Posted: 10:44 am Friday, July 25th, 2014

‘American Idol’ live tour photos and recap from Verizon Wireless July 24 

By Rodney Ho

Jena Irene and Caleb Johnson were a worthy final two with contrasting styles. They sang Rolling Stone's "Gimme Shelter" during the tour. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Jena Irene and Caleb Johnson were a worthy final two with contrasting styles. They sang Rolling Stone’s “Gimme Shelter” during the tour. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

“American Idol” is definitely a case where you can look at it as the glass half empty (cratering ratings, no recent breakout stars) or glass half full (great judges’ panel, decent talent from season 13).

The same can be said about the tour itself, which has always been a way for the contestants to remind paying customers why they voted for them in the first place with no pressure of judgment and the ability to choose songs they know they can sing. That hasn’t changed.

From a glass half empty perspective, “Idol” tour producers cut costs by slimming down the stage, recycling the ‘Idol’ logo-shaped screen and using backing tracks instead of a live band. The Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Alpharetta, which seats up to 12,000 if you count 5,000 people on the lawn, was technically more than half empty last night. But it didn’t look too bad because most of the 7,000 seats were filled. I estimate the attendance to be a respectable 4,500.

Last year was the first and only time I missed the tour. (My parents were in town.) So I don’t know if this was worse than a year ago. But on a glass half full perspective, the crowd was polite and attentive and the season 13 crew put together a breezy, entertaining who that went just over two hours, plus intermission.

In recent years, many of the singers have opted for songs on tour that they had not sung on the show. I’m not sure why but this year virtually every tune on the 27-song set list was a reprise from season 13. The list was very heavily weighted to recent pop songs by the likes of American Authors, Bastille, OneRepublic, Pink and Avicii with a smattering of classic rock (Guess Who, Led Zeppelin, Paul McCartney and Wings). Also for the first time, someone was allowed to sing an original song: Alex Preston‘s heartfelt “Fairy Tale.”

The singers proficient with instruments tried their best to make up for the fact they had no live band. Both Malaya Watson (“When I Was Your Man”) and Jena Irene (“Can’t Help Falling in Love”) used the piano. C.J. Harris, Majesty Rose, Sam Woolf and Jessica Meuse all played guitar at some point. Alex played both guitar and a couple of times, opted for drums. Dexter Roberts, who cut out without explanation after four shows, only showed up on screen. His two solo songs were simply scrubbed from the set list.

Oddly, the producers chose not to introduce any of the contestants by name using the video screen as they have in the past with the exception of winner Caleb Johnson. Maybe they presumed folks would remember the singers, but for many, this would have been their last shot to brand themselves before they become asterisks in our collective memories.

For the first time, the winner did not sing the winning song thrust upon them during the show. Caleb dumped “As Long As You Love Me” in favor of a ballad from his upcoming album “Testify,” set to debut August 12 in the fastest turnaround in “Idol” history. Instead, he tried out his new song “Fighting Gravity” in it and I’m certain it will be the single sent to radio. It was significantly better than “As Long As You Love Me” and proved he could effectively sing softly and not have to carry a big vocal stick to have an impact.

Here’s a photo rundown of the concert:

MK Nobilette, who came in 10th, was the least worthy contestant there in my mind. Her voice was always decent, her stage presence nearly nonexistent. She hasn't improved much from the show. Her Pink's "Perfect" was adequate. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

MK Nobilette, who came in 10th, was the least worthy contestant there in my mind. As on the show, her voice was decent, her stage presence nearly nonexistent. Her Pink’s “Perfect” was adequate. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Majesty Rose (ninth place) was someone I thought could have done better on the show. She conveyed her strong vocals and quirky mannerisms on Janelle Monae's "Tightrope." CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Majesty Rose (ninth place) was someone I thought could have gone further on the show but suffered from an identity crisis. Is she R&B? Pop? Rock? What?  She conveyed her strong vocals and quirky mannerisms on Janelle Monae’s “Tightrope.” CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Sam Woolf and Alex Preston reprised their version of Passenger's "Let It Go." CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Sam Woolf and Alex Preston reprised their version of Passenger’s “Let It Go.” CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

A teen in front of me videotaped Sam's cover of Ed Sheeran's "Lego House" performance, arguably his strongest one that goes back to his original audition. Likable kid but he certainly does not fill up an amphitheatre with his presence. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

