Reality TV’s biggest phenomenon brought its well known brand of verisimilitude to the Times Union Center Wednesday night with The American Idols (AI) Live Tour 2008. Keeping it real at the show were 2008 AI winner David Cook and nine other high-place finishers for the season.
It was a countdown from 10 to 1 so Cook closed the second half of the show. While not the best singer of the night, he had the biggest rock star attitude and presence by far with his shouting voice giving shades of Eddie Vedder. Cook was all about distorted guitars and solid backbeats. He reworked two classic decades of old pop songs into his heavy, rock ballad anthem style: Michael Jackson‘s “Billie Jean” and Lionel Ritchie’s “Hello.” Artistically debatable for sure, but Cook made it work.
The rest of the second half Idols were all professional enough but there was no real spark to their mini-sets. All the crowd reactions to their tunes seemed to be on cues from the stage crew. David Archuleta, a one-boy boyband, played some piano and made some hearts throb; Syesha Mercado worked through a version of Dreamgirls’ “Listen;” and Jason Castro played his lovable and quirky “Over the Rainbow.”
The first half of the show actually had stronger singing. Michael Johns, Kristy Lee Cook and Carly Smithson hit all their stage cues and all their notes. Ironically, for a concert put on for mainly 8-14-year-olds, all the biggest cheers came from Johns’s and Smithson’s versions of tunes from the ’70s: “We Are The Champions,” “Dream On” and “Crazy On You.”
Johns, Lee Cook and Smithson were all much better singers last night than their higher placing counterparts. Johns even more than the others outshone his choice of material actually putting a fresh spin on tunes that have been worn into the ground. The remaining singers: Brooke White, Chikezie Eze and Ramiele Malubay were all uniformly decent — and uniformly forgettable.
But the real star of the show was — the Show. Stage runways, multiple large projection screens, MTV-style camerawork, screaming tweens, embarrassed parents, huge arena space, AI theme song introduction to the program — it was all there and all encompassing.
But there’s no escaping the duality AI reality. These Idols are linked to an increasingly tangled web of corporate cross-marketing. The spectacle is awash in a culturally pervasive haze of mindless branding: Get the can of Coke into the hands of the rock star who sang on AI and place their song on a Universal Studio soundtrack with an eye toward AT&T ring-tone rights to drive sales of the “tie-in” McDonald’s cup placement which helps promote the Simon & Schuster tween book sales and starts buzz for the Disney Channel spin-off television show. And don’t forget that the 2008 tour is sponsored by Pop-Tarts: Kellogg’s sugar-coated toaster pastries.
The show was put on so professionally, however, that it almost makes you forget about all that other stuff. Almost.
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Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts