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Mar 12 04 5:13 PM
Quote:One idol shines; another searches
Friday, March 12, 2004
FOR THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Idol worship was on display Wednesday night at Value City Arena when a force named Clay Aiken rolled into town to perform songs from his chart-topping debut album, Measure of a Man.
Females from toddlers to middle-aged mothers sported Aiken T-shirts, painted his name across their faces and carried banners with pictures of the American Idol runner-up turned international phenomenon.
When he walked through aisles of admirers to the stage, an initial hush preceded eardrum-piercing screams that continued throughout the evening.
Kelly Clarkson was there, too: She performed before Aiken and after a bland set from a Disney-friendly opening act, the Beu Sisters. Clarkson has come into her own musically since winning the first American Idol competition, finding a hybrid of pop and rhythm and blues that works nicely with her soulful voice. But her tame reception, compared with Aikens Beatle-esque treatment, must have left her wondering, and rightfully so, "Where is the love?"
Clarkson emerged wearing torn bluejeans, a black T-shirt and a ponytail. The acoustic guitar strapped to her shoulder was a pleasant surprise and she strummed it ably during several songs.
Clearly determined to pre-empt any diva image, she kicked off her shoes, flashed a winning smile and peppered her chatter with familiarities such as "Whats goin on, yall!"
Clarkson sang most of the songs on her album, Thankful, but the highlight came when she propped herself on the piano and sang an acoustic version of Beautiful Disaster, followed by a rousing cover of the Jay Livingston/Ray Evans scat tune Stuff Like That There.
Aiken began his set in a mismatched blazer, green polo shirt and blue cargo pants, his indefinable but undeniable allure causing teen girls and their mothers (and even their grandmothers) to swoon.
Unfortunately, the uninspired, forgettable songs that make up Measure of a Man are nothing to swoon over, not that it mattered.
Perfect Day, No More Sad Songs and I Survived You were pleasant enough, but, when he sang about picking up a girl in a bar (When You Say You Love Me) or declared his love through trite metaphors (crescent moons and shooting stars on Shine), it rang false, contradicting his geek-next-door charm.
The worst moment occurred when Aiken broke into a sedated version of Princes When Doves Cry, then proceeded to bump and grind (giggling awkwardly all the while) with a female backup singer.
At moments he shone, as during his singles This Is the Night and Invisible. He turned on the charm by inviting a lucky teen from the audience to join him in a song, later promising a girl he would find a special place for the teddy bear she handed him.
Unlike Clarkson, who has found a comfortable niche in pop music by staying true to herself, Aiken seemed torn between two personalities: the familiar boy next door with a powerhouse voice and the new teen heartthrob.
If hes wise, hell ditch the uncomfortable sex-symbol act and concentrate on his voice, a gift that can make even the most insipid pop song a tolerable listen.
As Idol judge Randy Jackson might say, "Sorry, dawg, but I just wasnt feeling it. It was just all right."
Mar 12 04 9:49 PM
Quote:Clay Aiken works his way into heart of "Idol" Audience
By Doug Pullen
Journal Entertainment Writer
The Flint Journal 03/12/2004
Detroit--Like that car rental company used to say, you try harder when you're No.2. Clay Aiken, last year's "American Idol" runner-up, has made success look pretty easy. His solo career has eclipsed that of that big ol' teddy bear Ruben Studdard, who won the 2003 competition and he has pretty much established himself as The Favorite of all of the American Idol stars who have emerged from the TV talent show. That includes Kelly Clarkson who was crowned the first AI in 2002.
The two talented young singers now are traveling together on the Independent Tour. If Aiken's easygoing charms, honey-sweetened tenor
and obvious popularity with the mostly female crowd were any indication, he doesn't have to play second fiddle to anyone anymore. Of course, he did last night by the Beu sisters,whose generic girl pop wasn't any more distinguishable than their pleasant but average voices, and before Clarkson, whose impressive pipes couldn't quite compensate for her utter lack of stage presence or charisma Thursday night. Clarkson acted like she couldn't wait to get her 50-minute show over with.
Who could blame her? Aiken is a tough act to folow, and it was obvious that the mostl female crowd, which ranged from little girls to their grandmas, was mostly there to see him. The ratio of handmade Aiken shirts, signs and memorabilia (including an older woman's bib that read, "Clay makes me drool" ) out numbered Clarkson's 5 to1, suggesting the cult of Clay is in full swing. That's not say Clarkson's time has passed. It's just that Aiken's time has come.
He opened his 65-minute performance by walking and singing his way through the crowd, reminder that he was one of us until a year ago.When he wasn't emoting on a series of insprational ballads that just might make him the Steve Perry of the new century Aiken often interacted with the crowd. He breezed into the barricade between the crowd a couple of times, stopping to shake hands and sign autographs. He called up a female fan to dance with him on a version of Princes "When Doves Cry" and plucked cellphones out of the crowd to talk to fans in Illinois and Louisiana.
Aiken, also sang beautifully, drawning from songs on his solo debut, "Measure of a Man," that play to his vocal strengths more effectively than Clarkson's generic-sounding debut did. He didn't sing "Bridge over Troubled Water," but he did a soaring version of "I Will Carry You" and his first hit, "Invisible" the had the crowd in his palms.
Forgot to put this in.....
The "Idol" machinery has transformed the self-described geek into a natural, wholesome entertainer who obviously appreciates what's happened to him over the past year---like selling 3 million copies of his first album, seeing his face plastered all over magazines and MTV and co-headlining a major arena tour.
I left out some things on Kelly and alittle on the Beu sisters. Long article!
He is not a critic but an entertainment writer But he is a man and he
Mar 16 04 6:21 PM
Quote:Arriving at the Nassau Coliseum on March 4th, clutching my front row tickets with bated breath, I stood outside, in the cold. This was no barrier to the legions of Claymates screaming and chatting like old college buddies, but since that very moment, one girl made sure this concert was HER concert. Young, maybe 14 at most, running up and down the throngs of people, urging them to get pumped for the concert, her concert. The cold was obviously hindering her success, but the nearby radio station lent her a hand, and gave her a mic. This helped. They also put on Clay's hit single, Invisible, and the crowd began to breathe in the excitement that hung in the air. The opening act for the main attraction(s?), The Beu Sisters, gave a quick outdoor performance, and the young girl eagerly spoke to them, as they stood astounded by her enthusiasm for the man we call Clay Aiken.
Then of course, we must enter the building, a mere hour later from the mini pep rally, and I take my seat, jaw dropping in awe of how close I would be. I'll act my shoe size for a second. "OH MY GOD I'M GOING TO BE LIKE SO CLOSE TO LIKE CLAY AND KELLY!" Ignore my outburst; I'm not like this most of the time. Honestly. I swear. Okay, maybe I am, but I'm NOT alone. I was surrounded by people wearing "Bubel-Aiken" T-Shirts, and toting signs proclaiming undying love for Clay. These people were normal, as far as they were concerned, and they were ready for a good ole time. The aforementioned girl sat clutching a sign of her own. One that pleaded, "Hug Me Clay!" Oh how I wish I could be so lucky.
As soon as Clay walked out, and finished the first song (A marvelous cover of "Kyrie" ) he moved right into Perfect Day. From about 2 minutes into the song, it was clear the concert belonged, not to the legions of fans, but to the young girl clutching her sign. Clay took notice, and BOY OH BOY when Clay takes notice, HE REALLY takes notice. For a good portion of Perfect Day Clay wrapped his slender arms around her leather clad sleeves, stared at her lovingly, and sang to her. I admit, I was jealous. Really, really, really jealous. All through the concert he would banter with her, and she'd say "I love you Clay" he'd giggle and playfully respond "I love you too darling!", and this girl would darn near melt. During When You Say You Love Me, Clay made it ABUNDANTLY clear than the young girl (I later learned her name, but I will not put it to protect her privacy) was the star of the show. He strode offstage with confidence, and pulled her into a close embrace. I heard him whisper something in her ear, but I didn't catch what. Ooh boy, jealousy meter? OUT the window, over the roof, into the sky.