A teen in front of me videotaped “Let It Go.” Sam Woolf is a likable kid but he certainly does not fill up an amphitheatre with his presence. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Alex Preston brings back the drums during Bastille's "Pompeii." CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Alex Preston brings back the drums during Bastille’s “Pompeii.” CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Jena Irene was the most dynamic presence on stage. Here she is doing "Gimme Shelter." (Malaya? The most manic, of course.) CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Jena Irene was the most dynamic presence on stage. Here she is doing “Gimme Shelter.” (Malaya? The most manic, of course.) CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Alabama's CJ Harris does a soulful version of John Mayer's "Gravity." He sounded in pitch - for him. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Alabama’s CJ Harris does a soulful version of John Mayer’s “Gravity.” He sounded in pitch – for him. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

I was in the 20th row or so. I hardly looked at the screens but they were probably useful for the folks in the back. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

I was in the 20th row or so. I hardly looked at the screens but they were probably useful for the folks in the back. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

The group performance before intermission of "Happy." The graphics say it all, eh? CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

The group performance before intermission of “Happy.” The graphics say it all, eh? CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Amusingly, AARP is a sponsor of the tour. The average viewer age of "Idol" season one was 32 years old. The average age this past season? 53. So this sponsorship makes sense because AARP solicits folks when they hit 50. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Amusingly, AARP is a sponsor of the tour. The average viewer age of “Idol” season one was 32 years old. The average age this past season? 53. So this sponsorship makes sense because AARP solicits folks when they hit 50. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Jessica Meuse opened the second half with a smile as she and three others sang "Best Day of My Life." CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Jessica Meuse opened the second half with a smile as she and three others sang “Best Day of My Life.” CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Caleb Johnson working a bit of "Story of My Life." CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Caleb Johnson working a bit of “Story of My Life.” CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

I realize I didn't get a good solo shot of Malaya Watson, who had really only one solo at the piano and I couldn't get a good angle of her from where I was sitting. She was quite energetic in group performances and as a backup singer in several instances. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

I realize I didn’t get a good solo shot of Malaya Watson, who had really only one solo (playing the piano) and I couldn’t get a good angle of her from where I was sitting. She was quite energetic in group performances and as a backup singer in several instances. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Jena Irene sang her original song "We Are One," which is a middling song, neither terrible nor that great. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Jena Irene sang her original song “We Are One,” which is a middling song, neither terrible nor that great. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

2091 Jessica closeup

Pink much? At least in the hair! Jessica Meuse actually channeled her best Lady Gaga with a very countrified version of “You and I.” CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

One of the highlights of the night was Jena Irene pulling out all the stops on "My Body" by Young the Giant. She was the only singer of the night who was really able to use the stage and had Alex back her up on drums, too. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

One of the highlights of the night was Jena Irene pulling out all the stops on “My Body” by Young the Giant. She was the only singer of the night who was really able to use the stage and had Alex back her up on drums, too. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Alex working his original tune "Fairy Tale" to his advantage. I'm certain someone will sign him to a record deal. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Alex working his original tune “Fairy Tale” to his advantage. I’m certain someone will sign him to a record deal. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

If anybody needed a backup band, it was Caleb. It was downright odd for him to do Led Zeppelin with no guitarist or drummer behind him. Otherwise, he sounded solid, as always. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

If anybody needed a backup band, it was Caleb. It was downright odd for him to do Led Zeppelin with no guitarist or drummer behind him. Otherwise, he sounded solid, as always. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

 

21 comments
DeirdreC
DeirdreC

Jenny, if you peek in any time soon, I FINALLY watched the last few episodes of Grey's Anatomy.  Very satisfactory ending to Christina's story!

Sam-A1
Sam-A1

I wanted something 'light' this weekend, so saw the Michael Douglas film Certainly not a great, or really good film by any stretch, and Diane K looks good, but needs to stifle the urge to "sing". It was ok - had some sweet and bittersweet moments. Don't regret seeing it, but can't really recommend it to everyone.

On the other hand, some really good previews - the Ben Affleck "did he kill his wife" one, "Gone Girl", looks great, and apparently has great ratings on "Rotten Tomatoes". Also one with Colin Firth - don't remember name, and it's not the one with the girl from "The Help" (which also looks really good), looks interesting. Another about  young girl whose family is killed in a car accident, and she's in a coma hanging by a thread and outside her body, trying to decided whether to let go or stay - I think it's called "Stay With Me". They all look interesting.

