Goth kids, soccer moms and diehard Idol junkies — including one superfan with Clay Aiken’s autograph tattooed on her shoulder — packed Portland, Oregon’s Rose Garden last night for the inaugural performance of American Idol‘s summer tour. (Go behind the scenes with Lambert and Co. hours before showtime here.)
The two biggest stars of the show — winner Kris Allen and runner-up Adam Lambert — embraced what endeared them to millions of fans throughout Season Eight. “Glambert” was out in full force, with tight pants, his otherworldly wail and a tribute to the original rock androgyne, David Bowie. Wrapped in a plaid shirt and a pair of jeans, Allen kept it simple and real, embracing the stripped-down soul sound that elevated him from dark horse to worthy champion. (Get all of Rolling Stone’s Adam Lambert coverage — photos, video and more — here.)
An adorable montage of Allen’s baby pictures, plus David Cook’s new video and a few airborne beach balls, kept the audience entertained as Idol No. 10 Michael Sarver prepared to take the stage. Backed by a small band with a big sound, the full-voiced Texan kicked off the show in high spirits with Gavin DeGraw’s “I’m in Love with a Girl,” which he dedicated to his wife, Tiffany. Megan Joy took the stage for two numbers — and lots of shimmying — reprising one of her best Idol performances, “Put Your Records On.” Piano man Scott MacIntyre left his pink pants at home but his rendition of Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles” — and his gentle mocking of Ryan Seacrest’s attempt to high-five him at the auditions — drew some of the loudest applause of the night.
Sure, the Idols can sing … but can they dance? As Rolling Stone reported from the Idol tour rehearsals, choreographer JaQuel Knight was putting the Top 10 through a workout, and Lil Rounds confessed pre-show that she was nervous about nailing the complicated choreography for Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies,” but her moves — and stylish cat suit — did the R&B diva justice. Luckily, the pulsating psychedelic patterns that backlit the stage weren’t enough to throw Rounds off her game. Throwing a bone to the older folks in the audience, Anoop Desai started off his set with a pitch-perfect “Always on My Mind,” the Willie Nelson crooner that wowed the judges during Grand Ole Opry week. But New Jack Anoop emerged — gyrations and all — with “My Prerogative,” the Bobby Brown track that got him through the Wild Card round and into the Top 13.
The Idol groove continued with a charismatic Matt Giraud, who got the crowd moving with his piano-pounding version of Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle,” then paid tribute to another soul great with an outstanding “Georgia on My Mind,” giving his elastic voice the full workout, from raspy growl to falsetto.
Following a group medley that ran the gamut from Billy Joel (MacIntyre and Giraud on dueling pianos) to a taste of rap from Rounds and Desai, Allison Iraheta took the series’ fairly tame group number “So What” and made it just as tough as Pink’s version. With wind in her pink and purple hair, guitar strapped across her torso and a voice like a pack of cigarettes, the youngest Idol showed off her rock moves like a true rock goddess in the making.
Amid a sea of glow sticks and handmade T-shirts floated the hokiest sign of the night: “I’m okey dokey with Danny Gokey.” The only Idol to perform a Michael Jackson song on tour, Gokey punctuated his “P.Y.T.” with funky spins. (Adam Lambert discusses getting the Michael Jackson news here.) Dressed in his Sunday best, the church music director waxed philosophic about following your dreams, closing his set with two crowd-pleasing Rascal Flatts ballads.
In true Robert Plant style, Lambert made his arrival known, punctuating his three-octave howl on “Whole Lotta Love” with pelvic thrusts and microphone straddling. Dressed to the rock-god nines in ripped and studded leather and denim, Lambert switched gears from hot to cool, soaring on Muse’s “Starlight” against a moody backdrop of twinkling lights. In an intimate and memorable moment, the gifted goth took a seat for the haunting “Mad World,” showing off his crystalline falsetto as smoke rose around him. After reprising “Slow Ride,” his energetic duet with “little sister” Iraheta, Lambert closed his set with a medley of David Bowie songs — including an ethereal “Life on Mars,” backed by a glowing graphic of the red planet — then sunk down into the stage, all too soon, to the loudest cheers of the night.
Marked by explosive bursts of noise and color, the countdown culminated in Season Eight champion Allen, who eschewed theatrics for a straightforward set of Idol favorites, from the soulful, percussive “Heartless” to his stirring piano-and-vocals interpretation of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine.” The somewhat maudlin Idol coronation song “No Boundaries” found a new depth and range in the band’s more rock-oriented arrangement, and Allen showed off his chops on electric guitar for Matchbox Twenty’s “Bright Lights.” Calling for a slew of cell phones and lighters, Allen finished his set with a plaintive rendition of “Hey Jude,” bringing the rest of the Idols back on stage for a chorus of “naa naas,” then closing out the show together with Journey’s ubiquitous “Don’t Stop Believing” — perhaps a tribute to former band member Randy “the Emperor” Jackson?
Michael Sarver: “I’m in Love with a Girl” (Gavin Degraw); “Closer” (Ne-Yo)
Megan Joy: “Put Your Records On” (Corrine Baily Rae); “Tears Dry on Their Own” (Amy Winehouse)
Scott MacIntyre: “Bend and Break” (Keane); “A Thousand Miles” (Vanessa Carlton)
Lil Rounds: “Be Without You” (Mary J Blige); “No One” (Alicia Keys); “Single Ladies” (Beyoncé)
Anoop Desai: “Always on My Mind” (Willie Nelson); “Mad” (Ne-Yo); “My Prerogative” (Bobby Brown)
Matt Giraud: “Hard to Handle” (The Black Crowes); “Georgia On My Mind” (Ray Charles); “I Found You” (The Fray)
Allison Iraheta: “So What” (Pink); “Cry Baby” (Janis Joplin); “Barracuda” (Heart)
Danny Gokey: “P.Y.T.” (Michael Jackson); “Maria Maria” (Santana); “What Hurts the Most,” “My Wish” (Rascal Flatts)
Adam Lambert: “Whole Lotta Love” (Led Zeppelin); “Starlight” (Muse); “Mad World” (Tears for Fears/Gary Jules), “Slow Ride” with Allison Iraheta (Foghat), “Life on Mars,” “Fame, “Let’s Dance” (David Bowie)
Kris Allen: “Heartless” (Kanye West); “No Boundaries” (Idol coronation song); “Bright Lights” (Matchbox 20); “Ain’t No Sunshine” (Bill Withers); “Hey Jude” (The Beatles) Encore: “Don’t Stop Believing” (Journey)