He actually did SING too. Reeling us in with an ear-delicious cover of "Kyrie." Somewhere in the middle was Fields of Gold, which was magnificent, and his voice did shine in acoustics. This song roused a cry from the girl I have spoken about "CLAY YOUR HAIR'S A FIELD OF GOLD." Clever. Too clever. Can I have your brain... please?
He wrapped up the concert with Open Arms a slower duet with soulful Kelly Clarkson, and winked and waved one last time at the adolescent child, now drowning in hormone filled lust. She was a celebrity, as she walked out, people tried to hug her, they spoke to her. They knew her. She was the enthusiastic, spirited, pep-rally girl who hugged Clay. Clay knew her, we all knew her. And at the end of this article? I'm not so much jealous, because I bet she had the time of her life, and then some.
Some may wonder, why write an article focused on an unknown person, who happened to have a great concert. Because she was singled out there, and I want to make sure everyone knows Clay CARES about his fans. He saw this girl yearning to clutch him, he delivered. That is his genius, he can make us be insanely jealous, yet drool over the compassion he uses to induce such jealousy. He can simply touch his stomach, or began singing in a low growl erupting from the pit of his stomach, and induce hormone laced shrieks. To change around something Paula said to Ruben Studdard... this is the Church of Clay, and MAN do I believe!
Mar 17 04 12:00 PM
Quote:Clays getting more used to the stardom
Aiken and Clarkson
Excited Twin City crowd on Saturday
By Charity Apple
March 16, 2004
WINSTON-SALEM Two vocal powerhouses gave a sold-out crowd at Winston-Salems Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum something to shout about Saturday night.
Thats when American Idol alums Kelly Clarkson and Clay Aiken performed their Independent tour, its third stop in North Carolina. The other two were in Charlotte and Raleigh, Aikens hometown, on Feb. 24 and March 1, respectively.
This venue may be smaller than the other two but the enthusiasm was still outrageous. Middle-aged women wore homemade shirts with Aikens picture plastered all over them. And teenage girls were out in full force some had home-made T-shirts that said things like Ill do anything to get backstage or the 10 things we love about Kelly.
Others carried signs with the words I Love Clay or requests like Clay, bring us backstage.
One woman seated on the floor even had a sign for every song that Aiken sang, as he soon found out when he asked her to present them.
All right, do you know what Im singing next?, he asked her. If you pick the correct one, you can come backstage. The woman began shuffling through the stack and enlisting others opinions for help. Dont cheat now! Aiken screamed in his Southern drawl. Now all yall that have seen the show 15 times cant help her. When the woman responded, When You Say You Love Me, Aiken asked if she got help. You did? Well, I tell you what you get to come backstage anyway, for being honest, he added.
Aiken certainly made her day. The woman continued to scream as Aiken went on to introduce his mother, who was seated in the front row.
Everybody say hey to my Mama. Aiken said.
The last time I saw Aiken in concert, (RBC Center last year) his mother was seated in the nosebleed section, so Im glad that she got a good close look at her baby boy.
Well, that is until Aiken performed Princes When Doves Cry. The song involved some gyrating against a background singer Aiken didnt seem uncomfortable until the song ended. Its just not right, really. He said, laughing. There are people in the audience that have known me since I was 6 years old.
The audience just laughted along with the moment hearing Clay sing (and talk) was like visiting with an old friend. He performed a number of songs off the Measure Of A Man album, including the title hit, Invisible and The Way, which is due to come out as a single today. And he did a great rendition of James Taylors Carolina In My Mind.
Clarkson was equally as good on vocals. Her songs Thankful, complete with video of family and friends and Beautiful Disaster were simply amazing. She looks like a young Sheryl Crow up there on guitar.
But it wouldve been better if shed just left the talking to Aiken. During the entire show, she introduced each song by saying things like and this song is and this song is about She could take some lessons from Aiken when it comes to how to deal with the audience.
His presence is polished and comfortable. He didnt mind singing into someones cell phone and then saying, Who am I talking to? I cant hear youits loud herebut Ill sing to you anyway. By the way, my name is Clay Aiken.
Aiken has come a long way since his American Idol auditions; he got voted off the first time but came back as a wild card. Gone is the eye twitching that he did in Idol auditions. And he no longer resembles Opie Taylor, well, except when he smiles (but thats OK).
Its still difficult to imagine this Raleigh boy as a star, but as I drove out of the coliseum Saturday night, 50 people were crowding around the gate, hoping to catch a glimpse of him (and Kelly). Hes made the big time, but he hasnt lost that hometown appeal.
Mar 20 04 12:54 AM
Quote:Dallas News Concert Review
By DARLA ATLAS / The Dallas Morning News
GRAND PRAIRIE There's no better place to be barefoot than when you're at home.
Burleson native Kelly Clarkson opted to stay shoeless during most of her concert Friday night at Nokia Live, at which fellow American Idol alum Clay Aiken was her co-headliner. While the barefoot thing is her trait on this tour, she seemed especially relaxed and happy to see familiar faces in the audience.
"My friends are in the crowd everybody give it up for my friends," she said, pointing them out, then adding, "They're screaming for themselves. That's not cool."
Ms. Clarkson started with her single "Low," showing off her newly acquired guitar skills.
In contrast to Mr. Aiken's ballad-heavy performance, her show had an R&B feel, featuring more up-tempo songs heavy on bass. On "You Thought Wrong," a duet from her Thankful CD with fellow Idol contestant Tamyra Gray, the audience was treated to a surprise when Ms. Gray showed up to sing along. (At least one other contestant from their season was in attendance; Grand Prairie resident Nikki McKibbin was spotted before the show.)
But Ms. Clarkson sounded best in the slower songs that were all about her still-stunning voice. "Beautiful Disaster," accompanied only by piano, was a hit with the fans, who expressed their affection loudly.
Her biggest crowd pleaser was "Miss Independent," performed with a little extra oomph, as well as the closing number of the show, "Open Arms," a duet with Mr. Aiken.
While Ms. Clarkson had love from the audience, Mr. Aiken had downright adoration. Coming out from a side door singing Mr. Mister's "Kyrie," the crowd was on its feet from that point on as he sang songs from his triple-platinum Measure of a Man.
Remember that goofball version of Mr. Aiken from Idol the one who sang "Grease" wearing a red-leather jacket while displaying an appalling lack of rhythm? He's gone, replaced by an ultra-confident, laid-back, rhythmically competent, bedroom-eyed hunk. It's official: Clay is sexy.
But he's still the same non-threatening boy inside; Mr. Aiken continued to win over the audience by chatting with the fans in the front row, at one point taking a cellphone from someone and talking to the woman on the other end.
Like Ms. Clarkson, he also impressed with his crystal-clear voice. When he sang "Invisible," he had the crowd jumping along with him on the beat (again, let it be known that he now has rhythm). They then swooned during his ballads, including his new single, "The Way."
After performing an acoustic medley of classics such as "Carolina in My Mind" and "Fields of Gold," Mr. Aiken tackled an ultra-slow version of Prince's "When Doves Cry," before bringing it up to normal tempo. It was a risky move, but he pulled it off.
