Three songs into her set at a free show for fans who scored tickets through her website, Kelly Clarkson held up her new CD, Stronger, and told the packed audience at L.A.'s Troubadour, "This is my new CD. I just got it today." Beaming, she added, "I'm in love with my new album."
One thing you had to admire about Clarkson: eight years after her first album, nine after being launched to fame by American Idol, she treated this show as if she were celebrating her debut. The barefoot singer, who danced and led the crowd in pogoing during "Since U Been Gone," kept her energy and enthusiasm at Spinal Tap's 11 throughout the hourlong set.
Of course, she had the right material to work with. Opening with the new "Dark Side," one of four tracks from the forthcoming CD, Clarkson and her seven-piece band delivered a set that was expert in catchy pop-rock hooks. Whether it was "Since U Been Gone," the new single "Mr. Know It All," the anthemic "What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger)" (which Clarkson said would likely be her next single), or "My Life Would Suck Without You," the crowd was infected.
Also admirable was Clarkson's willingness to mix things up. She did "Breakaway" as an acoustic number. At one point she brought out a cello, joking, "You know it's going to rawk," before easing into a gorgeous cover of a song done by Carrie Underwood, "I Know You Want." Credit her fans with superb taste: they got to pick one song in the set, and the winner was the ballad "Sober." Done with just Clarkson and her guitarist, the song was an inspiring vehicle for her unquestionable vocal prowess.
There's a lot to like about Clarkson – her superb voice, her enthusiasm, her humility. All of that was on winning display last night at the Troubadour.