Search this Topic:
Apr 1 04 9:50 PM
Apr 2 04 8:41 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 2 04 9:02 AM
Lookee there. Couchtomato is waiting so patiently after I promised her I'd find a way to post my recap last night. Alright then. I probably suck at recaps (wouldn't know for sure since I haven't even posted my Vegas recap yet), but I'll do my best. I'm not going to post a full recap as my brain is so much mush after being touched and eyef**ked through to my soul by the Aiken. So I'll just stick to the highlight. I had a full recap printed out as kathyd52 mentioned, but it's still in my luggage, which is in the truck and the hubby took the truck to gamble at the local casino.
As mentioned, I drove myself (duh), my mom, kathyd52, and my 6-yr-old son to Sac. We found our hotel and then went directly to the boxoffice to try to score better tickets. Nada. Hung around for awhile and tried again. Nothing. Left and ate lunch, then came back and tried one more time. Nope. Oh well. F1, Row 13 are pretty damn good seats. We went to the hotel, and kathy's brother picked her up for dinner. We had plans to meet up on the floor of the arena at the concert. Mom, son and I hightailed it to the arena at about 5:30 to pick up our tickets. We had lost our tickets and had arranged to pick them up. While there, we looked for upgrades. Not happenin'. So we hung out ouside for about 1/2 hour. Mom had to use the restroom so we hung with her inside the box office while she waited in a very long line. While there, some guy came in and talked to the employee behind the counter. Said something about turning in tickets then went through the inner door where the employees were. I elbowed my mom and told her I just bet they're good floor seats for tonights concert. So I waited about 5 minutes and went to check on tickets again. BINGO! Up came two tickets for F2, Row F. That's sixth row in front of the catwalk! I screamed at my mom to get her credit card over here now (this poor girl has a good mama). She left her place in line and came running like a good Clay fan, and within minutes we had the golden tickets in hand. When we finally got inside and saw that we were FRONT ROW in front of the catwalk, we looked at each other and screamed. We figured on just keeping the little guy in our laps or holding him through Clay's set, so I went to the top tier to find some deserving Clay fans to fill empty 13th row floor seats. We made a 10-yr-old girl and her mother ecstatically happy.
I found Kathy and screamed at her about our luck. 'Bout burst the poor girls eardrums I'm sure. Then I saw Couchtomato and went to visit her and screamed at her too. Finally the concert started and we took our seats. Beu sisters? Meh. And if my son sings "Stay Away From My Sister" one more time I'm sending him back from whence he came (Ack! Never mind. That would hurt somethin' fierce. Duct Tape--that's the ticket). Kelly was really good. She's a goofy girl, but she can sang. Doesn't have the presence of The Aiken though. Then comes Clay.
We were all on our feet going nuts. I was so jellus of skydiving chick. Then it's time for Invisible. I was hot and sweaty from bouncing around while holding my sleepy son forever, so I passed him off to my mother. She made him comfortable in the chair where he promptly drifted off to sleep.
When the "I Reach Out" part of Invisible comes, I see Clay moving toward the front of the catwalk scanning the crowd. I jumped up, threw my hand in the air towards him and started moving forward. I didn't plan to do this but instinct took over. His eyes locked on to mine and he never looked away. I was It! OhShitOhShitOhShit! Clay's coming for meeeeeee! I got to the end of the rail and Clay bent down and held out his hand. The security guard moved the hell out of my way. Clay had this, I want you baby and I'm coming to get it look on his face. But he kept the hand a good foot away so I couldn't reach. And even though I knew the routine and knew he wasn't gonna let me catch him, I couldn't help myself from hyper-extending my whole body to the point of pain trying to reach him. After a few moments he started backing away, still singing. And his expression was, I know you want it bad baby but you can't have it. I gave him a come here gesture with my finger, but he just ignored me and moved on to sing on the other side of the stage. I was dying. SOB I just knew this is the one time he wouldn't come back and would forget about me. After about the 3/4 mark of the song, he started walking back up the catwalk scanning the crowd. As soon as he saw me he moved like a panther stalking his prey. Yes. Stalking. I got back to the rail and reached out and he grabbed my hand. This part is very blurry for me. I don't even remember how he was holding my hand. I am total mush. He got down on his knee, looking directly into my eyes, holding my hand and sang to just me.
I'm going to over-use the word intense here. I have no other way to describe what happened. Clay was holding my hand and singing to me, which was thrilling. But it's the look that's the killer. So intense it seemed he looked clear into my soul. For the whole time, he looked directly into my eyes and his eyes never wavered. The look on his face was pure sex. Intense sex. He was making love to me right then and there, and there was no one else in that room. That was the most intense look I've ever seen. And he so knew what he was doing to me. This seemed to last forever. The rest of the world just slipped away. Then, he started to pull back. He kept that intense eye contact, but he started to pull his body and hand back. He let go of me and walked slowly backward, still locked onto my eyes. When he got to where the stage meets the catwalk or thereabout, he winked. No smile. Intense eye contact to serious wink. I died. Then I became the most fangirly of fangirls ever. I tried to wink back but I think my eye went all wonky and I might have looked like a candidate for a Quizno's commercial. Then I tried to blow him a kiss, but I was so excited, I think I just smacked myself in the face and then threw my hand toward him. Then the song was over and the lights dimmed. I turned around and screamed and I haven't stopped screaming yet.