Mar 20 04 10:20 AM
Quote:GRAND PRAIRIE - It's about time that mothers and daughters were able to find a boy they can agree on. Judging from the full house at Nokia Live on Friday night, that time has come, and that boy is the wholesome Southerner Clay Aiken.
Aiken is paired on this tour with Burleson's own Kelly Clarkson, the winner of American Idol Season 1. But by the sound of things, the audience, many of them mother-daughter pairs, came to see Aiken, who finished second in Season 2.
Aiken's set, which included standard renditions of his two MTV-adored singles Invisible and The Way, was spare, featuring a trio of backup singers and a band that let his voice do most of the work. He didn't stray far from his debut album, the triple-platinum Measure of a Man.
An acoustic medley spotlighted the album's title track, James Taylor's Carolina in My Mind, and Prince's When Doves Cry.
That last number was a little feistier than we're used to from white-bread Clay, but he pulled it off as much as a nice Southern gentleman can pull off Prince.
Clarkson's set was less successful. She seldom engaged with the audience, and when she did it was to let them in on meaningless tidbits ("I'm not wearing shoes, y'all!" ) . The voice that won Clarkson America's first Idol title was in fine form, but it was drowned out by too much bass.
The highlight of Clarkson's set was her duet with surprise guest Tamayra Gray, the third-place finisher in AI's first season. Gray and Clarkson made believable the jazzy, soulful sound Clarkson seemed to be going for all along. Their duet and Clarkson's rendition of Stuff Like That There, the song that got her noticed by America -- and acidic judge Simon Cowell -- made Clarkson's set much stronger and overrode the poor acoustics.
Mar 22 04 12:20 PM
By Barry Gilbert
Of the Post-Dispatch
Kelly Clarkson and Clay Aiken successfully transferred their megaselling debut CDs to the concert stage at Savvis Center on Sunday night and, judging by the reaction of their adoring fans, they are anything but false idols, at least for now.
Clarkson, the 2002 "American Idol" winner, and Aiken, the 2003 runner-up, each performed for about an hour before a crowd ranging from the very young to the not-so-young - and including lots of moms and daughters. It was Clarkson's turn to go on first, and she hit the stage in hip-hugger jeans and an orange T-shirt reading "Dirrrty South," strumming a guitar to the opening of "Low" from the "Thankful" CD as the spotlight found her.
A highlight of the early part of her set came when she sat up on the piano for a reworked and effective version of "Beautiful Disaster," followed by the jazzy "Stuff Like That There," the song that introduced her to the audience and judges on "American Idol."
After a costume change to black top and black fedora, the Texan sang the only unexpected tune of her set, a hard-charging take on Reba McEntire's "Why Haven't I Heard From You."
She finally got the crowd to its feet - by invitation - midway through her set and closed with a rousing "Miss Independence."
Clarkson is the more musically adventurous of the two, and although she seemed totally at ease and in control during songs, she was oddly self-conscious and giggly during between-song patter.
Aiken, in contrast, is a natural entertainer. He entered the arena from the back, singing Mr. Mister's '80s hit "Kyrie" - the first but not the last unusual song selection for the North Carolina native.
And it was clear whom the crowd really had come to hear. They were on their feet from the opening note as he sold the music from his "Measure of a Man" CD.
With self-effacing humor, some simple but playful dance steps and a boatload of personality, Aiken cherry-picked his CD - "Perfect Day," "I Will Carry You," "No More Sad Songs," "Invisible" - and included a birthday sing-along for a fan and a cell-phone call to another fan's kin in Toronto.
Later, a medley began with the CD title song and veered into cover territory: Sting's "Fields of Gold," Leo Sayer's "When I Need You," James Taylor's pre-"Sweet Baby James" tune "Carolina in My Mind" and, of all things, Prince's "When Doves Cry." It was a welcome detour into other textures and tempos.
Aiken closed with "The Way" and returned almost immediately with Clarkson for a duet on Journey's "Open Arms." And then it was over. No phony encores, but no extended bows and thank-yous, either. The house lights simply came on - to some grumbling from the audience.
Reporter Barry Gilbert
Mar 23 04 8:26 AM
Humility and charisma distinguish 'Idol' Aiken
By Joshua Klein
Special to the Tribune
"American Idol" judge Simon Cowell has a seemingly endless supply of snarky quips and wry putdowns, but there's one dismissal that crops up in his critiques more often than others. "You've got talent," he generally begins, before dropping the ax. "But we're looking for a star."
Yet if there's one thing the talent show "American Idol" has evinced it's that stardom isn't quite as simple as braving the ire of hack judges and winning a call-in contest. It takes personality, and that's something that can't be bestowed like a crown or champion belt. The U.S. version of the British show is well into it's third season and has only produced one real star: Clay Aikenand he was the second season runner-up who survived an early dismissal by winning a wild-card round.
Surely those behind the "American Idol" franchise recognize Aiken's underdog appeal, which is why they've sent him out on the road with fading season one winner Kelly Clarkson, who clearly has more to gain from the joint outing. The two have been swapping the headliner slot, and at a mostly filled United Center on Monday night it was Aiken's turn to start the evening.
Throughout his rapid ascent from geeky nobody to something akin to a real pop idol, Aiken has retained his aw-shucks demeanor and good attitude, reacting to his fluke fame with just the right degree of humility. Aiken was confident but still endearingly awkward, just what you would expect from someone talented enough to make the most of a lucky break.
Opening with Mister Mister's "Kyrie," which Aiken began while emerging dramatically from the back of the arena, Aiken breezed through the middle of the road material from his hit record "Measure of a Man," but it was the details and asides that set his performance apart from many of his "Idol" peers.
For starters, Aiken acknowledged his clunky Chicago debut, during the last "American Idol" tour, which was rife with technical problems and long delays. He laughed whenever he frequently flubbed what few rudimentary dance moves he attempted, and even made light of forgetting the lyrics to a few songs. "You know I'm not lip-syncing when I don't know the words," he said in the middle of a brief acoustic set, which found him covering James Taylor's "Carolina in my Mind" and Sting's "Fields of Gold."
Aiken was less comfortable with Prince's "When Doves Cry" than he was performing his own custom made "Perfect Day" or "Invisible," but he was rarely less than charming. He even survived a right of passage endured by all (male) pop idols: ducking teddy bears one second and underwear the next.
Clarkson performed to a noticeably deflated arena, about what one might expect given the overwhelming number of Aiken fans. Clarkson has a powerful set of pipes, but she lacks Aiken's personality, and her songs felt numb with anonymity.
Her singing was shrill and frantic, frequently overshadowed by the background vocalists, and she seems to have taken all the wrong advice from those more interested in demographics than songcraft. The only thing that unified songs like the piano ballad "Beautiful Disaster," the bombastic "A Moment Like This," the streetwise "Bounce," and Reba McEntire's "Why Haven't I Heard From You" was a distracting dedication to oversinging. "Is anyone else tired?" she said, panting, after trying to out-Christina Christina with the Aguilera-penned "Miss Independent."
It was a relief, then, when Aiken returned, duetting with Clarkson on Journey's "Open Arms." Suddenly the crowd was energized, and Clarkson kept in check. Aiken, of course, looked as low-key as usual. Stardom may take a lot of work, but real stars make it look easy.
Mar 24 04 8:38 AM
The Kelly Clarkson/Clay Aiken concert Monday night at the United Center was exactly what you would expect from a pair of winners -- well, one winner and a runner-up -- from "American Idol." It was sweet, earnest and well rehearsed, but not particularly memorable.
While it's clear that each performer has a strong set of pipes, neither has toured enough to put on a truly exhilarating live show. You can sit home and listen to their CDs and pretty much get the same experience.
