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Aug 9 04 7:12 AM
Aiken is polished and forgettable
By STEVE BARNES, Arts editor
First published: Monday, August 9, 2004
ALBANY -- Toward the end of Clay Aiken's 2-hour concert Sunday night at the Pepsi Arena, the formerly gawky, now nearly cool and still overly earnest young singer was the subject of the sort of video retrospective screened at awards dinners. There was Aiken on the "Today" and "Tonight" shows, with Jimmy Kimmel and Jay Leno, bussing Barbara Walters and the other gals on the view.
Aiken's handlers used the footage to evoke screams of recognition from the 4,000 or so largely female fans at the Pepsi, but it also suggested a dispiriting, undeniable conclusion: Aiken is a media product, a polished and packaged guy who went from bespectacled dork to wildly adored, platinum-selling artist in just over a year.
Whether he deserves the success is irrelevant. He's gotten it, and the music industry's best have put him front and center for adulation. He can sing, no question, often very, very well. But, really, so what? Any one of thousands of American vocalists, if given the same resources, would sound as good.
Aiken -- should you somehow not know this by now -- came in second in "American Idol 2," and he's been by far the most successful of that pop factory's contestants. It's easy to see why when he's soaring along in one of his power ballads, like "Solitaire" or "I Will Carry You": It's infectious, feel-good stuff, but also ultimately forgettable, a point proven by Aiken's decision to sing covers of better music than his own for almost half of the evening.
U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name" is superior to anything on Aiken's 2003 debut, "Measure of a Man," as are the five James Taylor tunes he performed as a medley with his backup singers.
The kid has some personality quirks that, if let loose, could make him into a more interesting artist.
Cherie, a French pop singer who's like a 19-year-old combination of Celine Dion and Shania Twain, opened the concert with a septet of songs from her self-titled new album. By turns grandiose and kittenish, Cherie is perfectly paired with Aiken. Both possess big voices that love to climb along rising key changes. Also like Aiken, it's unclear whether there's anything noteworthy about Cherie besides her pipes.
CLAY AIKEN with Cherie
Where: Pepsi Arena
When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday
Length: Aiken, two 45- minute sets; Cherie, 35 minutes
Highlights: Aiken's medley of five James Taylor songs, performed with his backup singers, the gentle and true "Measure of a Man" and "Solitaire"; Cherie's "Older Than My Years," a power ballad from a Lolita-ish perspective that is the new single from her eponymous debut album
The crowd: Perhaps 4,000, mostly young teen and preteen girls with their mothers.
Not a party crowd: 20 minutes after the concert started, one arena vendor reported that she'd sold fewer than 10 beers
Aug 9 04 7:16 AM
MUSIC REVIEW : Clay Aiken gets Pepsi crowd screaming
By DAVE SINGER For The Daily Gazette
ALBANY For someone working toward a teaching degree two years ago, Clay Aiken stood on the Pepsi Arena stage Sunday night undaunted in fact, perfectly comfortable while thousands of hysterical girls screamed his name and waved countless homemade posters that declared their love for him.
Amid all the clamor, Aiken sounded good, worked hard and seemed to be enjoying life on stage. He sang mostly from his only release, "The Measure of a Man," but he mixed it up with several cover songs. Highlights included "Shine," perhaps the strongest song of the first set, "I Will Carry You," "Measure of a Man," "Run to Me," where he stood at the end of the extended stage surrounded by the audience, belting it out full throttle, "Perfect Day" and "I Survived You," maybe the best moment of the night.
His cover songs mostly polite nods to the older adults in the audience included a James Taylor medley and the 70s Orleans hit "Still the One." These all failed to ignite the crowd.
For an American Idol runnerup, Aiken is doing OK, even better than any of the winners, and record and concert sales point to much more Aiken in the future, including an upcoming Christmas album.
Aiken doesnt dance on stage and when hes not singing, he hardly knows what to do with himself. These kinds of things, along with plenty of warm, extended banter between songs, make it hard not to like him. The audience more than 7,000 included largely mother-daughters, father-daughters, grandmother-granddaughters, and hordes of teenage boys and girls in groups.
For those unfamiliar with "boy-band " audience screams, it sounds like a deafening highpitched airplane in your living room. Aiken triggered these screams every time he started a song, spoke, held a long note, climbed the steps to reach another level of the three-tiered set, and ended a song.
The band three back-up singers, two keyboardists, a drummer, bassist and guitarist served primarily as support and stuck strictly to the script.
Aiken has all the required credits to teach special education in North Carolina. But he still needs to student-teach one semester. At this rate it wont be happening any time soon. For the moment he seems to be making plenty of people happy.
Upcoming 19-year-old French hotshot Cherie (here comes another one-named star) opened the show with an unremarkable set that felt more like a commercial than a concert. Cherie can sing and Cherie can move. But her voice was always revved to full volume, and her three-person band no bass player but lots of electronics never cleared any space for her to come through with clarity. But shes young and has the goods; we may be hearing from her again.
Aug 9 04 4:14 PM
Quote:Musikfest's opening-night chock full of 'Idolatry'
Saturday, August 07, 2004
By PRECIOUS PETTY
BETHLEHEM -- Masquerading as "Clayfest," Musikfest on Friday kicked off its 21st year of celebration.
Droves of preteen girls dressed in "Aiken for Clay" T-shirts and accompanied by their mothers, aunts or older sisters streamed through the city's streets on their way to Clay Aiken's sold-out show on Sand Island.
Hundreds of ticket-holders queued up outside RiverPlace, determined to claim a spot on the lawn close to "American Idol" runner-up Aiken for the performance.
Catasauqua residents Candice Sierzega, 16, sister Danielle, 11, and their mother, Carol, were the first in line; they arrived at noon for a show set to start at 7:30 p.m.
Asked what it is about Aiken that makes him worth a seven-and-a-half-hour wait, they offered a three-part answer.
"He's a good singer," Candice said. "He's cute," Carol interjected. "Love his eyes," Danielle finished.
Friday's show was the first for the threesome, but it was the third for Philadelphia-area residents Annette Hobbs, 46, and fiance Steve Kelley, 45.
The couple has seen Aiken twice, once in Philadelphia and again in Baltimore. They loved him both times.
"I love him for his inner and outer beauty and his God-given gift. Clay just has it all," Hobbs explained. "I have a 23-year-old daughter and I think he would be my ideal partner for her."
Neither Hobbs nor Kelley had heard of Musikfest when they decided to visit Bethlehem for the show, Kelley said. They just saw the tour date on a T-shirt Hobbs bought at their last Aiken show and decided to make the hour-long drive from Williams Grove, Pa.
So far, so good, Kelley said of his brief experience at the festival.
"It's neat," he said.
Elsewhere in Bethlehem, up the hill and around the corner from RiverPlace and "Clayzed" Aiken fans, city Mayor John Callahan welcomed folks to Musikfest during the event's opening ceremony at Americaplatz.
"We come together over the next 10 days to share our love of the arts, more specifically music," Callahan said. "Musikfest brings Bethlehem and the entire Lehigh Valley together like no other event," he said.
Billed as the nation's largest music festival, Musikfest attracts an estimated 1 million people to the city each August with hundreds of free and ticketed performances.
