Thursday, August 5, 2004

American Idol Live

By Chris Varias / Enquirer staff writer

The reality-TV series American Idol pulled its best ratings yet in its third season. But that doesn't mean the touring version of the show is getting any better.

What did you think of the show?
American Idol Live came to U.S. Bank Arena Wednesday, utilizing the same formula of past Idol tours. The Top-10 finishers from the glorified talent show's third season, which concluded this spring, took solo turns at the microphone and gathered in various ensembles in order to perform a cross section of hits from the Motown, disco and contemporary-pop eras.

But something about the 2 1/2-hour live version gets lost in the move from the television to the stage. It certainly isn't the over-singing. That can be heard loud and clear. And it's not the absence of vapid Idol host Ryan Seacreast, an Ed Sullivan for the new millennium. Rather, his non-attendance is a point of celebration. The problem is the lack of criticism and suspense. The TV show's hook is the judging, the voting and the dismissing. The live show has none of that and is merely kiddie karaoke. (A crowd of 4,022 paid, leaving the majority of the seats empty.)

The concert's first half featured a song by each of the contestants, going in the order of worst (10th place finisher Amy Adams) to first (winner Fantasia Barrino), with only a few memorable stops along the way. One was 17-year-old crooner John Stevens, the sixth-place contestant who went farther back in time than most Idol participants for a swinging take on "Come Fly with Me."

Chicagoan Jennifer Hudson (seventh-place) let loose on Aretha Franklin's "Since You've Been Gone," singing as strongly as anyone who would follow her. That included ringer Tamyra Gray, the first-season contestant who did a few songs in the second half of the concert.

Barrino's choice to close out the first half was a vocal-gymnastics version of Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed and Delivered." She was also featured on several of the second-half numbers, including "Purple Rain," the melodramatic finale of a Prince medley. Again, Hudson stole this portion of the show, in a duet with George Huff on soul-testimonial rendition of "Nothing Compares 2 U."

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