The two idols have been taking turns closing the show, and on this night it was Aiken who opened for Clarkson -- the first winner of Fox's singing contest. With his shock of red hair and big smile, it was hard not to warm up to Aiken, who happily cackled at his own jokes and make fun of his onstage clumsiness.
Like Clarkson, he hit enough sour notes to prove he was singing live. Performing cuts from his debut album, "Measure of a Man," Aiken relied on a ballad-heavy set that included "Invisible," "Perfect Day" and the title track.
His selection of covers was curious. He opened the show with Mr. Mister's hideous "Kyrie." The boy from North Carolina redeemed himself with a touching rendition of James Taylor's "Carolina in My Mind." And he got the parents in the audience swaying to Leo Sayer's sappy "When I Need You."
Many of the kids in the audience were too young to realize these weren't Aiken originals. Others were just confused. When he launched into "Fields of Gold," two teenage girls sitting behind me didn't recognize it as a Sting original, but rather as the background music to one of Michelle Kwan's figure skating routines.
Aiken is a likable performer who would have benefitted from adding some more rock 'n' roll into his set. He gave it a nice shot with Prince's "When Doves Cry," but when the performer is mocking his own performance, it's difficult for the audience to take it seriously.
When Clarkson's five-piece backup band and trio of singers -- including fellow "Idol" contestant Kiana Parlor -- walked onstage, it took a second to realize it was the same group of musicians that had just backed up Aiken. Except now they were clad in black, rather than white.
Clarkson distinguished her set from Aiken's by forgoing a pop princess getup. Performing barefoot on the carpeted stage, she wore a pair of tattered jeans and a black tank top. She looked a little, well, drrrty.
But when she opened her mouth, the angelic voice that drove "A Moment Like This" to the top of the charts identified her as a good girl attempting to play bad ... which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
With songs like "Beautiful Disaster," Clarkson displayed a tranquil calm. Covering Reba McEntire's "Why Haven't I Heard From You," she showed vocal versatility.
It was only when she traded verses with the amazing Parlor that it was clear that the best singer doesn't always win the contest.
Mar 25 04 12:59 AM
Quote:Review: Sound system drowns Kelly's, Clay's talent
BY JAN DEKNOCK
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER
Kelly Clarkson and Clay Aiken are both exceptionally talented singers.
That comes as no surprise to the millions of TV viewers who voted for them during the talent series "American Idol" - Clarkson was the winner in 2002 and Aiken was the runner-up last year - or to the thousands of fans who cheered them on during Wednesday night's concert at the Omaha Arena.
Too bad, then, that the sound was cranked up so loud during most of the show that the quality of their voices was all but obliterated.
So much bass that the seats literally shook, especially during Clarkson's set.
So much over-miking that some of Aiken's crystal-clear high notes were made to sound as if he were singing on helium.
Nonetheless, the audience had a great time, waving countless signs, tossing stuffed animals at Clarkson and offering a bouquet of flowers to Aiken in exchange for an autograph.
Clarkson took the stage first - as co-headliners, she and Aiken have been alternating in the final star slot - and showed that as a performer, she much prefers her rock roots to the pop songs of "American Idol."
But her voice shone brightest during her set's quieter moments. Highlights included the title song of her debut CD, "Thankful," which she wrote in gratitude to family, friends and fans; and a soulful, scaled-down version of the torch ballad "Beautiful Disaster."
After a short intermission, it was Aiken's turn to charm the crowd. And although this is his first concert tour as a solo star, he made his appearance in true rock-star style - by entering from the back of the arena and singing the dramatic strains of Mr. Mister's rock anthem "Kyrie" as he and his bodyguards made their way to the stage.
During his set, Aiken performed many of the pop songs from his debut album, "Measure of a Man," but also offered an appealing mix of other material.
Most effective was an acoustic medley that included a wistful "Fields of Gold," a sentimental "Carolina in My Mind" and a soulful "When Doves Cry," which started as a soulful hymn and ended as a G-rated dance groove.
Opening the show was a quartet of appealing Florida singers, the Beu Sisters, who showed off fine harmonies and a number of appealing pop songs, most of which the siblings wrote themselves.
And because most of the time they sang a cappella or were accompanied by a single guitar, you could actually hear their voices.
That's something that would have paid off for the stars.
Mar 31 04 10:38 AM
Quote:Aiken, Clarkson wow fans at Delta Center
Date March 29, 2004
THE DAILY HERALD
All the Clay-mates were out in force at the Delta Center on Friday night to see "American Idol" talents Clay Aiken and Kelly Clarkson.
Ironically called the "Independent" tour, the two power singers joined forces for their 30 dates nationwide.
Aiken, the runner-up of last season of "American Idol," gave a shout-out to Utah's Carmen Rasmusen, who was in the audience, during his charming hourlong set.
Dressed casually in a loose shirt and tie, Aiken recognized his fans -- many toting signs saying "I love you Clay" -- with charm and confidence.
While most of the songs were from his current album, "Measure of a Man," a collection of cover songs -- among them James Taylor's "Carolina In My Mind," Sting's "Fields of Gold" -- let him do what he does best: showcase his voice.
An interesting turn from the usual borderline Christian Rock-type music was a cover of Prince's "When Dove's Cry." And it appeared Aiken was channeling a bit of Prince's energy with the onstage moves with one of the backup singers.
But Aiken's fun personality made the show entertaining, and not just a music recital by a guy with a good voice.
Clarkson, the first "American Idol" winner, took to the stage in ripped jeans and bare feet, and spent most of her 45 minutes skipping while she worked. Her set was filled with more dramatic lighting and more dance-style music than Aiken, which was a nice contrast in a concert with two headliners.
At one point, a giant disco ball dropped slow-spinning twinkling lights around the entire arena, making it feel like a big school dance.
And when Aiken joined Clarkson for a duet of "Open Arms" by Journey, the crowd went wild, and it was difficult much of the time to hear the singers over the screaming pre-teen girls.
We already knew Aiken could sing -- but his showmanship is coming along nicely.
Mar 31 04 10:57 AM
Quote:Clay Aiken high note of show
Kelly Clarkson sings well but without spark
By Scott Iwasaki
Deseret Morning News
KELLY CLARKSON, CLAY AIKEN, BEU SISTERS, Delta Center, Friday.
Clay Aiken began his Delta Center set Friday with Mr. Mister's "Kyrie."
Michael Brandy, Deseret Morning News
If Kelly Clarkson and Clay Aiken were competing on "American Idol," Clarkson would have been cut after Friday's performance.
Not that Clarkson's voice was bad. It wasn't. She sang well. Her set just felt empty. She lacked personality.
Aiken, on the other hand, was full of charm, and he connected with the audience. In fact, he started his set in the audience.
Aiken made his entrance at the back of the Nu Skin Theatre in the Delta Center during his version of Mr. Mister's "Kyrie."
Smartly dressed in an untucked blue shirt, blue neck tie and khaki slacks, Aiken greeted his fans with his boyish smile and slid into "Perfect Day."
At one point, he grabbed a mobile phone from one of his fans and spoke with her friend in Tampa, Fla.: "I've got a song for you, but the phone is not working."
With that, he serenaded the audience with "When You Say You Love Me." "Invisible" and "I Survived You" were also sung with heartfelt sincerely.
Then the band and the three backup singers played an acoustic set, featuring the title track from Aiken's album "Measure of a Man," as well as Sting's hit "Fields of Gold," Leo Sayer's "When I Need You" and James Taylor's "Carolina in My Mind." Another remake, Prince's "When Doves Cry," along with Aiken's trademark single "The Way," wrapped the set.