Musikfest's mascot and goodwill ambassador Pat Holetz, aka the Chicken Lady, was honored for her dedication to the festival since it's inception in 1984. Holetz and husband, Kal, are moving to Florida, making this the last year she presides over the chicken dance at Festplatz.
Dressed in her trademark white-feathered costume, Holetz accepted certificates of appreciation from Northampton County Executive Glenn Reibman and Musikfest Council Chairman Sandor Engel.
"If Disney and Musikfest could negotiate a trade of Mickey Mouse and the Chicken Lady, I want you to know that it would be Disney and not Musikfest that would be getting the better end of that deal," Engel said.
Also during the ceremony, Musikfest honored Coca-Cola Bottling Co., The Express-Times and The Morning Call for 20 years of sponsorship.
Beth Braithwaite and 11-year-old daughter Allison sat through the kickoff event and finished their dinner before heading to the Aiken concert.
The Braithwaites, former Bethlehem residents, had attended Musikfest before but hadn't returned since moving to Northampton a few years ago. Clay brought them back, Beth said.
"I just love him," Allison said.
Reporter Precious Petty can be reached at 610-867-5000 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Aug 11 04 7:13 AM
Quote:Aiken a huge hit at Musikfest
Saturday, August 07, 2004
By SUSAN KALAN
It definitely was a Clay Day -- or a "Perfect Day" -- Friday in Bethlehem when runner-up American Idol Clay Aiken took over the RiverPlace stage at Musikfest for a sold-out evening concert for 6,500 diehard fans.
Many of his fans have followed him from state to state in his summer solo tour.
And it couldn't have been performed under a more perfect-day sky. Concert time temperatures were in the 70-degree range, a welcome change to Wednesday's grueling 90 degrees.
With a set that lifted as a drawbridge under a spotlight and transformed into a major staircase, a voice announced, "Ladies and Gentlemen, Clay Aiken!" And the red spikey-haired pop phenomenon stepped out holding a microphone -- his image projected from scrims hung from sound equipment stacked on either side of the stage.
From the moment he stepped on the stage, the audience stood to celebrate this Clayfest.
Dressed in a neat, blue fitted shirt, striped tie, solid pants and sneakers, he casually worked his way down the stairs, opening with U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name." His sleeves were rolled up as he was ready to work at fulfilling the achin', breakin' hearts of his screaming, clapping fans for the next two hours.
The Musikfest audience was predominantly female -- 10 women for every man. Many wore T-shirts with slogans such as 'Claymate,' 'Talk Nerdy to Me' or 'I Want to Play With Clay' and more buttons than army generals. One timely button read: 'President of the United States -- Clay Aiken.'
Two-year-old, pigtailed Isobel Dehler of Front Royal, Va., seemed to enjoy dancing to the beat in a red jacket sporting Sesame Street's Elmo character. Her sleeveless Clay T-shirt was in a bag held by her grandmother, Joyce Grudzinski, who was seeing Aiken in concert this night for the 10th time.
"For the money I've spent on concerts, I could have probably carpeted my house, and that's 3,200 square feet," Grudzinski said.
Aiken was feeling good onstage as he proclaimed, "Bethlehem, it's good to be here!" With a display of southern hospitality, he described Musikfest as "a big operation you've got here!"
He was in control at all times in good voice and rapport with his audience, including Christine from California, who danced onstage to "energize" Jay the bass player.
Seven-year-old Natalie from Lancaster, Pa., joined Clay for a lovely rendition of "Without You."
Singing nearly all 12 songs from his smash CD "Measure of a Man," and with respect to contemporary artists, he included a soothing medley of James Taylor songs. His summer repertoire includes songs by Orleans, Toto, Avalon and Steven Curtis Chapman.
Opening for Aiken was local Idol Heather Hillegas of Bethlehem, an East Hills Middle School special education teacher who won last year's Musikfest singing competition with her rendition of "Me and Bobby McGee." Singing solo and with her band Led Foot, Hillegas gave a pleasing performance that will woo her Nashville audience this fall. Susan Kalan is assistant features editor for The Express-Times. She can be reached at 610-258-7171 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Aug 13 04 7:43 AM
Quote:MUSIC REVIEW | CLAY AIKEN
Fans adore winning performer
Friday, August 13, 2004
FOR THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
For a popular singer such as Clay Aiken, thereâs nothing unusual about playing to sold-out houses, being surrounded by beefy security guards and working a tour schedule that finds him in a new city almost every night.
His stop Wednesday night was the Celeste Center at the Ohio State Fair.
The unusual thing is that all of this has come so suddenly to the earnest 25-year-old from Raleigh, N.C., who has almost completed his degree in special education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Sixteen months ago, he had appeared on the second season of American Idol and had been voted off. He won a "wild-card" return, finished second â and was off to a world of compact discs, TV appearances and "Claymates," audience members who proudly wear their allegiance on their chests.
This was his third appearance in central Ohio in about a year, but most of the more than 10,000 seats at the center were filled for the roughly 80-minute show.
Some fans are following his tour, from Rhode Island to Colorado, including eight state fairs in 30 days.
The acoustics in the Celeste Center are, to put it politely, poor. Metal isnât the best conductor of sound and music. The bass boomed enough to make any car-audio addict jealous.
Yet Aiken gave the crowd what it wanted, with smiles and grace.
"I always love coming to Ohio," he said, "because you are some of the best crowds we have â and I donât say that everywhere."
That statement â and everything else he said â brought cheers, screams and applause from the audience.
From the opening Streets Have No Names, Aiken ran through more than a dozen of his songs, many fans singing along with every number.
A James Taylor medley allowed him to show an easy, melodic range and added appreciated variety. Yet the crowdpleasers were the hits and his latest single, I Will Carry You, along with an encore of Solitaire that was more intense than Neil Sedakaâs original.
His three backup singers and five musicians showed talent and skill and added an extra depth.
Aikenâs stage is a production number in itself, allowing the singer to rise at the back, then walk some illuminated stairs â which disappear and reappear â to the stage.
Costume changes â from a long-sleeved shirt, tie and jeans to all white, then all blue â were incidental, but noteworthy for a state-fair show.
The opening act was a 20-year-old French singer who uses only her first name, Cherie. Her style is a mix of Celine Dion and Gloria Estefan, with plenty of enthusiasm. She made a bouncy beginning to an upbeat evening.
Aug 13 04 9:43 AM
Quote:'American Idol' star draws about 5,000 to fair concert
Friday, August 13, 2004
By Monetta L. Harr
A few fans get to shake hands and have photos taken with Clay Aiken before the show.
After watching Clay Aiken twice a week for months, it wasn't a total shock to see him emerge from his huge touring bus looking more like a fraternity student after a long night than an "American Idol."
Wearing a gray, hooded Wisconsin sweatshirt, striped cotton pants and flip flops, his reddish-brown hair tousled, Aiken greeted seven select fans before his concert Thursday night at the Jackson County Fair.
Aiken, who has parlayed his second-place finish in the second "American Idol" competition into a pop singing career, wouldn't sign autographs. But he shook everyone's hand and then stood in the center of the group and posed for photos.
