American Idols Live! Tour 2008: New Jersey Edition
Eeeeeeee! David Archuleta's tiny head! Eeeeeeee!
American Idols Live! Tour 2008
Thursday, July 31
A man once told me that to be a journalist is to be a "prostitute of the soul," and while I stand by the belief that such a moniker is a stretch for the kind of journalism I do, I experienced the iniquity first-hand last Thursday night at the American Idols Live! Tour 2008. Didn't I sell my soul, and this fine publication, for tickets? Still, that's where my sin ends, and that of the top 10 performers of American Idol's seventh season begins.
Newark's new Prudential Center is slickly coated in glass and padded in leather, seats branded by the horns of the New Jersey Devils insignia, red banners menacingly ordering you to "Rock Your Red," fire-and-brimstone welcoming you to the "Devil's Den." If there was any unpredictability in last night's show, the setting would have been it—a seeming predisposition towards the dark side, contrasting nicely with the unwaveringly optimistic cries of new music stars who sold their souls long enough ago to now speak openly of dreams and God without irony. So, does goodness really prevail? What do you think?
It seemed clear-cut at first. The show began with Chikezie, the tenth placer, who arrived in a dapper maroon suit jacket and sang a few soul numbers in front of glowing orange and red infinity symbols, reminding us that poor Chikezie's commercial damnation is eternal. But the crowd was having it. "Hold up your glowsticks, hold up your cell phones!" he shouted, and the audience lit up with his lo-fi stage graphics. "We should have gotten glowsticks," said my companion, who would have liked to enter Chikezie's Gomorrah. "What were we thinking?"
We were thinking that they cost $5, and we're too old for this. Why do I have to spell that out? Just then, Chikezie came back around to the good side. "It's a blessing," he thundered, "to be here in the great state of New Jersey." Yes, honey, God wants this for you.
Quickly smothering whatever fire there was in the arena, Ramiele Malubay came out next, proving that even New Jersey Idol fans are a discriminate bunch. Those glow sticks don't come out for just anybody. After that was Michael Johns, who is also too old for this. He sang Queen's soulless battle cry, "We Are the Champions." A guy who came in eighth place on the seventh season of a reality show, he wailed, "No time for losers" and you could just see the sadness creep into his crow's feet on the HD monitor. Don't worry, MJ, you'll make a great replacement for the lead in a Queen tribute band!
Kristy Lee Cook didn't sing her hoedown version of "Eight Days a Week"—thank God—but we did get the very lucky number that bought her a few extra weeks on the show. Kristy's LED American flag unfolded behind her as she began the first few words of "God Bless the USA," but Newark's heathens weren't all smitten. "This is not the South," said a girl in earshot. "This is New Jersey."
At least Kristy dressed like she was in New Jersey, in a Joyce Leslie sparkle top and big hair, which is more than I can say about the other performers, who were nearly all in tight black jeans. But Carly Smithson wins best dressed of the night, as the first person to show some boob. Carly, you see, had a history of performing before Idol, and she knows how to work a crowd. "Another kind of full house!" she exclaimed. Another kind of good imitation of Heart!
Fast forward Brooke, intermission, Jason and Syesha, which were all equally titillating, and then its David Archuleta's turn. Finally, the crowd gives a shit. Even the row of still and silent dads, brothers, and male companions to my left stirred a bit, and one guy shot out of his seat and waved his hands in the air, in a move that I can only comprehend as slightly autistic. For his heart-tugging rendition of Robbie Williams' "Angels," the stage graphics cut to a heavenly sky, where God and David live as one. The scene reminded me of Damn Yankees: no matter how far your contract with Satan got you, it's null and void if you just sing on about love, so loud and with your eyes shut so tight, that you can't hear or see Him when he comes to collect. Open your eyes, boy! You lost, and there's nothing you or your stage dad can do about it, so just bow down to the winner. Which, I should point out, David Archuleta does, when David Cook takes the stage.
Here's the twist. This year's Idol is a faux bad boy, rather than the usual faux good one. Cook, in a new haircut and too much eyeliner (both of which make him look like my ex-girlfriend), wears a tight, ripped red shirt with the word "Bad" scrawled across in black. Hints of love-handles give the look some depth. This Idol certainly breaks the pretty-boy mold. A ring of smoke rises up around him, and he pauses for a moment to listen to that "kind of" full arena of shrill screams in New Jersey. In the best and most blasé moment of the night, Cook remarks, "I'm that guy, I guess. I dunno." From his smoky eyes that make him appear like the risen dead, he looks out at us and sings, "Hello? Is it me you're looking for?" Of course it is, you little devil!
The merch table: glowsticks really were $5!