COLONIE -- When you get advice from Luke Bryan, especially if you’re a performer, you take it.
Madison VanDenburg did just that on Tuesday, fresh off of Sunday’s episode of “American Idol,” where Bryan told her, “We notice you interacting with the audience more ... But don’t get complacent. Keep diggin’ in.”
On Tuesday, the “Idol” finalist and Cohoes native did just that. Although the stage at The Crossings was smaller than the one she’s gotten used to, VanDenburg excitedly gave shout-outs to her friends and family throughout her performance.
“This is incredible. Your support means everything to me,” VanDenburg said shortly after getting on stage. The “American Idol” finalist and Shaker High School junior was back in town to film the Hometown Heroes portion of the show, which included a pep rally at the school, a parade and a performance.
The latter two events were delayed by an hour or so, leaving friends and fans waiting in the rain. Many were holding homemade signs encouraging VanDenburg and some were sporting t-shirts declaring, “Shaker Loves Madison,” created by the student government at the high school a few weeks ago.
“We started with 200 and they just flew," said Lisa Morgan, a teacher at Shaker and the adviser for student government there. "It evolved into something we didn’t expect.” They’ve been selling them at “Idol” viewing parties and other events and the proceeds go to the school’s food pantry.
Morgan added that the students have been pitching in and supporting VanDenburg in any way they can. That included students like Lauren Powers, a sophomore. Around the school, the “American Idol” buzz grew and grew each week, as VanDenburg has made it through each round.
“It’s become normal now,” Powers said.
For VanDenburg, it still doesn’t seem normal, though. “I can’t even believe we’re here. ... Top three,” VanDenburg said.
The singer’s performances on “American Idol” have impressed fans and judges alike over the last few months. Right from the audition, judge Katy Perry said that VanDenburg gave her goosebumps. Perry was so blown away she ran off the set after one of the young contestant’s performances. Other judges Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan have also admired VanDenburg, calling her the next Kelly Clarkson.
Kelly Gainor, a Colonie resident and a cousin of VanDenburg, said that it seems like the singer’s voice has grown over the last few months, as has her stage presence.
“I think that has a lot to do with the show and with her coach,” Gainor said.
During the performance on Tuesday, VanDenburg sang a soulful rendition of “Fallin’” by Alicia Keys, as well as “Already Gone” by Kelly Clarkson, and shared a bit about how she got on the show.
“I started off auditioning for ‘American Idol’ at a random bus stop in Buffalo and I went into that audition super unprepared. I actually thought I had screwed it all up. It ended up being the opposite and things just kept rolling,” VanDenburg said.
With VanDenburg’s family and friends, like artist Moriah Formica, standing by, VanDenburg encouraged other local kids to try out for the show and to pursue their dreams. She was also given the key to the town of Colonie by Supervisor Paula Mahan.
As the “American Idol” crew filmed the crowd and the performance, the rain kept coming down on the audience. VanDenburg apologized to the hundreds that came out and thanked them for showing up.
Some fans in the crowd, like Mackenzie, 11, and Rebecca Hunter, 10, needed no thanks. Neither bedtime nor rain could stop the sisters from seeing VanDenburg perform in the ABC show.
The Latham residents have been staying up well past their bedtime each week to watch VanDenburg progress on “American Idol” and they’re excited to see the finale on Sunday.
VanDenburg will be performing with Dan + Shay, whose song “Speechless” VanDenburg performed for her audition.
VanDenburg will be facing off against finalists Alejandro Aranda and Laine Hardy. The finale, which starts at 8 p.m., will also feature performances by Weezer, Carrie Underwood, Daddy Yankee, and others. However, in the Capital Region, VanDenburg will be the real star of the show.