Faryn O'Connor, 14, of Rives Junction nearly swooned when the quick photo shoot ended because Aiken put his right arm around her. The left arm went around the shoulders of Gloria Spicer, 76, of Kennesaw, Ga., who played Aiken's rendition of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" at her husband's funeral.
"He is such a good young man. He has the correct attitude for life," said Spicer, who had attended another of Aiken's concerts in Atlanta.
The audience of about 5,000, a mix of all ages, clearly agreed about Aiken's positive, upbeat attitude. Aiken sang for 90 minutes, ending with "Solitaire," which debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 Sales chart.
He performed a mix of music, including gospel, James Taylor and even a few rock songs, prompting the mostly-female audience to scream and clap their hands.
Aiken talked to them, challenging them early-on to a dance contest.
"The one who dances the best, I'm bringing up on stage," he said.
Women of all ages and sizes jumped onto chairs and swung their hips and arms, and it was Heather Hensel, 21, of Canton and Susie Moore, 24, of Saline who were chosen.
They danced on stage as Aiken sang another song and when it was over and their feet were back on the ground -- at least near their front-row seats -- all the women could say about their experience was to scream and hug each other.
But even Aiken was surprised by Heather Bouaziz of Ypsilanti who got a shot to come on stage and sing with him, something Aiken does at his concerts.
"What?" he said, stumbling over the city's name.
"Are you in this chunk of Michigan or that chunk," he asked Bouaziz, referring to the Upper and Lower Peninsulas.
"I don't know Clay, I'm too excited to think," she replied.
She wasn't too excited to sing, though, and when she belted out the words, Aiken stepped back and looked at the audience. Together, they went through a couple verses, ending with a roar of the audience.
Aiken initially said he was glad for the cooler weather -- "It was like 105 degrees last night at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus," he said -- but toward the end of the concert he noted the musician's hands were getting a bit cold.
The temperature was about 60 degrees, with the audience dressed more for a football game than an August concert, in jeans and sweatshirts and carrying blankets.
It didn't affect Aiken's voice, though, as he belted out song after song, including "This is the Night."
Between songs, sometimes between verses, various groups of women in the audience shouted, "We love you Clay." Many wore black T-shirts sold outside the concert, Aiken's photo on the front and dates of his first solo national tour on the back.
Aiken's opening act was Cherie, who with her French accent had the crowd doing the wave and standing on their feet, clapping to the music.
As they walked together out of the concert, Margaret and Steve Van Antwerp of Jackson were clearly glad they had come to hear Aiken.
"Clay is awesome, a fantastic voice," said Margaret Van Antwerp. "I loved it."
-- Reach reporter Monetta L. Harr at firstname.lastname@example.org or 768-4972.
Aug 14 04 4:53 AM
Quote:Clay Aiken delivers formidable performance at Grandstand
By NICK ROGERS
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT WRITER
If a man is measured by his generosity, Clay Aiken is one of the heftiest guys around.
Aiken is no vocal slouch; his trademark is a formidable vocal tone that belies his skinny stature. But he was more of a singing straight man Friday night, as Aiken created powerhouse four-part harmonies with his backup singers throughout his concert at the Illinois State Fair Grandstand.
A crowd of 5,171 watched Aiken and company roll through an 85-minute set of material from his "Measure of a Man" album and as eclectic a collection of covers as a pop singer can churn out.
The evening began on a wobbly note, with the pre-recorded shill for Disney (the tour sponsor and the studio for whom Aiken recorded "Proud of Your Boy" for an upcoming "Aladdin" DVD) and the unveiling of the same sort of set every pop concert has these days - two tiers of stage separated by a shiny metal staircase.
But instead of him running out and down the staircase, it lifted up to reveal Aiken, whose Bono bombast was credible on the show-opening cover of "Where the Streets Have No Name." Though some of Aiken's biggest fans weren't even born when that song was released, those screaming for him ate up the song, which came complete with a copy of the cascading light scheme U2 uses.
"We can smell the funnel cakes, the hot dogs," Aiken said of the state-fair venues he's played frequently on this tour. "But tonight we're smelling something a little different down here on the horse track. Maybe they left a little welcome gift for me."
Aiken conversed with the crowd many times during the night, pacing the stage with his hand in a pocket and putting forth a chummy Southern-buddy vibe. But a couple of interactive crowd-pleasing ideas backfired a bit.
He sought someone with "innovative dancing talent" to come on stage during "When You Say You Love Me." But the woman from Cape Girardeau, Mo., he brought up apparently didn't feel comfortable doing the eye-catching dance on stage that inspired him to lure her up there.
And the shyness of a 5-year-old girl whose prayer every night was to sing with Clay Aiken (and got her wish) made for prolonged silences, during which Aiken was patient and joking with her. When she started singing "Invisible," it was a cute moment - but that song, with its sanitized stalker lyrics underneath a sunny beat, is creepy enough when sung by an adult, let alone a small child.
Those were only slightly shaky moments, though, in a concert that was otherwise hugely enjoyable.
For starters, Aiken earned kudos for pulling some rarely heard '80s chestnuts out of the cover box.
He and backup singer Angela Fisher tore up the Aretha Franklin-George Michael duet "I Knew You Were Waiting For Me," which is a rarity even for 1980s flashback radio programs. And Aiken allowed his band mates to turn a spirited rendition of Toto's "Rosanna" into a remarkable jam session.
Plus, Aiken sort of resembles the singer for Mr. Mister, so why would he not do "Kyrie," let alone lend an admirably nerdy opening dance to it?
Aiken had tremendous backing power from Angela Fisher, Jacob Luttrell and Quiana Parler, with whom he created unshakable walls of sound all night. Watching the quartet perform was like a professional, wholly on-key version of a group-sing on "American Idol" - with no one preening to the camera in a plea for votes.
Along with the tribal-sounding "Kyrie," Aiken showcased Fisher, Luttrell and Parler on a medley of James Taylor covers - "Sweet Baby James," "How Sweet It Is," "Fire and Rain," "Your Smiling Face" and "You've Got a Friend."
Of Aiken's own material, standouts included "I Will Carry You," with an uplifting chorus that showed off Aiken's vocal power; "Invisible," which, despite the spooky lyrics, still has an undeniably catchy melody and vocal line; and "Solitaire," his encore number.
All in all, this was the rare show where the onstage dancing and interaction between singers and musicians felt like a genuine extension of the fun they were having. And it translated well enough to the crowd that everyone there became a "Claymate," if only for about 90 minutes.
Opening the show was French singer Cherie, whose wardrobe of a bandanna and oversized football jersey didn't seem to match her measured, precisely sung pop tunes.
Cherie's voice is good enough, without being overpowering, that only rarely did she reach for syllable-extending histrionics or warbling high pitches. The highlight of her set was "Older Than My Years," a tender ballad with coos and breathy pauses a la Celine Dion, without any of that singer's ridiculous theatrics.
Aug 16 04 5:41 AM
Quote: Aiken's powerful voice needs bigger challenges
'American Idol' runner-up's State Fair set was ballad-heavy
By KYLE MUNSON
REGISTER MUSIC CRITIC
August 16, 2004
Whether nice guys finish last is a moot point.