Clarkson didn't reach Aiken's energy level. While her voice was strong on songs such as the folk-rock "Low," the rhythm & blues bump of "What's Up Lonely" and the soulful "The Trouble With Love Is" had Clarkson just going through the motions.
She kept asking if the crowd was having a good time, but she always seemed in a rush to get on with the next song.
"Just Missed the Train" and Reba McEntire's "Why Haven't I Heard from You" were high vocal-energy works and a piano/vocal version of "Beautiful Disaster" sounded great in the mix. But her personality was flat. And her chunky wardrobe, complete with stiletto heels, was a bit much.
The loudest audience response during Clarkson's set came when Aiken joined her for Journey's "Open Arms."
New vocal quartet the Beu Sisters opened the show. Accompanied by a lone guitarist, the sisters sang smooth harmonies. Their set included the dreamy "You Make Me Feel Like a Star" "Any Time You Need a Friend" from Disney's "Home on the Range," and the sassy "Stop! Stay Away From My Sister."
Apr 2 04 8:21 AM
Review: Clay Aiken's all the craze at Arco in 'Idol' lovefest
By Will Evans -- Bee Staff Writer
The Clay Nation was aching for Aiken - whatever. The usual puns aside, people love Clay Aiken.
Love is a strong word. And yet it is not too strong for one 14-year-old Sacramentan, chewing bubble gum around her braces as she waited in Arco Arena Wednesday night for the tour stop of "American Idol" stars Clay Aiken and Kelly Clarkson.
"I just have a weird obsession with him," Megan Owen explained. She and her friend were wearing red T-shirts that they had turned into symbols of devotion by writing "Clay's Lifeguard" in puffy paint. (You see, he's afraid of the water. And they know that.)
"I mean," she said, "I'm in love with him."
And so even before the singing, and certainly during, it was Aiken's show. Clarkson was just someone who won a TV show contest a couple of years ago and came on to warm up the crowd.
Clarkson would start a song in a promising way, with only a guitar or light band background to compete with, so she could highlight her voice. But in song after song, after the intro they'd jam in a heavy, noisy background and drown her out for the remainder.
She just couldn't be heard clearly over the clutter of three backup singers, two guitarists, a keyboardist and a drummer who was especially too loud. With her words sounding garbled, all we got was the feeling that she was singing, along with her vocal flourishes - which she does just fine - here and there.
With "American Idol" stars, we don't care about the bands - it's the singer's voice that got us here. And Clarkson missed the chance to show us why she won.
Her two female backup singers became a refreshing contrast - with more energy, punctuation of their phrases and projection of their voices. Even on "Miss Independent," Clarkson's funkiest and catchiest song of the evening, the sparks came from the backup singers.
She was best at the end of the show, singing "Open Arms" in a duet with Aiken, as their voices clicked and squiggled up and down and all over. Overall, though, she just didn't come off like a star. But then, many in the audience didn't come to see her, anyway.
Debbie Wood, 55, and Helene Sasser, 67, drove to Arco from Reno for Aiken. The sisters, both mortgage bankers, both wearing black outfits and hoop earrings, shook their heads in wonderment at Aiken. Sasser clutched her hands to her head every once in a while like an overwhelmed teenage fan. Their 88-year-old mother, a fan who couldn't make the trip, got a CD player for the first time just to hear Aiken's album.
"He's the new Sinatra, he's the new superstar," Wood said. "I think this is history in the making, right here."
Aiken's entrance was pure pop star. He came in from the back of the arena, walking down from the upper levels of Arco - singing and beaming, the near-capacity crowd on its feet, fans bouncing around him, security guards with arms hovering, the screaming unleashed like you just took out your earplugs. Through the rest of the night it sounded as though a thousand small screaming creatures had been uncaged. Clay was on.
Aiken has developed a quirky, fun performance style, built around his dorky but warm smile, the jerky movements of his lanky body and the spurts of dance moves that look silly and cute at the same time.
And in contrast to Clarkson, Aiken's songs showcase his voice. Sure, he often sounds quite Broadway, as Simon Cowell, the nasty "Idol" judge put it. But that's what the fans apparently like, and it's a quality that allows him to enunciate his words and sing with contrast, important in such a large venue. He also benefited from having catchier material than Clarkson, songs such as "The Way," "No More Sad Songs" and "Invisible."
Aiken picked out a sign in the audience that read, "We dropped 13,000 feet for you," held by a woman who sky-dived that morning. "But you did that for you," he said, "and because you're obviously crazy."
"We fell for you," she yelled in response, upon which Aiken called her over to the side of the stage and crooned "When You Say You Love Me" directly to her. She put out her hand, and he took it. She swooned, her eyes popping. The act seemed to make the rest of the audience jealous and way too vicariously excited.
Likewise, there was a palpable shock when the innocent Aiken delivered a pelvic thrust when dancing with a backup singer during a cover of Prince's "When Doves Cry."
Not that Aiken doesn't have sex appeal. Take the homemade T-shirt of Jessica Fat, 16. The back of her shirt professed her desire to have intimate relations with the singer.
But her 15-year-old friend quickly added: "Not before marriage."
To Aiken, presumably. Such devotion.
Apr 3 04 8:26 AM
Quote:Arizona's chapter of "Claymates" was out in full force Friday night to witness 'American Idol' season two runner-up, and unlikely sex symbol, Clay Aiken deliver a wholesome, charming and most importantly, vocally impressive set.
It's hard to tell how or when Aiken, who is on tour with 'AI' season one winner Kelly Clarkson, transformed from a geeky 'AI' contestant to a full-fledged pop phenomenon, but for those in attendance at Glendale Arena the message was repeatedly said loud and clear ... "We love you Clay!"
From toddlers to grandmas and grandpas, the crowd went into a frenzy as Aiken opened the show entering from the back of the arena with a cover of Mister Mister's "Kryie."
Based on the scream factor alone, the night clearly belonged to Aiken who opened the co-headling show. Aiken played up his awkwardness to just the right degree. While he did his best to try to execute a few dance moves, he relied mostly on what got him to the point of having thousands of adoring fans ... his voice.
Aiken's range is impressive to say the least. He effortlessly cruised through his hour-long set which included fan favorites Invisible, The Way and I Will Carry You from his debut album, Measure of A Man. The teacher-turned-pop idol served up a short acoustic set that featured stellar renditions of James Taylor's "Carolina On My Mind" and Sting's "Fields of Gold."
The singer could do no wrong in the eye's of his fans, many of whom brought handmade signs that read anything from "Clay Nation" to "Claymates" to "Save a marriage - give my wife a hug." Yes, Aiken did his part to save the doomed union.
His one, two punch of a power packed voice and quirky demeanor are no doubt why fans have jumped on the Clay train and no one in the crowd wanted to get off.
A cover of Prince's "When Doves Cry" was Aiken's only misstep of the night. While his vocals were in step, the awkward production featured the goofy singer bumping and grinding with a backup singer. It was a little too suggestive for the innocent, "aw shucks" appeal of the singer.
That little incident aside, the 'AI' stars' stop in the Valley served as a safe haven for parents who wanted to take the family out for a night of good, clean fun.
Clarkson opened with "Low," off of her debut album Thankful. The tune which is reminiscent of a Sheryl Crow rocker sounded great live. The Texan's voice has a soulfulness and depth far beyond her 21 years.
A funky remix of Clarkson's new single "The Trouble With Love Is," was received well by the crowd, many of whom danced and sang along.
While Aiken got the loudest screams, Clarkson got more fans off their feet during her set which featured a mix of rock, pop, soul and even a big band number. The personable singer frequently exchanged banter with the crowd and even spent a good amount of time signing autographs at the end of the stage.
