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Tour Reviews

San Diego Concert 10.08.02 - The hit TV show of the summer, American Idol, swept into San Diego last night for the first stop on the Top 10 Finalists tour. I swept in with it. I was a little late to jump on the American Idol bandwagon. I was a strong supporter of the show Popstars and I thought that American Idol was just a copycat show. But the bandwagon swung back around for me, and I hopped on. I'm glad I did.

The arena was packed full of screaming American Idol fans. First stop, the concession stand. For those looking to take home a little something from the concert (and no, Justin wasn't for sale), there are quite a few nice choices. They offer color 8 by 10's of the individual finalists, American Idol tank tops, tour t-shirts and tour posters featuring all the finalists. Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini get their own merchandise. I recommend purchasing the program. It is a full color booklet full of pictures of the finalists as well as some interviews.

The show started very close to the announced time. There was no opening act, unless you consider Randy Jackson's videotaped hello. There was no mention of the other two judges. I was hoping for a Simon performance. He is so cute. Oh sorry. We started with the first finalist of the top ten to get the boot, EJay Day. His performance of Janet Jackson's "Black Cat" opened the show with high energy. One by one, the finalists took the stage in solo performances in the order they were eliminated from the show. I was excited to learn that Jim Verraros is actually a lot better looking in person. The finalists did a lot of rising and exiting from elevators in the stage. People were always popping up or going down somewhere on stage. One thing that made these performances better than the ones on the show was the live band. Jim wants to see everyone's lighters. He is carrying one himself. That can't be too safe with all those pyrotechnics they have going on. After each performance, the last finalist says a little something about the next finalist and then they play an American Idol video clip. That part is kind of cheesy. We all know that this is the American Idol concert, and it seems that it is forced down our throats.

Jim introduces AJ Gill as the next Latin Sensation. Cut to a video clip of AJ crying. For some reason, AJ is dressed like a pimp. He looks like a cartoon of himself. He looks totally wrong for his performance of "Mi Cherie". Despite his clothing issues, he gives a good performance. He is very happy to be in San Diego since he was born here. Next up, Ryan Starr. She is dressed in her usual style. She looks amazing. There are a group of backup singers who are incredible. One of them was the American Idol vocal coach. Christina is next. She has hair extensions and looked really beautiful. Christina encourages us to dance with her, and she breaks into a Shakira-inspired belly dance. Very cool. Christina says that she is super-close to the next performer and the video clip of RJ is shown. San Diego girls love RJ. RJ is almost completely overshadowed by the large amounts of smoke. For most of his performance, I can't even see him. Even the feed on the monitors is obscured by all the smoke. RJ tells us that he met Tamyra Gray in the airport in Atlanta and he thought "Dang, she is fine!". Tamyra gets a huge standing ovation before she even says anything. She has a longer, curlier hairstyle. Her performance of "I'm Every Woman" is typical Tamyra excellence and brings the house down. Next up, Nikki McKibbin. The crowd gets increasingly excited as each new contestant comes out. Nikki sings "Take another little piece of my heart". Next up is Justin. He sings "Get Here". I'm so sick of hearing Justin sing this song, but he adds a new twist to it that actually makes the song quite endearing. Justin tells us that if we've got any smarts at all, we know who is coming up next. The fans scream. It's Kelly! Kelly sings "Respect" and boy does she sing it. She's amazing. She sounds quite different live, but it's not bad. One concert-goer commented that she sounded "hella-girly" and I agree that her voice did have a more "girly" tone to it. I enjoyed it even more than I did before. Kelly is a charismatic performer. She truly looks happy on stage. Kelly thanks everyone for coming, and says that we are going to take a twenty-minute intermission. Huh? An intermission at a concert? Kelly sings about the twenty-minute intermission as she leaves the stage.

Time for “Act 2”. Suddenly we are all at an NSYNC concert. NSYNC is singing Dirty Pop. What is NSYNC doing here? Oh wait. It’s not NSYNC. It’s Justin, EJay, RJ, AJ, and Jim pretending they are NSYNC. This is cool. Now it is the girl’s turn. They do a scorching rendition of “Free your Mind.” Justin belts out a solo rendition of “For Once in My Life.” Kelly counters with her own solo. Kelly says that she is hot and sweaty. It’s the Motown mix. Someone holds up a big sign that says “Justin take it off”. Justin laughs. Nikki throws on a black cape to sing Stevie Nicks “Rhiannon.” She says that Stevie Nicks is her American Idol. Tamyra rises out of the stage on a black couch to sing “A House is not a Home” and really gets into the song. Standing Ovation for Tamyra.

We’re now in the Disco Era. The kids form two lines and they pair off, dancing down the center of the lines. They are a bunch of dorks, but loveable dorks. Kelly’s turn. She sings her new single, “Before your Love.” She is dressed in a flattering black lace dress. Someone holds up a “Marry me Kelly” sign. Kelly lets them know that she sees their sign. She is a very interactive performer, and she makes a point to wave and smile at a lot of fans. Another medley. Justin says we can call them whenever we want. They wrap things up with “I’ll be there.”

The crowd responded with loud cheers and applause and started a “Kelly, Kelly” chant. However, there was no encore. I was very surprised by this, as Kelly did not sing her infamous American Idol song “A Moment Like This.” The entire show had a feel of a theater show, as there was no opening act, an intermission, and no encore. They also had some problems with the sound at times. Despite these abnormalities, the show was a lot better than I expected.

What made this show great was not the singing, although I was more impressed with the vocal ability of the finalists than I had been on the show. What made this show great was that before this summer, no one had heard of Justin, Kelly, and Tamyra. Now an arena full of fans was thrilled to see them perform. I was moved by the knowledge that these kids were realizing their dreams, and we’ve been able to see it every step of the way. You couldn’t help but leave the concert feeling good. See you on American Idol 2! by Michelle Scott -