Clay Aiken lost "American Idol" last year, but the scrawny pop heartthrob took the stage Sunday night at the Iowa State Fair Grandstand to the sound of shrill screams that shot from the mouths of pubescent MTV viewers - and their moms in equal measure.
The audience of 5,585 was a sea of custom T-shirts scrawled with love for Aiken, and placards were held aloft proclaiming such slogans as "I have ears like Clay."
Aiken kept these fans hypnotized for nearly 90 minutes by shuffling around the stage and belting out soaring ballads from his multi-platinum debut album, "Measure of a Man."
There was also an '80s nostalgia trip twist to the concert, which started strong with U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name." But then Aiken relied on such inglorious fare as Mr. Mister's "Kyrie," the Aretha Franklin-George Michael duet "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)" and Toto's "Rosanna" to goose the pace of the show.
Aiken can out-sing most stars sharing space with him on the pop charts, but more's the pity. Sunday night suggested that he's wasting his Broadway voice on too many B-grade songs. The less that Aiken reminds us that "American Idol" is glorified karaoke for couch potatoes, the better.
A mini-set of James Taylor songs was a better showcase for Aiken's subtler talents, and it emphasized the warm interplay he has developed with his three worthy backup singers.
Aiken's five-piece band was stilted and heavy on keyboards - to be expected when there's a full plate of ballads to digest.
Part of Aiken's nonchalance about his own fame is to cast the spotlight on his fans. He invited a woman from Waukee on stage to dance. A guy named Gus from St. Paul, Minn., was even chosen to warble his own version of "The Way," with custom lyrics in praise of Aiken.
There was a retrospective of his TV highlights as Aiken sang "This Is the Night." Is this what the instant fame of TV has done to concert culture? One year is assumed to be a reasonable lifespan for our pop stars. Aiken should feel lucky, with not even his first headlining summer tour under his belt?
At least in that short time Aiken has made powerful friends in Washington, D.C. None other than Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin was in the audience. Harkin, a Democrat, has forged a friendship with Aiken over their mutual passion for assisting the disabled. The singer even singled out the senator for applause in the middle of his concert. Aiken wasn't excited about the Iowa State Fair's 150th anniversary, but rather the 14th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act that Harkin championed.
"He's really just a great young man," Harkin said shortly before the concert.
Hard to disagree with the senator, based on Aiken's low-key demeanor Sunday.
And the one-song encore of "Solitaire" proved that Aiken has powerful pipes.
He has already won the hearts of TV nation.
The next step is for Aiken to transition from "American Idol" aftermath into lasting fame. And the best way to do that is with more dynamic, challenging songs.
Aug 17 04 8:08 AM
Quote:Idol star shows flair at the fair
Clay Aiken pleases the crowd with songs from his own album and popular covers.
Where: Marsh Grandstand, Indiana State Fair.
Bottom line: His dream's progressing nicely.
By David Lindquist
August 17, 2004
A Clay Aiken concert represents the essence of the Indiana State Fair -- pleasant, no-pressure, family fun.
While Monday night's show didn't pander to any particular age group, youth was served when a sixth-grader from Chicago came up from the audience to startle Aiken with her vocal skills.
He in turn gave a priceless endorsement for her upcoming year in school choir: "You tell your teacher I said that you get the solos."
Aiken, the famed former "American Idol" runner-up, is perfectly at ease with crowds. This one numbered 6,500.
If this is his only shot at a tour of this scale, he didn't scrimp on the production budget. Stairs and platforms were integrated smartly in the stage design.
And two video screens built within the furniture made the audience look at the real Clay as well as his video likeness.
Lights from camera flashbulbs continuously cascaded down the Grandstand, capturing Aiken in a tie and untucked shirt.
Coincidence or not, his first costume change arrived as he drove the show toward a home-stretch crescendo.
He wore a white suit when singing powerful praise anthem "You Were There," a tune popularized by Avalon.
The spiritual theme trickled into the next song, "This Is the Night." As an accompanying video reel of Aiken highlights showed his Rolling Stone magazine cover, the frame zoomed to a subtle, subversive accessory found in the corner: His "What Would Jesus Do?" bracelet.
Big radio hit "Invisible" then led to the encore, and it made a much better impression than the show's opening number -- Aiken's rendition of U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name."
His clinical vocal delivery and a puny guitar tone (a part of Aiken's band that lacked muscle throughout the show) signaled early trouble.
But Aiken surprised by salvaging Mr. Mister's "Kyrie" from the 1980s scrap heap and actually improving it.
The song resembled a tropical dance party, thanks to a big beat and a soaring chorus.
The concert's other cover of note, Orleans' timeless "Still the One," allowed Aiken to lead a full-throated sing-along.
It's something he's good at, good enough to suggest his inclusion in an Osmond-Manilow-Aiken continuum of nice-guy entertainers.
The show's momentum snagged on a five-song tribute to James Taylor. Aside from presenting backing vocalist Jacob Luttrell as a Taylor sound-alike, the segment lacked purpose.
Call Star reporter David Lindquist at (317) 444-6404.
Aug 17 04 10:00 PM
Quote:'Idol' favorite Aiken mixes old, new with mixed results
By BETSY PICKLE, email@example.com
August 18, 2004
Clay Aiken is a brave man.
Not because he faced hundreds of screaming fans Tuesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena - anyone who has survived a season on "American Idol" can do that. No, Aiken is brave because he started his show with U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name." That takes guts, setting yourself up for comparisons with one of rock's most passionate singers.
Then again, it's likely most in the crowd of about 3,000 would have said, "Bono who?" There may be some overlap between Claymates and U2 admirers, but not much.
To his credit, Aiken gave the song a tougher veneer than his usual adult-contemporary sheen. And the Knoxville crowd, which seemed to be mostly females from age 4 to about 74, responded with wild applause after being properly primed by French pop newcomer Cherie, a lithe brunette who sounds like a cross between Celine Dion and Kelly Clarkson.
Aiken performed several other covers as well as most of his album, "Measure of a Man," showing off his talents and those of his backing singers and musicians in a 22-song set. The "AI" Season 2 runner-up has his stage show down to a science, complete with audience participation and far-from-slick patter that makes this best-selling musical artist still seem like just a homeboy from Raleigh, N.C.
The covers were a mixed bag. While Aiken's voice is a good fit with Mr. Mister's "Kyrie," Toto's "Rosanna" and Orleans' "Still the One," there's no compelling reason for a singer with his abilities to keep alive hackneyed '80s and '70s radio hits.
As the "AI" judges are fond of saying, it's all about song selection. Aiken and his backup singers fared better on five songs by James Taylor, who coincidentally spent part of his childhood in North Carolina. Aiken's pure tones were just right on "Sweet Baby James." He generously shared lead duties on "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)," "Fire and Rain," "Your Smiling Face" and "You've Got a Friend."
Aiken seemed totally relaxed on songs such as "I Will Carry You," "Run to Me," "Perfect Day" and "I Survived You." But though he charmed the crowd with his patter, he showed he has some stage presence to learn. His head-tilted-back, eyes-closed style may have seemed like the approach of a singer immersed in a song, but it put a wall between him and the audience, even though fans swallowed the conceit whole.
