On July 23, the Idols Live Tour came to Los Angeles's Nokia Theater, the very same venue where less than two months earlier, Phillip Phillips and Jessica Sanchez battled it out for the Season 11 "American Idol" title (and where, to quote P-Squared himself, Phillip "cried like a little baby" when he won). And once again, I was amazed--as I am when I attend every Idol tour, every year--by how much better all the contestants performed, now that they no longer had to worry about winning over voters or judges. Seriously, if these contestants had done this well on the actual show, any of them (yes, even Heejun) could have won "Idol" instead. This year featured an extremely talented bunch, indeed.
With THIRTY songs and two acts to recap, I've chosen to focus on my favorite 10 moments of the tour* (although, I must stress, there wasn't a single dud performance or run-to-the-bathroom/beer-line lull during the entire evening). Unsurprisingly, most of the standout performances, for me for you for me, were by contestants who were my favorites throughout "American Idol" Season 11 itself...but there were definitely a few revelations and pleasant surprises.
10) Heejun Han, DeAndre Brackensick & Jessica Sanchez - "Party Rock Anthem"
Who needs LMFAO's dancing zebra, when you've got Heejun dancing in a day-glo zebra shirt and rapping about his "jock"? Steven Tyler may not have appreciated it when Heejun stripped down and declared "I WANNA DANCE!!!" on "Idol"...but clearly Heejun is now having the last laugh. Enjoy the awesomeness below, and laugh your own you-know-what off:
9) Skylar Laine - "Stay With Me"
Skylar kind of scares me, but in a good way. She's just so badass. I think even Miranda Lambert would be a little skerred of Skylar. Her crowd-favorite Faces cover was just the boot-kick up the bum this concert needed.
8) Phillip Phillips & Elise Testone - "Somebody That I Used To Know"
Just when I thought I was sick of hearing this inescapable Gotye hit, Phillip and Elise reprised their "Idol" version--this time staying a little more faithful to the original Gotye/Kimbra, he said/she said roles--and I fell in love with it all over again. And speaking of falling in love...I know Phillip has a girlfriend, but man, these two have such onstage chemistry, I semi-secretly wish that they'd follow Jessica and DeAndre's lead and just start dating already.
7) Colton Dixon - "Piano Man"
Colton's original song, a CCM power-ballad called "Never Gone," went over surprisingly well in the middle of a set packed with otherwise extremely familiar hits, and it sounded like a hit itself. But it was this Billy Joel classic--arguably Colton the piano man's most shining Season 11 moment, and possibly THE best "Idol" performance this year--that had concertgoers waving their cellphones and earnestly singing in unison. And it was a moment that, to quote ex-"Idol" judge Jennifer Lopez, truly had me covered in "goosies."
6) Elise Testone - "Whole Lotta Love"
Look up "rock goddess" in your Funk & Wagnalls and you'll likely see a picture of Elise--in all her lioness-maned, sparkly-bellbottomed, feather-roachclipped glory--belting the hell out of this Zeppelin epic. I have a whole lotta love for this girl, and so did everyone in the audience, it appeared.
5) Jessica Sanchez (with DeAndre Brackensick & Joshua Ledet) - "How Come You Don't Call Me Anymore"
Dammmmmmnnnnn. WHERE was this sassy, sultry, Prince-covering dynamite diva on "Idol"? Yes, I knew Jessica could sing--but not like this. Oh, if only she'd had more moments like this on "Idol," instead of sticking to the safe pageant ballads that Jimmy Iovine apparently recommended. This was just awesome. Let's hope Jessica's Interscope album sounds more like this...and less like, um, "Change Nothing." This changes everything!
4) Joshua Ledet - "It's A Man's, Man's, Man's World"
I lost count long ago of how many standing ovations Mantasia has received during his "Idol" run...but nevertheless, we can add his Nokia performance of this James Brown classic to the list. By the time Joshua was finished, this may as well have been a standing-room-only gig, because NO ONE was sitting down. Uh.Maz.Ing.
3) Phillip Phillips (with Jessica Sanchez) - "Volcano"
How do you improve upon Phillip's best "Idol" performance ever? How about you have Jessica sing some extremely sultry backup in a volcano-fiery red dress? Total hawtness. These two need to record a studio version of this--an ideal showcase for their VERY different vocal styles, somehow seamlessly blending--right away. And then put it on both of their albums.
2) Erika Van Pelt - "Glitter In The Air"
If there was ever solid evidence that EVP didn't get a fair shake on "Idol," it's her absolutely awesome Pink cover. Erika was a total STAR on this, a total package wrapped in a glittery rocker scarf that even Steven Tyler would covet. Watch and be astounded/aghast at the fact that Erika only made it to 10th place.
1) Phillip Phillips - "Nice & Slow"
One of Phillip's other great moments on "Idol" was his cover of Usher's "U Got It Bad," and when he tackled another Usher hit (a brief highlight from "Idol"s Hollywood Week), it had me thinking that P2's debut album should totally be titled Phillip Phillips Sings The Usher Songbook. Watch this incredibly sexy clip, and witness hundreds of little girls simultaneously reaching puberty (and their moms/grandmas simultaneously experiencing severe hot flashes) inside the venue:
"Sing" - Top 9 (everyone but Phillip)
"Master Blaster" - DeAndre Brackensick
"Undo It" - Hollie Cavanagh & Skylar Laine
"Glitter In The Air" - Erika Van Pelt
"Moves Like Jagger" - Hollie Cavanagh, Joshua Ledet, Erika Van Pelt, Colton Dixon
"Green Light" - Heejun Han
"Party Rock Anthem" - Heejun Han, DeAndre Brackensick, Jessica Sanchez
"Everybody Talks" - Boys (minus Phillip)
"Whole Lotta Love" - Elise Testone
"Rumor Has It" - Elise Testone (with Erika & DeAndre on backup)
"Meant To Live" - Colton Dixon
"Never Gone" - Colton Dixon
"Piano Man" - Colton Dixon
"Just The Way You Are" / "What Makes You Beautiful" - Top 9 (everyone but Phillip)
"Why You Don't Call Me Anymore " - Jessica Sanchez (with Joshua & DeAndre on backup)
"Proud Mary" - Jessica Sanchez (with Joshua & DeAndre on backup)
"Best Thing I Never Had" - Jessica Sanchez
"Gunpowder & Lead" - Skylar Laine
"Stay With Me" - Skylar Laine
"Rolling In The Deep" - Hollie Cavanagh (with Erika & Elise on backup)
"Give Your Heart A Break" - Hollie Cavanagh
"Runaway Baby" - Joshua Ledet
"It's A Man's, Man's, Man's World" - Joshua Ledet
"I Knew You Were Waiting For Me" - Joshua Ledet & Jessica Sanchez
"Superstition" - Phillip Phillips
"Nice & Slow" - Phillip Phillips
"Somebody That I Used To Know" - Phillip Phillips & Elise Testone
"Volcano" - Phillip Phillips (with Jessica on backup)
"Home" - Phillip Phillips (with DeAndre & Colton on backup)
"Raise Your Glass" / "Glad You Came" - Top 10
* some clips not from the actual L.A. show, due to unavailability
- Season 11 contestants discuss "Idol" judge shakeups
- Phillip Phillips exclusive interview
- More on "American Idol"