Sam-A1
Sam-A1

Did anyone see the precious clip on all the news shows this weekend, about the Schnauzer that saw his mommy/sister(?) for the first time in 2 years - he cried and went crazy kissing her, then suddenly fainted dead away for a minute, then tried to sit up and fainted again. He was so happy and excited - made me cry, and ask why this lady had to be away from him for 2 years with no visit at all. Apparently her parents were keeping him. The good news, he was taken to the vet and is fine, just got overly excited.

Sam-A1
Sam-A1

D:  Just watched the WD clip, and didn't see what prompted your "Glenn" question. Will have to watch it again later.

Cannot wait for the cooling trend - it was 83° on my car thermometer at 7:40 am - I hate this miserable weather.

DeirdreC
DeirdreC

We saw Lucy this weekend.  It was ok as long as you resolve to go along for the ride.  It reminded me a little of a pretentious movie with William Hurt made back in 1980 called Altered States.  Lucy wasn't pretentious but it wasn't great either.  My husband mentioned that it would have been much more enjoyable if Scarlett Johannson's boobs had had a bigger role.  

DeirdreC
DeirdreC

Morning!

I've been reading all the Cooperstown news.  It was impossible not to be a Braves fan during the early 90's.  They were so good!  Congrats to Glavine, Maddox and Cox for a VERY deserving entrance into the Hall of Fame.  Smoltz and Chipper are next!

I visited Cooperstown in the early 90's.  It's an absolutely lovely town with a very pleasant aura and a feeling of history.  

MercedesS
MercedesS

Thanks for pix and story, Rodney.  No band, no stylists.  Sad. 

GoodVibes
GoodVibes

Thanks for the writeup and pix. From this I feel my decision was sound not to see the idol tour. I will wait to see Caleb when he goes out on tour with his own band.

thebob_o
thebob_o

I had free tickets thanks to a friend and enjoyed the night.  It was what it was, the lack of live band did hurt the energy I think, but it was still a well put on show.

Woodpappy
Woodpappy

Excellent write up Rodney..!  Thank you for the great pictures as well.

DeirdreC
DeirdreC

missnadine, i don't feel slapped in the face.  We are realistic here(most of the time) and understand that Idol is dying.  We hope it goes out with a bang but we understand the reason for the cutbacks.

JTesla
JTesla

Thanks Rodney, love the pictures. Looks like the Idol's are at least having fun with it.

AARP!

missnadine
missnadine

Majesty looks like Prince did in the mid 80s in that outfit! Shame that there was no band. I would consider that a real rip-off as the live experience (including a live band) is what people came to see!  I guess next year maybe they will project the singers' faces onto a screen and just play a recorded version  -this way they can get rid of the expense of transporting singers from city to city! The AI fans have been so supportive, and I would feel slapped in the face if I were one of the many commenters in this blog.

DeirdreC
DeirdreC

Thanks for the review and the pictures!  For me, Alex would have been the hit of the show.  He seems to fit the venue.  Poor Caleb.....a rocker with no band.  What was Idol thinking?

DeirdreC
DeirdreC

@Sam-A1 If I Stay is a movie adapted from a book.  Not sure I can get into teen dying movies.

I've seen the Gone Girl preview on the internet...really looking forward to that one although, since I have read the book, I will have to accept that I know what's what.

The Colin Firth/Emma Stone movie is a Woody Allen flick.  They are always interesting, if not perfect.

MercedesS
MercedesS

@DeirdreC  Agree, Altered State was a pretentious movie.  Not so Lucy, which to me was just fun. Still can't figure out why the R rating - no boobs, as Mr. Deirdre pointed out, no nudity, no F-words. Violence is usually PG - perhaps it was the violence aimed at men that upset the ratings raters? 

MercedesS
MercedesS

@DeirdreC @Sam-A1  I know Gone Girl was a huge bestseller and no doubt the movie will be popular too.  I tired of the book midway and looed at the end. What??? Much better are Gillian Flynn's two previous books, "Dark Places" (movie with Charize Theron) and "Sharp Objects".

DeirdreC
DeirdreC

@MercedesS @DeirdreC @Sam-A1 By looking at the end, you missed the whole step by step buildup to what happens and why.  For shame!  ;-)

I liked Sharp Objects and Dark Places but not as much as Gone Girl