One lesson he's mastered is how to sell a song. He's probably sick to death of "Solitaire," but he used a full deck of emotion as he capped off the night with it
Aug 22 04 7:19 AM
Quote: Aiken's ClayMates have reason to cheer
FLINT JOURNAL REVIEW
THE FLINT JOURNAL FIRST EDITION
Sunday, August 22, 2004
By Doug Pullen
1. "Where the Streets Have No Name"
3. "When You Say You Love Me"
5. "I Will Carry You"
6. "This Is The Night" (sung by Connor Foley, 10, of Fenton)
7. James Taylor medley
8. "Measure of a Man"
9. "Run to Me"
10. "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)"
11. "Perfect Day"
12. "I Survived You"
13. "Still the One"
15. "You Were There"
16. "This Is the Night"
CLIO - Clio, or Clayo as some called it, was the ground zero of the Clay Nation this weekend.
Clay Aiken, the "American Idol" star-turned-pop music phenomenon, rolled into town for two sold-out concerts before nearly 6,300 fans - who call themselves ClayMates - Friday and Saturday at the Clio Area Amphitheater, the first time an artist has sold out consecutive shows there.
Teenaged girls, middle-aged moms and grandmas (with a few reluctant and some not-so-reluctant males in tow) streamed in from all over, wearing their souvenir T-shirts and waving their devotional signs. There were so many women on hand that amphitheater staff had to convert the men's bathroom in the Clio Arts Center into a women's potty and haul in portable johns for the, ahem, overflow.
Extra merchandise stands also were set up to accommodate the adoring hordes, who snapped up everything from tour shirts to thongs (yes, you read that right).
Some made the trek from as far north as Winnipeg, Manitoba in Canada, as far east as New York state and as far west as California. They're like some wholesome version of the Deadheads, those neo-hippies who followed the Grateful Dead around the country like nomads, only ClayMates' high is natural.
Now that's devotion, and completely understandable. Every generation needs its lovable geek. Aiken is one who crosses generational lines, a spikey-haired heir apparent to the throne once occupied by the Neil Diamonds, Barry Manilows and Celine Dions of the pop music world. In a pop culture landscape where stars act like spoiled brats and worse, the 25-year-old Aiken is a breath of fresh air, and a refreshing upgrade from the plasticene product-as-music of the boy bands who preceded him. All he needs now is some better material to challenge that soaring voice.
Aiken backs up his TV-fueled fame with the goods with an approachable nature and warm, clear tenor perfectly suited for the big, soaring ballads he does so well. Particularly impressive Friday were his feisty (for him) reading of the kiss-off song "I Survived You," which featured a rare but welcome touch of anger, a rousing encore of Neil Sedaka's lonely "Solitaire" and stirring, inspirational songs like "I Will Carry You" and "You Were There" that allow him to hit those tall, sustained notes (fans call them glory notes) and inject his spirituality ever so subtly.
Friday's energetic performance - which was preceded by an upbeat but perfunctory half-hour set from 19-year-old French newcomer Cherie - was a little less surprising, but more well-rounded than the one he gave last March at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena with first-year "Idol" winner Kelly Clarkson.
Aiken is an even more assured performer now, shedding a trifle of the aw-shucks humility for a more polished presentation that included video screens, a multi-tiered stage, a five-piece band, three backup singers, a sign language interpreter and an infomercial for the forthcoming "Aladdin" DVD, which is the tour's sponsor.
Aiken's show was divided into two 45-minute sets and was built around both his engaging personality, a powerful voice (that is only going to grow in character as he gets older) and his abundantly generous spirit. The set list drew heavily from last year's triple platinum debut album, "Measure of a Man," and a handful of covers ranging from U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name" (the show opener was not well suited to Aiken's music theater stylings), a tasteful James Taylor medley that showcased his impressive trio of backup singers and a version of Toto's "Rosanna" that gave his unobtrusive band a chance to get its funk groove on.
He also shined the spotlight on his audience, pulling one woman out of the crowd to dance with him on the forgettable "When You Say You Love Me" (turns out he unwittingly plucked the same woman out at his previous show near Syracuse), then sharing the spotlight with 10-year-old Fenton resident Connor Foley, who sang his signature hit "This Is the Night"(see related story), much to the delight of the crowd, which grew more boisterous as the show progressed.
With fewer gimmicks and a more focused performance, the second half was much stronger, bringing the enthusiastic but relatively restrained crowd on its feet. The intimacy of the venue, where there isn't a bad seat, fit perfectly with the personal touch Aiken bring to his audiences. He must have welcomed the chance to sing to 3,140 people who were almost in his lap.
His biggest weakness is some of the material he's been given to sing. About half the songs, from "Measure of a Man," like "Run to Me" and "Perfect Day," are fluffy, assembly-line pop that are beneath his abilities. Though his voice has held up well after all the touring he's done, it did sound a bit flat and tired on the rare occasion, notably a version of show closer "Invisible" on which he sounded a bit flat (not to worry, he rebounded impressively on an encore of "Solitaire" ) .
It may not be cool to like Clay Aiken. Neither Aiken nor his adoring fans care. Clay Aiken is living a dream and it's easy for his fans to live that dream through him.
After all, he was a college student studying special ed just a couple of years ago. A Clay Aiken concert is a celebration of the inner geek in everyone. There's nothing wrong with that.
Aug 22 04 9:44 PM
Quote:Molding his fans
Clayâs Aiken for something better
BY BENJAMIN SIEGEL
News Contributing Reviewer
If Clay Aiken were invisible and he fell in the forest, would he still make a sound?
If your one of the millions of fans worldwide who has fallen in love with Clayton Holmes Aiken, you probably donât care. Youâre probably in love with every story about his North Carolinian rearing, every inch of his 6-foot-1-inch frame, every freckle on his baby boy face, and every chirp of his sometimes charming but usually disconcerting chortle. You live and breathe for Clay Aiken, no matter what his music sounds like.
Just ask Karen Alberson of Fort Erie, Ont., the mother of 17-year-old Jenna. The two Claymates (a team to which fans are affectionately referred) traveled to Hamburg on Thursday night for Aikenâs performance at the Erie County Fair. They, along with nearly 115 other Claymates from around the country who joined them for a pre-concert reception, are part of a fan club thatâs about much more than making posters and sharing stories of first encounters with the âAmerican Idolâ runner-up.
âI would love it if my niece or daughter married him and he became part of the Alberson family,â Karen said with the straightest of faces.
âHeâs given so much back to his fans, even without meeting many of them. Heâs given people hope. My friend lost weight because of him. My sister bought a computer because of him. When Clay Aiken came into her life, she went out and bought a computer for the first time.â
Hey, whatever floats your boat.
If the thought of these fansâ expressions of gratitude, consumerism and courtship are enough to make you double-guess Aikenâs power in the pop music industry, then you obviously missed the show Thursday night.
Thereâs nothing wrong with liking Aikenâs brand of pop music, however common and packaged it may be.
But taking this into consideration, I realize thereâs little I can say critically about a performer who clearly makes so many people jump for joy at the thought of his presence.
