was total product-placement hell, at times.

And as far as the actual show went...Ramiele Malubay's awkward dancing and unflattering circus-leotard outfit during her cover of the Jackson Five's "I Want You Back," as well as Kristy Lee Cook's underwhelming performance of "God Bless The USA" in front of a giant neon stars-'n'-stripes flag, were major low points for me. Ramiele would have benefitted from the duet-partnering assistance of former BFF and Los Angeles resident Danny Noriega, and Kristy would have benefitted from...just not showing up. (Sorry, KLC fans, but I never liked her, and never will. She looked white-hot in her tight white jeans, though--I'll give her that much.)

BUT...what WAS good about the concert was it was sequenced with each of the 10 finalists, starting with 10th-placer Chikezie and working all the way up to big-kahuna headliner David Cook, singing a few solo songs apiece. And this was the perfect format: Each contestant had a shot in the spotlight; every audience member got to see his/her favorite finalist shine; when a contestant that any given audience member didn't like performed, that was the ideal opportunity for a bathroom or beer break; and, most importantly, those excruciating group numbers were few and far between.

There were in fact only two group numbers--a pre-intermission, Idol Gives Back-themed performance of U2's "(Pride) In The Name Of Love" by contestants 10 through 5 (Chikezie, Ramiele, Michael Johns, Carly Smithson, and Brooke White), and big top 10 finale of Rihanna's "Don't Stop The Music"--and they both were actually quite okay. Maybe even more than okay. Phew!

Highlights included the high-energy opening performance by personality-plus Chikezie (especially the cute a cappella song for his parents in the audience, and his crowd-rousing rendition of Usher's "Caught Up"); Aussie hottie Michael Johns's panty-throwing-inspiring performance of Aerosmith's "Dream On" (why did this song get him kicked off the show?); and a surprisingly sexy Carly doing Heart's "Crazy On You" (though this former MCA signing's aw-shucks babbling about being a "nobody" before being "plucked from obscurity" by AmIdol was a bit much). As for the latter two singers, their semi-pro experience definitely showed, as they easily upstaged some of the less seasoned, less confident performers.

Syesha Mercado was actually the most pleasant surprise of the night for me. I never was that crazy about her on the show--never quite understood how she made it all the way to third place, beating out more obvious frontrunners like Michael and Carly. But last night, she was better than she EVER was on Idol. You know how in the Winter Olympics, how the iceskaters fall all over the place when going for the gold, but once the competition is over and the pressure's off and they're just doing their exhibition performances, they skate totally perfectly? Well, it was sort of like that. It was like Syesha was so much more relaxed now that she'd skated away from Idol with the bronze, she was free to be herself. So last night she totally killed it on Rihanna's "Umbrella" and Beyonce's "Listen," and she got a massive Staples stadium standing ovation. (There were a lot of old people and little itty-bitty kiddies in the audience, so they didn't stand up the whole time; it in fact took a lot to get everyone out of their seats. But Syesha brought the people to their feet.) Really, as my mom astutely commented, if Syesha had competed in season 6 (the so-so Jordin Sparks season) she wouldn't have just come in third. She would have won.

However, my most-loved performances overall were of the songs I liked personally, songs more in line with my actual musical taste. So here were my handpicked highlights...

Obvious crowd favorite Jason Castro's lovable Spiccoli-esque personality, as he shuffled and chuckled red-eyedly through the entire show like he'd just woken up, elicited "I wanna have your baby!" screams from the ladies. He turned in a nicely laid-back performance of Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy," and the crowd went crazy, indeed:

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Resident hippie-chick Brooke White did her piano-gal thing on Coldplay's "Yellow," as well as this guitar-strummy singalong of Feist's "1, 2, 3, 4":

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And David Cook rocked the arena with the Foo Fighters' arena-rock anthem "My Hero," touchingly dedicated to his personal hero, his cancer-battling brother Adam:

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And so, the show was entertaining enough that I might even go to the Idols Live Tour next year...provided there's a headlining winner as cool as Cook, and the gratuitous Pop Tart/Guitar Hero product-pushing is kept to a minimum.

Seacrest out.

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