‘American Idol’ notes: Fantasia in Atlanta, Jennifer Hudson, Kelly Clarkson, Fergie on ‘The Four’

Fantasia at City Winery Atlanta on November 27, 2017. I was in the back using an iPhone 7 (forgot my real phone) so I apologize for the general blurriness of this shot. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Posted Tuesday, November 28, 2017 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Thirteen years removed from winning “American Idol,” Fantasia Barrino still sings from her heart in a way few people can replicate. Her voice harbors every bit of joy and pain, every morsel of loss and longing she has experienced in her life and those emotions furrow themselves into a listener’s soul.

It’s no surprise she has regularly booked venues like the Atlanta Civic Center and the Fox Theatre in recent years. On Sunday night, she performed solo at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. But she told me earlier this month she wanted to replicate a cool jazz lounge from decades past and has found smaller venues as well. In Atlanta, that venue was the 300-seat capacity City Winery Atlanta, which sold out in a flash despite an elevated ticket price.

Bottom line: for fans who wanted to see her up close and personal, it was well worth the extra cash to catch her in such a cozy joint before a tight, five-piece band. Add cigarette smoke, subtract the smartphones and it could very well have been 1960 in Memphis or New Orleans.

Decked out in a sparkly black dress, surrounded by Christmas trees, Fantasia weaved stories of Christmas through the eyes of her beloved, super religious grandmother Addie “Cat” Collins, who passed away in 2015. Fantasia considered her the glue that held her family together.

RELATED: My interview with Fantasia leading up to this concert

With a new “Christmas After Midnight” album out, her 17-song set mixed Christmas favorites (“Jingle Bell Rock,” “The Christmas Song”) with her hits (“When I See U,” “Sleeping With the One I Love”). She joked about her grandfather’s drinking (especially the “brown liquor”) and frugality, noting how he never went to church but around Christmas, he’d downplay spending, saying, “It’s about Jesus, isn’t it?” She noted how her grandma would provide “useful” gifts like socks, underwear and hair gel.

She thematically noted the less-than-idyllic relationship between her grandparents before segueing into her song “Bittersweet” or reminiscing about her grandma’s wonderful food, then breaking into “Collard Greens & Cornbread.”

Her voice can simmer quietly, as it did during “The Snow is Falling” or burst out into raise-the-roof gospel, as in “Lose to Win.” At one point during “Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto,” she began singing without the need of electronic enhancement. “I don’t need a mic!” she said.

And while the jazz lounge theme held for most of the night, she made a brief exception near the end of the 90-minute set when she did a delightful cover of EU’s “Da Butt.”

With her grandmother passed, she said she vows to keep her memory alive. “My grandma was my biggest supporter,” she said. “She just knew what to say.” Among her many mantras were “Let it go. Life is too short.”

And this led into the emotional high point of the night: a cover of “Hallelujah,” with a gospel chorus joining her on the small stage. The Leonard Cohen classic was one of those songs way overdone on “American Idol” over the years, but she found a way to give it a fresh jazzy spin, as if she was vocally connecting with her late grandmother. Here’s a snippet of her “Hallelujah” before she began riffing in a more organic way.

And this dude had great seats for Fantasia:

Here’s another person with great seats last night:

Sing Fantasia!

A post shared by B Duggie (@iambduggie) on

And here she is the night before at Cobb. Tyler Perry apparently showed up:

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NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 16: Jennifer Hudson (L) and David Otunga attend the Marchesa Spring 2016 fashion show during New York Fashion Week at St. Regis Hotel on September 16, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Joe Kohen/Getty Images)

Jennifer Hudson has dropped her order of protection against her ex David Otunga and he will be the primary caretaker of their eight-year-old son, according to TMZ.

The reality is her busy work schedule with “The Voice UK” in London and “The Voice” in Los Angeles necessitated this move. Earlier this month, she had a court order a restraining order against Otunga and cops booted him out of their Chicago home earlier this month. He was supposed to stay away from their son  David Jr.

They are still negotiating a more permanent custody arrangement.

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Kelly Clarkson’s “Love So Soft” has done adequately on the pop charts but is not a smash. The song, which fits Clarkson like a glove but is not necessarily what is popular on top 40 today, peaked at No. 20 on the pop chart. It also appears to be peaking on the Hot AC chart, at No. 8 last week on Mediabase 24/7 and No. 9 this week.

On the bright side, the Grammy’s gave Clarkson a best pop performance nomination for the song. She competes with Kesha‘s “Praying,” Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You,” Pink’s “What About Us” and Lady Gaga‘s “Million Reasons.”

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Georgia native and season 10 runner-up Lauren Alaina last week Thursday performed “Doin’ Fine” at the Macy’s Thankgiving Day Parade in New York City on the Green Giant float:

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NASHVILLE, TN – OCTOBER 18: Singer-songwriter Phillip Phillips performs onstage at the 2017 CMT Artists Of The Year on October 18, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for CMT)

Season 11 winner and Georgia native Phillip Phillips has set up a winter/spring solo tour schedule which includes stops at the Georgia Theatre in Athens February 22 and the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta February 23, 2018. Tickets for the Variety are $25 with a special VIP experience for $149, which includes a signed set list, a meet and greet, a photo with him, a Q&A and a special pre-concert performance.

Check out his schedule here.

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LAS VEGAS, NV – NOVEMBER 26: Singer Fergie performs during the 2017 Miss Universe Pageant at The Axis at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino on November 26, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Fergie will be the host of the Fox “Idol” replacement show “The Four,” which is only airing for six episodes.

Let’s call it a test run. The show starts with four already talented singers. Newcomers each week then try to knock them off their perch. The show debuts January 4, 2018 and will be over before “The Voice” and “American Idol” return.

The four coaches/panelists are producer and songwriter Sean “Diddy” Combs, record-producing hit-maker DJ Khaled, recording artist and songwriter Meghan Trainor and record label executive Charlie Walk. 

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Britney Holmes won a golden “American Idol” ticket to Hollywood after her audition was shown on the “American Music Awards” last week. Lionel Richie announced her name during the “Dancing With the Stars” finale. It was simply a way to promote the show, which returns in a little more than three months.

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Clay Aiken, who serenaded Meghan McCain at her wedding this past weekend, posted this Tweet of the week supports Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines:


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