Perhaps that was the problem with Thursdayâs show. More than the often-flat high notes and cheeky routine, itâs that every ounce of Aiken has been marketed, designed, stylized, emphasized, pre-chewed and digested. His rise to superstardom came in the form of a weekly television show, one that advertises Coca-Cola as much, if not more than, itâs contestants. Itâs pop in its definitive form.
From the odd opening video sequence of Aiken in the studio to the inappropriate Jesus portion of the eveningâs hour-plus program. Aiken manufactures and sells exactly what the audience wants. Or maybe itâs the other way around, maybe theyâll buy whatever he gives them.
One way or another, Aiken delivered his goods just as his Claymates expected and deserved. Besides including most of his 2003 debut, âMeasure of a Man,â Aiken and his notably talented backup singers cruised through a selection of covers as well, including U2âs âWhere the Streets Have No Nameâ and a mini-James Taylor set.
From his own album, Aiken included hits âThe Wayâ and âThis Is the Nightâ (also his first post-âAIâ single), as well his No. 1 hit, âInvisible.â In that song he whines â I mean, proposes _ that if he were invisible,âI would just watch you in your room.â
Youâd what? Watch me in my room?
Despite what parents of Thursdayâs mostly female audience would like to think about their favorite someday-son-in-law, I donât know if stalking is something theyâd considered.
But when you have a singer so admired, so adorned, so â and hereâs the clincher â so idolized, why worry about it now?
Aug 24 04 6:32 AM
Published: August 24, 2004
Music review: It's obvious: The ladies love Clay
By GEORGETTE BRAUN, Rockford Register Star
>> Click here for more about Georgette
A lady wearing a reddish sweater jacket and black pants shook her tush so well in the audience Monday night that "American Idol" star Clay Aiken invited her to strut her stuff on stage.
The 22-year-old woman from Cary sang a duet -- "Without You" -- so richly with Aiken during an audition before the show that he hugged her and hugged her and hugged her again.
Other women and young girls in the crowd of 4,700 at Rockford's MetroCentre also tried to draw the attention of the 25-year-old skinny, spiky-haired crooner as he sang wholesome pop songs. One female in the third row wore a T-shirt with "Wink at me, Clay" printed in bold letters.
The shenanigans didn't overshadow Aiken's polished delivery during his two-hour show of middle-of-the-road songs with lyrics that are easy to understand, such as "I Will Carry You" and "Run To Me" off his debut and only album, "Measure of a Man."
And his big heart showed as his work on behalf of disabled children played on big video screens on both sides of the stage.
It was a comfortable feel for the fans and Aiken, who became a big celebrity a year ago when he was runner-up on Fox's popular "American Idol" singer elimination show.
But the crowd really lit up when Aiken sang his angst-ridden "I Survived You."
"Why is it everybody gets excited when I get ticked off?" the big-voiced North Carolina Christian who wears a "W.W.J.D." (What Would Jesus Do) bracelet asked as he smiled slyly.
Another harder-edged moment came when Aiken's lead guitarist showcased his grinding for seven seconds or so.
Largely, though, Aiken's likable, boyish self, was what everybody wanted to see. And they got what they paid $38 for -- a genuine, geeky-looking guy who sings at full throttle.
Aiken wore jeans and a button-down Oxford shirt or a striped jacket during many songs. But he and three back-up singers donned all white for the gospel song "You Were There."
The star covered several recognizable songs, including Toto's "Rosanna" and Mr. Mister's "Kyrie."
Those paled in comparison to his encore performance of Neil Sedaka's "Solitaire." Girls in the audience screamed his name as he was lowered down a hatch in a two-story staircase.
Aug 25 04 9:28 AM
Quote:Nice-guy Clay Aiken thrills his fans
Pop cover versions fill out nearly 2-hour show for Scene Pavilion crowd dominated by women
Clay Aiken may not be the pop-culture phenomenon he was shortly after he was named runner-up in the second season of American Idol, but the faithful ``Claymates`` and their husbands/significant others and chaperones still love the nice boy from North Carolina enough to have sold out the Scene Pavilion on Tuesday night, and to scream at his every word in his nearly two-hour set.
The obvious question is how can a guy with only one album, clocking in at less than 80 minutes, perform for two hours?
The answer is that since he came from a glorified karaoke show, he was free to liberally pepper his set list with other folks' already-famous songs.
He entered from beneath the staircase in the middle of the stage, singing U2's Where the Streets Have No Name (without all the pathos that Bono gives it) to a positively giddy crowd of overwhelmingly female admirers. The count was so high that Scene Pavilion staff members were forced to transform a men's room into a women's room with the help of carefully applied neon orange duct tape.
Those women made sure that Aiken knew they love him, and he in turn made sure they knew that he appreciated their ardor, repeatedly thanking ``the wonderful people who made all of this possible.''
Aiken's double-platinum debut, Measure of a Man, is full of pleasantly bland pop music, and that safe, family-friendly blandness is part of Aiken's allure.
``He's like a breath of fresh air,'' one fan said.
Presumably the covers were songs that Aiken loves and loves to sing, and his choices showed that he is definitely a fan of pop music. He applied his malleable tenor to Mr. Mister's Kyrie, Orleans' Still the One, and a medley of James Taylor tunes, including Fire and Rain, Sweet Baby James and How Sweet It is (To Be Loved By You).
If Aiken's nice-guy persona is a pose, he's darn good at it, because aside from his aw-shucks stage banter, he gave up stage time so that his five-piece band could turn Toto's Rosanna into solo spotlights. Aiken also introduced each band member and several members of his road crew (by name!) and brought fans onstage to dance and sing a duet with him.
For all his nice-guyness, Aiken is a shrewd performer. He closed the show with several songs from his CD, including the stalker anthem Invisible, the title track, Measure of a Man, and This Is the Night, and he knows what gets his fans' collective panties in a bunch.
So there were plenty of dramatic crescendos, and Aiken standing legs akimbo, arms spread wide, to elicit screams. Interestingly, many of the biggest screams came when he rubbed against one of his female backup singers.
Aug 26 04 6:59 AM
Quote:POPULAR MUSICREVIEWClay Aiken
Aiken show offers fans a man who measures up
Thursday, August 26, 2004
Special to The Plain Dealer
Clay Aiken was anything but "Invisible" Tuesday night when the "American Idol II" runner-up crooned as the nearly sold-out Scene Pavilion swooned.
With more homemade signs than a PTA bake sale, the mostly female, sea-of-pink audience - a mother-and-daughter thing (with nonchalant Dad occasionally singing along) - got what it wanted: fun, by-the-numbers pop music with Clay leading the way.
For nearly two hours, including an intermission, the North Carolina native performed two-thirds of his triple-platinum debut "Measure of a Man," along with half a dozen cover songs and a momentum-killing James Taylor medley that left the youngsters in the audience learning how sweet it isn't when your favorite singer digresses into oldies music.
Not completely squeaky clean, Aiken was as wholesome as he was cool. He also possessed a relaxed stage presence that belied his relatively short-lived celebrity, which merely dates back to May of 2003, when he finished second to Ruben Studdard in the sophomore season of "American Idol." So cool was Aiken that on this hot and humid evening, the 25-year-old performer appeared to be the only one in the outdoor venue not breaking into a sweat.