Bouncing, dancing and at times, banging her head as she sang, Clarkson truly seemed to be having the time of her life during her set. Stand out numbers included "Miss Independent" and "Stuff Like That There." 'American Idol' fans might remember the latter as the song Clarkson sang on "Big Band Night" that pushed her ahead of the pack on the show.
The only problem with Clarkson's portion of the night was the pacing in between songs. At times rushed and other times slow, the singer never really got into a rhythm with her set.
Both were plagued by sound problems in the arena. A distracting echo could be heard throughout both of the singer's sets, which was especially disruptive during slow numbers like Aiken's "I Survived You" and Clarkson's gorgeous number "Beautiful Disaster."
Clarkson closed out the night, joined by Aiken, for a cover of Journey's "Open Arms." The tune showcased both singer's voices perfectly and was arguably the strongest performance, vocally, by either one during the night.
While Aiken's "Claymates" might have been the reason most in attendance bought a ticket, Clarkson no doubt pulled her weight as a worthy star herself.
Here's hoping that both come around to the Valley again.
Apr 3 04 8:46 AM
Surprise: Aiken has talent
By Tony Hicks
CONTRA COSTA TIMES
The horrifying realization came about three songs into Clay Aiken's set Wednesday night at Sacramento's Arco Arena:
Maybe it was the woman seated on the right, who said "American Idol" got her through a long hospital stay. Maybe it was the seven giddy middle-aged women on the left, all of whom came straight from the same office clad in Clay Aiken T-shirts. Or maybe it was all those old ladies running around in "Grandmas for Clay" shirts
Whatever the cause, a guy could catch himself thinking something he wouldn't have taken 500-1 odds on only a couple hours earlier:
"Man, there's no way that Ruben guy should have beat Clay on 'American Idol.' This guy was robbed."
Oh, God. Who said that?!
Let's not go overboard and call him a musical genius or even a legitimate star, yet there's really no preparing a cynic for the nonthreatening, charm machine that is Clay Aiken, who is co-headlining the "American Idol" tour with fellow "Idol" wailer Kelly Clarkson. The man's confounding. He looks like Martin Short and sings with as much subtlety as a guy wearing a cod piece on Broadway. He's the most uncool man in America, and that even includes Florida.
Yet the mystery slowly unraveled, in front of one of the most drastically varied age group of females ever to gather at a mainstream pop concert. Mothers see him as the most deferential son-in-law. Grandmas see him as a doting grandson. Girls see him as a supremely confidant, yet incredibly nonthreatening nice guy, who could smile and sing them sweet ballads while slow dancing at the junior prom.
Guys? Not many, unless one counts the middle-aged ones doing sentry duty over their 11-year-old girls. I still don't feel the love, and probably never will. But at least I'm starting to understand it.
Aiken is confidant, unassuming and can sing. He doesn't have to live up to the always demanding standards of cultural coolness because his crowd just doesn't care. They love him. Bingo.
Clarkson shares those traits, only without the same nerdy charm. Cheerleader types -- even ones with howitzer vocal chords -- just don't get the same amount of respect with the grandma-rocker demographic.
Clarkson is distancing herself from the world's Britney Spears-clones. Dressed down, hair ponytailed and without shoes, her job was to be perky and sing, while connecting to the youngsters. She noticed their signs and even wore one girl's homemade T-shirt.
In 52 minutes, Clarkson covered most of last year's "Thankful," including "What's Up Lonely," "The Trouble With Love Is," "Just Missed the Train" (during which she tried playing one electric guitar chord over and over. It's a good thing she can sing), "Beautiful Disaster," "Thankful" and "Anytime." The last is a big ballad designed to showcase her power, which it did until she plunged too deep into Mariah Carey-ville. It seems to be some sort of law or something for good young pop singers.
But Clarkson is slightly different because, while she can go toe-to-toe with any pipes in the land, she picks her spots well. She knows when not to blast away, staying subtle when necessary and setting up the big notes. She ended with a rousing "Miss Independent," a power dance song (for her, anyway) that showed she can be more than another TV singer doing standard ballads.
Aiken came out hyped, entering the arena from a second-level door opposite the stage (and sending the grandmas into screaming fits). By second song "Perfect Day" his almost hokey-yet-commanding way of handling the crowd was conjuring visions of a low-grade Barry Manilow. Miraculously, by the time he did the big ballad "No More Sad Songs," he was more than holding his own on a night that was so dangerously top heavy with weepy ballads, a Journey concert was threatening to break out. But more on the encore later.
After the curiously sunny stalker song "Invisible," Aiken couldn't dodge his show-tune roots, bringing everything down (literally, sitting on a stool) for a medley mixing originals and cover snippets from Sting, Leo Sayer and James Taylor. Now this was tolerable and all, but when he broke out the lounge version of Prince's "When Doves Cry" it was time to stop the madness.
Almost. The most gleefully predictable moment of the night was the show-closer, when Clarkson returned for a duet of "Open Arms." You know the drill -- they walk slowly toward each other, belting out lines and pretending they're in love. What was interesting, though, was the way their powerhouse voices mixed. It was like stumbling into the morning shower and, instead of getting the expected trickle, out comes Niagara Falls.
The whole "American Idol" thing is what it is: A manufactured attempt for corporate entertainment to suck America into a televised competition, parlaying it into ready-made markets of CD sales and concert tours. Despite an enthusiastic crowd, Wednesday's show smelled very temporary. No one is spending more than minimum wage on promotion, lighting or a big stage set up. No choreographers, dancers, or even a different band for each artist (the band just changed from black to white outfits between sets). Television did all the work, and the masterminds will squeeze these kids until the public's collective memory fades.
But taste aside, a cynic's pre-conceived notion that Clarkson and Aiken are just as expendable vanished Wednesday. When the pop juice runs dry -- and it will, because the market flames out fast for even the hottest "TRL" wonders, nevermind the ones not pushing sex -- both will survive. The dramatic, personable Aiken is clearly headed for Broadway, while Clarkson's friendly Texan demeanor and vocal skills could dominate the young country or adult contemporary ranks for years. Their careers look a little more promising now. Even to cynical eyes.
Apr 3 04 9:07 AM
Idols worshipped at Glendale Arena
By THOMAS BOND
April 2, 2004
It's good to be an idol.
American Idol TV singing contest stars Kelly Clarkson (winner of the first season) and Clay Aiken (runner-up of the second edition) were the subjects of much adoration by a crowd of approximately 10,000 fans at Glendale Arena. Both stars responded with strong vocal performances if less than exciting stage shows.
Aiken took the stage first in an untucked, dark blue shirt and loosened necktie with gray pants and sneakers singing Mr. Mister's Kyrie, followed by Perfect Day and I Will Carry You.
He seemed comfortably at ease onstage, acknowledging the signs of fans including one that read, Save a marriage hug my wife! which he did. His southern drawl and unassuming nature seemed to connect with the crowd.
Vocally, he was in fine form. With a full set of songs to sing instead of one to make-it-or-break-it with on television, he rarely over-emoted and found the nuances in the tunes to lay back or hit hard.
I thought he was a lot better in person than he was on TV, said Kasandra Merrill, 27, of Mesa, who brought her daughter Jensynn, 7, to the show.
Backed by five musicians and three backup singers all clad entirely in white, Aiken performed the majority of his 3 million-sold-and-counting debut album, Measure of a Man. After a strong I Survived You, he gathered the backup vocalists, guitarist and keyboard player for an acoustic medley of tunes that included Sting's Fields of Gold and a nod to his roots with Carolina On My Mind.
He wrapped up the segment with an a capella intro to Prince's When Doves Cry less than 48 hours since the Purple One had performed it in the same building that segued into an electric finish. At one point he even got a bit frisky, going pelvis to pelvis with a female backup singer. Aiken closed his set with The Way
After a short intermission, Clarkson began her set playing acoustic guitar on Low.
