American Idol kicks off its summer tour on July 5th, trekking Kris Allen and crew through 50 cities in just under two months. What can fans expect of Season Eight's Top 10 on an arena stage? Adam Lambert promises a "post-apocalyptic-rocked-out-space-disco-funk" look to his ensemble, while Matt Giraud is gearing up for dance lessons courtesy of tour choreographer JaQuel Knight, who was the creative brain behind Beyoncé's "Single Ladies" video. Plenty of laughs are also in store, if a tour preview held yesterday morning (pre-Michael Jackson news) in Burbank is any indication. Blame Giraud, who all-too-enthusiastically led his fellow finalists in a group rendition of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing," complete with dueling pianos (Scott McIntyre), hoots and snickers (ahem, Megan Joy).
You could say that for the first time since these former hopefuls auditioned, they're having fun with no consequences. "To not have to worry about where the camera's gonna be or where you're standing is so liberating," says Anoop Desai, who'll be reprising "My Prerogative" as one of his show numbers. Allen is also adjusting to a new Idol world, and the idea of building his own set list. "People want to see you do songs from the show, but it's nice to be able to throw in something that you want to do and really mold your time onstage," he says. (His list includes "Hey Jude," "Heartless" and "No Boundaries.") It's a balancing act they're all accustomed to, and for his part, Lambert chose tunes by a couple of his idols, Muse and David Bowie. "I like to be associated with Bowie in any way because he's a huge inspiration for me," he explains. "So I'm performing the song as a way to honor him as an artist." Lambert's set list includes "Life on Mars," "Fame" and "Let's Dance." (Get all our essential Adam Lambert coverage — photos, video and more — here.)
Megan Joy is also taking on an artist that should be a natural fit — she'll perform Amy Winehouse's "Tears Dry On Their Own," while Giraud is sticking with a proven crowd-pleaser, his rendition of "Georgia On My Mind." Danny Gokey won't reveal which songs he chose, only that two are from the show and two are "nude songs," he says with a slip of the tongue, no doubt triggered by exhaustion.
Indeed, there's little rest for the Idol weary. Allen says it was two full post-finale weeks before he got his first decent night of sleep. "I was at home and just conked out," he laughs. "I didn't wake up until, like, two in the afternoon. It was incredible." Lambert, on the other hand, took a quick break soon after his whirlwind press tour in New York. "I had four days off and spent it with a special somebody in Santa Barbara," he coos. "It was a really relaxing mini-vacation and very helpful." But since then, it's been non-stop drama for the runner-up who's currently embroiled in a battle with Hi Fi Records that could turn legal when the label releases an album of his pre-Idol demos. Asked if he feels like he's constantly putting out fires, Lambert tells Rock Daily, "You could say that. I'm like a fireman and a firestarter at the same time."
Of course, fame also has its perks, like getting a little guidance from Madonna. "She gave me some really good advice on the downsides of all the notoriety," says Lambert. "To stay positive, keep your eye on the prize, really inspirational stuff. She knew I was doing press and said, "It's hard talking about yourself, isn't it?' " The moment was "major," Lambert acknowledges, but he admits that the queen of pop, who's known to abstain from all things TV, didn't know much about him — or anything at all. "My friend who introduced us gave her a little back story before we met," he recalls. "I didn't know what to expect. It's the most star-struck I've ever been, my heart was beating really fast and I stammered a lot, but she was really cool."
Pretty soon, these idols will be on the opposite side of stammering fans — and an adoring celebrity or two — an exciting prospect considering they spent the better part of 2009 in isolation. Allison Iraheta, for one, is just happy to have the girls around. "I missed them," she says, "and it's only three of us on the tour, so you know our bus will be the party bus." She's not referring to binge drinking or any such acts of debauchery — it's all about the video game console. Now if she could only decide between Guitar Hero and Rock Band.