Whereas "American Idol," for good or bad, is perhaps critically perceived as nothing more than a glorified karaoke contest, Aiken transcended this notion by turning in a pop performance of middle-of-the-road material that never offended.
As with other mega-selling pop stars such as Michael Bolton and Celine Dion, Aiken's material speaks to the heart. What it may lack in breaking new ground is justified by the overwhelming response provided by his fans. From the sincere "When You Say You Love Me" and the R&B-lite leanings of "I Survived You" to the breezy "Shine" and the anthemic "This is the Night," the singer sold the material with impunity.
Buoying his set perfectly were Aiken's numerous cover songs, including U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name," Mr. Mister's "Kyrie," Toto's "Rosanna" and Neil Sedaka's "Solitaire."
Not billed as a Christian artist, Aiken displayed his faith numerous times throughout the evening in subtle (wearing a WWJD bracelet) and not-so-subtle fashions (singing gospel song "You Were There" while dressed in reverent choir white). Perhaps answering the question of what would Jesus do if he were onstage, a benevolent Aiken invited two lucky audience members to sing and dance with his eight-piece band.
For the most part, Aiken's performance delivered what it promised: a derivatively wholesome "American Idol" celebration of music and overcoming great odds to achieve success. While losing the novelty moniker that currently shadows his career will be tough, Aiken effortlessly tackled a variety of material in a down-home fashion that confirmed that his vocal talents are definitely a cut above those of a karaoke singer.
Ultimately, the Darwinian nature of the recording industry with fleeting careers in pop music will be the "Measure of the Man." But on this night, Clay was everybody's idol.
Opening the show was pop singer Cherie, who was warmly received by the audience but appeared a bit stiff onstage. Supporting her recently released self-titled disc, the French performer offered up a set of adult contemporary songs that showcased the possibilities of her vocal talents.
Aug 26 04 10:47 AM
Indiana State Fair 8.16.04
Clay Aiken is the true American Idol 2 winner in the eyes of many of the show's loyal followers. The response to him at the Indiana State Fair certainly indicated that this is what his Indy fans believe. The concert audience tapped out at more than 6000 people, all there to get a glimpse of the unlikely star that's been made of this North Carolina teacher. The roar of the crowed was clearly heard from the farthest reaches of State Fair parking, and judging by the wide variety of ages and personalities in the Marsh Grandstand, there is no limit to Clay's wide appeal.
I arrived at the show in time to hear the last few musical offerings from French singer Cherie. Having heard nothing other than her annoying ode to a positive outlook, "Iâm Ready," I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised. Her thick accent made it difficult to understand her as she tried to communicate with the audience, but her voice is smooth and her range seemingly endless. Her half-open, half-closed tone is reminiscent of a young Celine Dion, as is the perfection of her performance. The audience responded nicely to her, and I feel confident that it exhibited the talent that failed to shine through on her first single.
Once Cherie left the stage, there were exactly 20 minutes left to reorganize things for Clay's entrance. I settled back, anticipating a lengthy wait and a delayed show, but at precisely 8:20, the lights dimmed and a short video on the Bubel Aiken Foundation began flashing across the large screens on either side of the stage. A few moments later, Clay emerged from the top of a brilliantly lit staircase to a spectacular light display and one of the most eager audiences I've witnessed in a long while.
Whether you love or loathe the American Idol 2 runner up, you must admit that he's miraculously managed to hold on to that personable and accessable disposition that has earned him the reputation of being one of the most likeable in the business. Still, while a lot of flash and fluff is normally a welcome concert addition for all of the visible stimulation it provides, I actually prefer Clay performing under full house lights, sans the flair. The backup singers and their choreography, the blinding glare of the lights, the huge screens and the concert change made Clay seem untouchable. It's the first time I've ever thought that while watching him do his thing. But he's still very at ease in his role and very grateful to the fans for their support, and that, paired with the connection he's insistent upon establishing with the audience, keeps him at a friendly level of fame (if just beyond the grasp of the Claymates). The invitation to a young girl from the audience (with a mean set of pipes, I might add) to join him onstage for "Without You" reinforced his dedication to the fans.
Along with his signature hits, Clay performed covers from artists ranging from Mr. Mister to James Taylor. In fact, the opening number wasn't one of his own songs, but U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name." It's not the song I would have chosen as an opener, but it was a vocally flawless rendition, to say the least.
He closed with his biggest radio hit to date, "Invisible," then performed "Solitaire" as the encore. Good clean fun all the way around, this show stands out as one in the resurgence of family friendly entertainment productions.
While he's risen to new heights of success in the past year, something about Clay is gentle, and he remains a southern boy with perpetual bedhead, an insatiable hunger for good barbecue, and a charming grasp of and gratitude for his current lot in life. 9 stars for the show, and an extra one for that suave white suit!
Aug 26 04 9:29 PM
Quote:Review: A likable Clay Aiken brings freshness to the State Fair
Jon Bream, Star Tribune
August 27, 2004 AIKEN0827
Clay Aiken, "American Idol's" most enduring singing force, set two records Thursday night at the Minnesota State Fair:
â¢ He was the first grandstand headliner in fair history named after two counties in Minnesota.
â¢ He established a mark for the most tunes during which a big-name singer broke into laughter in mid-song -- three.
In all seriousness, Aiken set a standard for all idols -- American or just plain teen, performing with a freshness and enthusiasm that was so genuine that it made him so genuinely likable.
Aiken, 25, a former North Carolina special-ed teacher, was friendly, funny and spontaneous. Making his third local appearance in 13 months, he seemed much more comfortable onstage than in April at the Xcel Energy Center (the last show on his tour with "Idol" Kelly Clarkson) or in July 2003 (his first show ever, with the other finalists of the second season of "AI" ). This time, he commanded the stage, moving without awkwardness or self-consciousness (though he admits he can't dance), singing eye-to-eye with his backup singers and making eye contact with his fans. Most of all, he was having fun -- and so were the 6,873 grandstand-goers, most of them female.
When he brought a young woman from the audience onstage to duet with him on "Without You," Aiken was flying without a net. The overly excited woman said she flew in that morning from Arizona for the show and she wondered whether her sister could video the duet even though the security guards had banned video cameras.
"Is there anything else I can do?" Aiken asked. "Make a list. ..." A music business major at a community college, she held her own vocally, as a giggly Aiken gazed into her eyes as they sang.
After the bundle of energy exited, the heartthrob said: "She flew in from Phoenix. I don't think she used a plane."
The drummer forgot to hit a rim shot.
Aiken didn't miss a step during his 80-minute performance, except when he inexplicably burst into giggles during "I Survived You," one of his many big, serious ballads. His theatrical voice is well-suited to the kind of Broadway pop he favors (think Barry Manilow-meets-Michael Crawford with a hint of Art Garfunkel), but the material from his best-selling CD, "Measure of a Man," is unremarkable, save for his hits "Invisible" and "Solitaire."
His covers -- oldies by Toto, U2, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor, Mr. Mister, Orleans -- were more an exercise in karaoke than imaginative interpretation. And his rendition of the Christian praise song "You Were There" was a heavy-handed detour.
Nonetheless, Aiken had the star quality, stage craft and unstoppable charm to transcend his material and to suggest that he will have opportunities to establish more records at the state fair and elsewhere.