Dressed in a black tank top with torn jeans that soon gave way to black jogging pants, she performed her set barefoot. She was backed by the same musicians and singers who had all changed into black clothing.
Where Aiken was low-key and sauntered around the stage when he moved at all, Clarkson was perky and playful throughout her set, though it came across somewhat forced. Her material, including Bounce and Miss Independent, was considerably more upbeat and the singer showed off a few rudimentary dance moves.
She performed the majority of her own debut album, Thankful, and signed multiple autographs while she sang. While the crowd's response was warm, it was noticeably more so for Aiken.
Clarkson concluded her set with A Moment Like This and the lights went dark for just a moment before she started singing Journey's Open Arms. When Aiken returned to the stage singing the second verse, the crowd greeted him with a grand ovation and the pair finished the song as a duet. Though their voices blended pleasantly, there didn't appear to be much chemistry between them and after a quick half-hug they exited on opposite sides of the stage to end the show.
With the venue only half-full and literally nothing in the form of stage production for the entire night, the concert had the definite feel of a State Fair show.
It wasn't good, but it wasn't bad, said Sari Lin, 14, of Scottsdale. I've been to better concerts.
While Aiken and Clarkson have fine voices and seem genuinely personable, both are painfully lacking in stage presence, especially for an arena show. Even more especially for a music writer who'd seen Prince and Rod Stewart two tremendously engaging entertainers in the same place within the same week as this show.
Apr 4 04 6:31 PM
'Idols' are human, but louder
Though Clarkson's and Aiken's limitations are evident, screaming throngs adore the show.
By Richard Cromelin, Times Staff Writer
When you start out at overwrought, there's only one place to go into the rarified realm of unmitigated pop bombast, staked out by mighty-mite people's choice pop star Clay Aiken at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim on Saturday. What would you call it? ber-wrought? Ultra-wrought? Maybe there is no word for it.
In any case, it's what "American Idol" hath wrought. Aiken is the hit TV talent show's flagship star (even though he was not a winner, losing a close race to Ruben Studdard in the viewer voting last year), and he's the headliner on a national tour that pairs him with first-season champ Kelly Clarkson.
It's a dream team for "American Idol" fans, whose intimate observation of the contestants and participation in the outcome has given them a proprietary relationship with the performers. The Pond audience wasn't one to sit back and clap politely. They screamed and shouted and waved signs that said such things as "Taken With Aiken" and "Kelly Rocks."
Both artists played their determined roles, making sure to be appropriately modest and grateful. But while Clarkson was casual and down-to-earth in her opening set, Aiken fancied himself a more theatrical figure, role-playing to his songs' emotions with melodramatic pauses and heavy glances. If he had a mustache he would have been twirling it.
Striding to the stage from the rear of the arena while belting his version of Mr. Mister's 1985 hit "Kyrie," Aiken immediately set the tone for his hour-plus set, in which his songs mostly power ballads that sound designed for uplift scenes in "The Lion King" were spewed with a flat forcefulness that could pin you to the back of your seat if you weren't standing up waving a sign.
It was enough to make Celine Dion seem restrained. But at least Dion has the equipment to make her over-the-top approach technically impressive. Aiken's voice is thin and pinched, with uncertain pitch and little versatility, as one awkward attempt at soul-style embroidery showed on Saturday. His one tool is volume, an appropriate expression of the go-for-it theme that underlies every "American Idol" story line.
And of course the flaws and limitations are part of the appeal, the things that make him one of us even as we send him into career orbit with our votes.
The concert actually reversed the expectations created by their hit albums, Aiken's "Measure of a Man" and Clarkson's "Thankful." On record he at least sometimes seems a slightly eccentric character, while she comes off as a somewhat slick genre-hopper.
But on Saturday she was the one who was easygoing, even a little feisty as when she criticized the production on her recording "Beautiful Disaster" and proceeded to sing it with bare piano backing.
The giggling and the whooping between songs and the signing of autographs went a little over the top, and nothing she sang suggested she's more than a modest talent aglow in the fairy dust of "American Idol," but as its resident girl-next-door, the pop world could probably do worse.
Apr 5 04 10:10 AM
Powerhouse duo show promise
Stepping away from their 'Idol' start, Kelly Clarkson and Clay Aiken display big potential at Pond concert.
By BEN WENER
The Orange County Register
Never let it be said that the typically tin-eared public can't spot a great voice when it wails gloriously at them.
Mind you, we're not so savvy at spotting much else in the way of genuine ability. Time and again we gleefully overlook mediocrity so long as it comes attached to a pretty face or a novel personality. Case in point: the curious popularity of current "American Idol" contestants John Stevens (catatonic crooner with zero rhythm) and Jon Peter Lewis (the spastic clown).
Or consider how it is that "Idol" reject William Hung, a talentless goof who even the tone-deaf realize cannot sing, has an album arriving in stores Tuesday, featuring his infamous version of Ricky Martin's "She Bangs."
So thank whatever musical gods were at work to help pop fans save face - by weeding through the dreck that fills each "Idol" contest to discover Kelly Clarkson and Clay Aiken. As the pair proved repeatedly during their sets Saturday night at Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim, they are powerhouse voices who deserve their devoted followings.
Yet, as with the mighty- piped Ruben Studdard (currently on his first solo tour) and better-than-third-place Kimberly Locke (who issues her full-length debut in May after topping the charts with the single "Eighth World Wonder" ) , Kelly and Clay are only now facing the true test: establishing themselves as bankable entertainment entities who can achieve longevity without "Idol" assistance.
Hence, the duo's aptly named Independent Tour, which stops again tonight at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Apart from Kelly dropping the show's name once and reviving "Stuff Like That" from her "Idol" appearances, everything we know and love/hate about the immensely popular Fox series was rightly absent. (For his part, Clay simply acknowledged that support from squealing, sign-toting, feverishly flashbulb-popping fans like those on hand is what brought him a career.)
Instead, this was just Kelly belting, Clay soaring, then the two together for a nicely harmonized duet on Journey's "Open Arms," all of it backed by a well-rehearsed band.
But, to steal Simon Cowell's favorite qualifier, if I'm being totally honest, I wasn't particularly moved by much of it.
No question both acts come across like seasoned pros and can top most contemporaries in the vocal department. Kelly, for instance, comes across like Christina Aguilera with more restraint, and she's skilled enough to fit her Texan holler into many styles - R&B-flavored pop, big ballads, torchy slink, even a saucy rethinking of Reba McIntire's "Why Haven't I Heard From You?"
Clay, of course, can effortlessly nail his attention-grabbing "glory notes," but he also has some dynamic capability. In other words, as shown in a pleasing segment of well- known material (Sting's "Fields of Gold," Leo Sayer's "When I Need You," James Taylor's "Carolina in My Mind" ) , he knows when to downplay his boom and hush.
That said, both sets were more interesting for the potential displayed by these overnight sensations than for the music they're currently making, which is largely bland and forgettable. For as much as they are indebted to the show and style that gave them a start, both clearly want to escape trappings designed to win them a teenage audience.
Barefoot and bubbly Kelly proved that desire right away by revealing guitar skills (she did some basic strumming for two cuts). Here, she seemed more inclined to follow in the footsteps of Jewel than to keep churning out more Aguilera knockoffs like "Miss Independent." (Another sign: She was more comfortable bouncing in a tank top and tattered jeans than strutting in a club- hottie get-up, the high heels of which lasted only one song.)
