The runaway success of NBC's singing competition 'The Voice' surprised nearly everyone – but the success of the show's Voice Live tour seems almost automatically assured, at least if last night's kickoff at Los Angeles' Gibson Amphitheatre was any indication. But there were still some surprises throughout the two-hour plus show, which began with all eight finalists and semi-finalists performing a medley of George Michael's "Freedom" and "Faith."
Blake Shelton joined Dia Frampton to reprise their version of Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down," while Beverly McClellan recreated her version of "Beautiful" from this season – this time joined by Nakia and Javier Colon on guitar. Casey Weston and McClellan then strapped on their guitars to help Xenia with "Running." Indeed, while the six-city tour will follow the format of the show – "It’s the entire show from start to finish, so if you watch the show it’s fantastic because you’re gonna know exactly what you’re seeing," Nakia told Rolling Stone backstage at the Gibson – musical director Paul Mirkovich is bringing some new pairings to the stage.
His job was made easier because the contestants, by and large, managed to become friends over the course of the season. "It feels like I never left them," Weston said. "What I always say is, because we went through this experience together with the first season and we’re the ones who kind of broke through for The Voice, I think we’ll always be bonded and I can always pick up the phone and call any of them. We have this life-long friendship because of this experience."
"We were going through the show yesterday and I think what comes across really well is we all get along really well so some of us are playing on other people’s songs and just doing stuff together," Martinez said backstage. "Off-camera we all get along and nobody’s too cool for school. So I think that comes across well on stage."
Naturally, the fans ate it up. From Frampton's stellar "Heartless" and winner Javier Colon's soulful "Time After Time" to Weston's lively "Black Horse And A Cherry Tree" and Vicci Martinez's powerful "Jolene," the audience got exactly what they came to see.
That said, the show could have been a little more adventurous musically. Just because the audience chose – via social media – Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" as the appropriate song for Colon to end his set, and he delivered the pitch-perfect rendition you would expect, that doesn't change the fact that the song is, at this point, a total cliché.
But what the Voice Live stage show lacked sometimes in originality it made up for in personality. McClellan, on "Baba O'Riley," was even more engaging than her winning performances on TV. Frenchie Davis seemed moved almost to the point of tears after earning a thunderous ovation.
Then again, so much of the charm of The Voice was its rag-tag collection of musical misfits, kids, surivivors of major labels and one from "that other show," as Davis put it in her set. Backstage before the show, McClellan's girlfriend had been excited about seeing her partner perform before the largest audience of her career. For all of the underdogs grateful for a second chance, it's like a party with a few thousand close friends.
• Photos: 'The Voice' Tour Kick Off
• Video: Javier Colon Sings 'Fix You'
• How 'The Voice' Became A Smash
• 'The Voice': Idol's Wild Child
• Exclusive Video: Cee Lo Green: 'The Voice Is Completely Genuine'
• Exclusive Video: Adam Levine Says 'The Voice' Isn't Reality TV
• Exclusive Video: Blake Shelton Reveals He Was Unsure About 'The Voice'
• Exclusive Video: 'The Voice' Will Inspire Christina Aguilera's New Album
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