Jon Bream is at 612-673-1719 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Aug 27 04 9:26 AM
Quote:Posted on Fri, Aug. 27, 2004
Clay Aiken has unerring knack for selling a tune
BY ROSS RAIHALA
Clay Aiken wasn't about to let a little rain dampen his soft-rock party from kicking off the Minnesota State Fair Thursday night.
Between intermittent showers, the second-season "American Idol" runner-up belted out selections from his double-platinum debut "Measure of a Man" and well-chosen cover versions in front of a well-mannered, politely appreciative crowd of 6,873.
Barely a year into this whole showbiz thing and Aiken already possesses the assured demeanor of a seasoned veteran â when he opens his mouth to sing.
While not quite as technically adept as some of his "American Idol" co-stars, the 25-year-old has an unerring knack for selling a tune, whether it's one of the bloodlessly professional songs written for him ("I Survived You," "Perfect Day" ) or a light-rock radio staple like Toto's "Rosanna" or Mr. Mister's "Kyrie." This guy could sing the back of a milk carton and have the tweens melting in their miniskirts.
His banter between numbers, meanwhile, is Aiken's real secret weapon. He speaks in a sort of high-pitched, Southern squeal â punctuated by nasal giggles â that makes Aiken seem all the more, you know, normal. A major key to Aiken's success is approachability, or at least the illusion thereof, and he knows it.
Thus Aiken endlessly bantered with the audience between songs, telling lame jokes and chumming around with his bandmates and crew. Yet it all felt casual and genuine, rarely studied. His off-the-cuff responses to the overly excited young woman he pulled on stage for a quick duet even suggest a future in improv. To be sure, the kids ate up every word and even the most cynical audience members couldn't help but be at least occasionally charmed by the guy.
And if Aiken's chattiness wasn't enough, there were his eyes. Those eyes. Clearly the result of being a contestant on a televised talent show, Aiken was constantly aware every moment a camera was pointed in his general direction. And he worked it â flashing not so much bedroom eyes as perhaps family-room eyes.
See, another reason the squeaky clean Aiken has done so well is that he knows how to appeal to both young women and their moms. That's why he sang knockout versions of his own hits, like "This Is the Night" and "Invisible," while finding time to include such boomer-friendly diversions as a medley of James Taylor tunes. He even threw in a full-on contemporary Christian number, "You Were There," complete with a montage of biblical imagery that was far more Hallmark card than "The Passion of the Christ."
It's going to take a lot more than a cloudburst to stop this guy.
Aug 27 04 8:30 PM
Quote:Measure of a runner-up American Idol
Aiken bonds with crowd that already knows it loves him
By TIM CUPRISIN
Posted: Aug. 27, 2004
Clay Aiken was perfectly fine in his first Milwaukee concert appearance Friday night at the U.S. Cellular Arena.
The runner-up from the second season of Fox's "American Idol" had a good crowd for a 90-minute concert that benefited from a professional five-piece band and three powerful backup singers who filled the gaps in his understandably limited repertoire.
Aiken hasn't been performing long enough to do it alone, and he wisely let the singers take over, as in a set of James Taylor songs. He sang the lead on the opening song in the set, "Sweet Baby James," although his somewhat nasal voice didn't work well with the tune.
But it was the songs off his album that the enthusiastic audience came to hear, and they got good renditions of what they'll find on his CD, "Measure of a Man."
The 25-year-old Aiken was at his most effective and confident on "I Survived You" and the concert's climactic "Invisible," both off the album.
His lone encore number, "Solitaire," was an audience favorite as well. And his Christian song, "You Were There," complete with a dramatic video track on the screens at either side of the stage, momentarily created a revival atmosphere.
Aiken was substantially weaker in covers, like Toto's "Rosanna" and Orleans' "Still the One" and his opener, U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name."
Beyond the singing, Aiken bonded well with an audience that already loved him.
He was relaxed and conversational on stage and did a few bits that warmed up an already toasty crowd, including bringing one guy up to dance with a backup singer and getting a young woman from central Wisconsin - who showed where she was from by turning her hand into a map of Wisconsin - to sing a duet.
As for the crowd, there was the expected contingents of "Claymates," the tweens and teenage girls who got to know Aiken during his run on the second season of "American Idol." But there was also a sizable number of middle-aged women, showing that he's not necessarily the conventional pop idol that the show aims to create.
After 90 minutes of listening to Aiken, it's clear that he has a future in music, although it may not be as a pop star.
He has a personality and a stage presence - along with a singing style - that would serve him well on Broadway.
Right now, though, there's enough of an "American Idol" afterglow to keep him belting out pop tunes for at least a little while longer.
Aug 30 04 7:06 AM
Quote:To be honest, I went into the Clay Aiken concert Saturday at the Nutter Center not a huge fan. I hadn't caught the American Idol bug when it was going around, and I only knew the words to his single Invisible.
But after Saturday it is easier to understand the Aiken phenomenon: he was charming, had great interaction with his fans, and played music much better than expected.
Though his time on Idol is over, Aiken's career continues, and so does the support of his crazed fans, the "Claymates."
Claymates come in all shapes and sizes, and there were plenty of them. Nutter Center was nearly full. Fans from elementary-school-age children to retirees showed their frenzy for Aiken with signs on neon posters and handmade T-shirts. One group of three young women wore white T-shirts emblazoned with pictures of Aiken and the word "Yummylicious," and matching pink shorts with Aiken's pictures ironed on their backsides. Four women wore neon yellow shirts, with the letters C, L, A, and Y boldly on the front and back.
Aiken pointed out a man in the crowd whose shirt read, "My wife did not drag me here."
One woman held a sign that said she had bet $300 she could get a hug from the singer. In between songs, Aiken hopped off the stage with the help of some security guards, saying "they'll get me back up here somehow!" He walked into the crowd and hugged the elated woman.
His songs were good, too. His nearly two-hour set included his favorites as well as several covers of James Taylor songs.
But it was his interaction with the Claymates that made the evening special. Aiken brought a girl up on stage to be the "dance captain," and presented her with a lei when she left the stage. Next he brought up Megan, a girl about 12, who sang one of his songs, and he joined her in harmony. Before she left the stage, he posed with her for a picture for her mom, who was in the crowd on the floor.
The Claymates went wild from the time when the 24-year-old redhead walked out on stage. In jeans, a casually untucked red striped shirt and a red tie, Aiken flashed a huge smile at the roaring crowd. He was charming, and was definitely a crowd-pleaser.
Aiken sang the title track from his album, Measure of a Man, as well as Run to Me and I Survived You. A typical fan was 9-year-old Fallon Cooper of Centerville: she knew the names of all of the songs and sang along to each one from the stands. She was delighted when Aiken sang her favorite song, Perfect Day.
Aiken's band included two guitar players, a drummer, a keyboardist, and his three backup singers. Toward the end of his concert he sang The Night, "the song that started it all," and showed a video of the highlights of his growing career.
Lastly, he thanked his fans, and sang Invisible. Everyone was on their feet, singing along, and he encored with Solitaire. The Claymates roared as their beloved Aiken descended into the stage on a platform one final time.
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