Goody-goody Clay - whose charm is infectious but whose zipper-studded outfit made him look as ridiculous as Ryan Seacrest - well, he clearly wants to rock out more. This night, he was surer on Beatlesque bits like "Perfect Day" and "No More Sad Songs" (strangely reminiscent of Radiohead's "Karma Police" ) than on fluff like "Invisible." And though some selections were vapid (Mr. Mister's "Kyrie" ) or misguided (a sexless take on Prince's "When Doves Cry" ) , his willingness to explore is commendable.
I still insist it's too soon to tell whether Kelly or Clay will blossom into interesting artists whose creative endeavors are worth noticing. Given that they didn't sell out the Pond and tickets for Staples are still available, this very well could be their zenith - their first and last "Idol"-less hurrah.
Or it could be the start of a promising future. Really, if William Hung can get 15 minutes, aren't Kelly and Clay worth at least a decade?
Apr 5 04 9:16 PM
Quote:Live Review: Clay Aiken and Kelly Clarkson in Glendale, AZ
by Christina Fuoco
April 05, 2004 01:35 PM - The Fox Network television show "American Idol" has been described by some as a glorified karaoke contest with mediocre talent vying for a much-coveted record contract--but fans who caught the Phoenix-area stop by first-season winner Kelly Clarkson and second season runner-up Clay Aiken know better.
During Friday's show (4/2), Aiken impressed with his buoyant stage presence and powerful, Broadway-ready vocals. Dressed in a fedora-like hat, an untucked, button-down shirt and baggy pants, he didn't waste any time getting the crowd into his performance. As his background singers performed the opening lines of Mr. Mister's "Kyrie," Aiken entered from the back of the arena and waded his way through the audience while singing the religious-based '80s hit.
He immediately went into "Perfect Day," from his debut "Measure of a Man," jumping and punching the air to the beat. He was clearly enjoying himself on stage. The audience--which filled about 75% of the arena--reciprocated. Fans, who nickname themselves "Claymates," screamed as he removed his hat to reveal his trademark tousled hair.
Claiming the audience didn't pay to hear him talk, Aiken kept the stage banter to a minimum, instead using his 60-minute slot to showcase material from his multi-platinum album, "Measure of a Man." Many of the songs tread religious waters--besides "Kyrie,"--including "When You Say You Love Me" and "This is the Night"--touched on religion.
Aiken connected with the audience, sitting on a step while bathed in turquoise light, singing "No More Sad Songs" to audience members in the first rows. He also chatted up a fan who claimed to be at his first concert.
A couple on the opposite side of the runway held up a sign insinuating that a hug from Aiken would save their marriage. He couldn't resist and gave the woman a hug. He then dedicated "When You Say You Love Me" to them. As he ended the weeper of a song, Aiken was handed a pair of panties, which clearly embarrassed him. "I've had them thrown, but not handed," he said. "I like this so much more, I think. It's a lot nicer."
The one down side of his performance was the thin cover of Prince's "When Doves Cry," which stripped the song of all its funkiness. It was accompanied by an awkward dance with a background singer, one of three who, throughout the show, copped Motown-like dance moves.
However, during the encore, it was clear who the fans were there to see: Clay Aiken. Clarkson sang the first verse to Journey's "Open Arms" and as Aiken strolled out to duet with her, the screams were nearly deafening.
Apr 5 04 9:33 PM
Clay and Kelly, a study in contrasts
By: PAM KRAGEN - Staff Writer
SAN DIEGO ---- Perhaps it was fitting that Clay Aiken and Kelly Clarkson performed for a near-capacity crowd at Cox Arena on Tuesday, the same night Fox TV aired its latest installment of "American Idol."
Clay and Kelly got their start in the top-rated televised vocal competition, and the presence of so many fans (a mostly-white family audience, ranging in age from 8 to 80) proved that Clarkson (contest winner in Season 1) and Aiken (first runner-up in Season 2) remain a hit with fans, even as a new round of "Idol" contestants vie for the next slice of pop fame.
Their uneven concert sets, though, proved that "Idol" fame can be fickle when it's toyed with. Aiken's hourlong opening set was a smash with the audience, while Clarkson's follow-up left many concertgoers cold, with dozens streaming for the exits well before she wrapped up her one-hour program.
Why? It's not her singing. Clarkson is probably a better-trained vocalist than Aiken, but her physical appearance and the ear-splitting, generic rock concert set she delivered was so far removed from what "Idol" fans expect, that only her diehard fans were moved to stand and sway.
As "Idol" fans know, the TV show is all about the singing. The contestants perform live, without the benefit of studio tricks or backup singers (a set-up that would easily scrap the careers of many of today's top pop stars). Clarkson, Aiken and second season winner Ruben Studdard triumphed because they've got the goods and don't need fancy echo machines, digitizers or retakes to correct vocal flaws.
So the flaws apparent Tuesday were in style, not vocals. Aiken's intimate, personable dozen-song set was delivered in a simple, bare-bones way to his adoring audience. While Clarkson's concert buried her fine voice under layers of loud rock music, reverb, shouting backup singers and cheesy stage props. It was hard to hear and see Kelly under all that noise.
Adding to the contrast were their appearances, beamed with unforgiving video clarity from giant video screens on either side of the stage. The tousle-haired, freckled Aiken ---- dressed in a conservative midnight blue pinstripe Oxford shirt, tie and his ever-present "W.W.J.D." ("What Would Jesus Do" ) bracelet ---- looked like a matinee idol with his flawless pale skin, bright green eyes, pearly smile and no makeup. The once-wholesome-looking Clarkson had a funky rock chick vibe going on, with heavily applied dark makeup, tattoos, nose stud, tight black tank top with bra straps askew, torn jeans, bare feet and a few more pounds than "Idol" fans may remember.
Aiken entered the arena through the audience and continually conversed with fans, accepted love tokens, grabbed a raised cell phone from the crowd to chat with a stunned lady on the line in Louisiana, and entertained a marriage proposal from an 11-year-old girl in the audience ("Is that legal in California?" ) . His folksy, self-deprecating, geeky demeanor was the same engaging presence that has won him millions of fans (if not the official "Idol" title).
His set featured 10 songs from his debut album "Measure of a Man" (which recently went triple-platinum, nearly more than Clarkson and Studdard combined) which were delivered ably if not spectacularly in most cases. What worked the best, not surprisingly, were the quiet, unaccompanied solos of "Measure of a Man" and Sting's "Fields of Gold," along with an exceptional a capella rendition of Prince's "When Doves Cry" that brought down the house. He sang with power, near-perfect pitch and big closer notes throughout and his voice retains its bell-like clarity.
Clarkson, who often accompanied herself on guitar and sang with soulful beauty, talked about her Monday visit to Sea World and accented her performance of "Thankful" with slides of her friends, but the connection to the audience wasn't quite there. She too sang most of the songs from her album, "Thankful," including a much-improved acoustic version of "Beautiful Disaster" and a funky version of "Trouble With Love Is." The crowd roared for her hit song "Miss Independent" but the level of applause seemed to decline in direct comparison to the rising volume of her onstage band and backup singers.
The Aiken/Clarkson concert series is labeled "The Independent Tour," a nod both to Clarkson's hit song but also apparently to the duo's efforts to distance themselves from "American Idol." Neither of them sang any of the cover ballads they re-popularized on the TV program, disappointing many Aiken fans hoping who shouted frequently for "Solitaire" and "Bridge Over Troubled Waters."
Yet while Aiken openly embraced his connection to the TV show with frequent references to his fellow contestants and his auditions, Clarkson seems determined to prove she's nothing like the corn-fed, curly-haired sweetheart TV fans remember. That may work for her in the long run, but it disappointed some fans in the audience Tuesday.
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