Still, what I have written does not do justice to what that look is really like. I'm a 33-yr-old married woman with children, and I was far from innocent when I married. I've been in some intense, very sexy situations. But I have never experienced a look that intense, that personal, in my life. It was so intense, that this experienced woman actually had to look away for a moment in the middle of it. I came right back, but I had to have a break or he would have pulled me in so far I feel I would have shattered. Mesmerizing. He was the piper and I was hypnotized. I know how this all comes across on video, but when you are the recipient, it is so much more. Even skydiving chick looked away during her encounter.
I asked my mom why she didn't take pictures and she said she was physically unable to do so. She said something to the effect of, "As soon as he locked on to you I was mesmerized. Clay never once took his eyes from yours and oh my! That look! For the two of you there was nobody else in the room, but I couldn't look away. What I was seeing was so personal, and I even felt a bit uncomfortable watching, but still I couldn't look away." She seemed offended that I thought she might be capable of picture taking at that time.
Apr 2 04 2:25 PM
Quote:My friend Bobby went with me (his first concert EVER! So cute.) and we got into Sacramento around 6 pm. Talked with Bernie but never got a chance to meet her in person. (Hope you got to give Clay the mug though
Bernie!) Met up with Shani and her husband Gene--turns out they were able to upgade and were sitting 5 seats away from us in the 6th row!Serendipity.
Doors opened at 6:30, and I am not kidding you we waited
almost an HOUR in line to buy merchandise. I think the people at the front of the line were trying on every possible piece of clothing before deciding what to buy. Met some nice people in line though!
Only heard the Beu Sisters, but they sounded good.
OK skip down to Clay if you don't feel like reading my Kelly
review--it's a bit long........I thought she was amazing. After reading all the reports on how LOUD her show is and how she screams her songs I wasn't sure what to expect. Yes
her set is louder than Clay's but it makes sense since her songs are much more rock-based than Clay's. It sounded like a normal concert to me!! Kelly received so much love in Sacramento. I was really happy to witness this and be a part of it b/c I feel like she's been the underdog
of this tour (and we all know what it's like to be fans of the underdog right?). She commented a couple of times on what a great crowd we were--I think she felt more comfortable with us b/c she was pretty chatty! I didn't think she had awkward interaction with the audience at all (as someone had said). A fan was trying to throw her roses on the
stage but security intervened and started to walk away with them. She saw him and said "Hey those are MY flowers," and he handed them up to her. Someone also threw a hand painted t-shirt up to her; she had the
house lights brought up so she could thank the right person and promptly put it on for the rest of her set, which I thought was very cool. She sounded great on all of her songs, and esp. on Stuff Like That There, Low, and the Reba song.
The only downer part of the set were the 2 older lumps on a log sitting next to me who asked me to sit down, and kept plugging their ears every time people yelled or the bass got a little loud. (Note: Not that anyone reading this resembles them, but if you know anyone like this and if you
think this might be a problem for them my advice to them would be STAY HOME!!!!! This is a concert, not the ballet. I paid $300 for my seats and I am not about to stop yelling when the song ends or sit down, esp. when I know these same people asking me would be standing up for all of
Clay's set. Ok that's the end of my rant. Now back to our regular programming...)
One thing about Kelly's set--you guys really weren't kidding about the tacky plastic candles--they looked like bad Christmas decorations! All in all though I was thoroughly impressed with her and it felt like the crowd was 60-40 (ok maybe 65-35 if you wanna get technical about it)
which is a lot better than its been in most venues.
Onto Clay--I had read all of the recaps and reviews but hadn't seen any videos from previous concerts so I knew it would be somewhat new to me. He came through the upper back section for Kyrie (didn't seem to be much
of an internet crowd on the floor b/c most people were focused on the stage while I was looking around frantically for him lol)--he sounded very good. (Although I was bummed they didn't sing the entire song--I love the acapella part at the end of the original!)
Since I had never seen him live before I didn't know what to expect. I guess I was thinking of him in a friend-sort of way (even though I've never met the guy) b/c we all talk about him like we know him....but seeing him in person...wow. It was a bit surreal and he seemed slightly "larger than life" to me--I was actually kinda surprised by my own
reaction to him. He definitely owns that stage as soon as he gets even in the vicinity of it. I like Cocky Clay! There were a couple of looks that he gave us that I had never seen him give before.
As soon as he started singing PD though, I could tell he was sick. NOW I know what you guys are talking about when you refer to "helium voice". It can't be attributed to the sound system or being too close to the speakers though, as some people have said, b/c Kelly sounds just like Kelly when she sings. Clay did not sound like Clay. It was really noticeable when he started speaking, too. I could barely tell he had a
Southern accent. Now, I don't understand how nobody else who's posted noticed this. Maybe this is what he sounds like live!
I loved the way he told that girl Sherrie to "come here"--soo forceful! And she was completely thudding when he was singing WYSYLM to her and holding her hand. (Ok one rant on the fugly outfit--still don't like it and now I'm jealous of San Diego. Blue shirt/tie outfit AND a fedora???!! Not fair.)
Quiana is so much prettier in person than on TV and that voice! HOW did she get cut from AI2? That woman should definitely have a solo career. During Invisible when he does the "Reach out" tease--OMG when he grabbed that woman's hand, held onto it, winked and then eyef***** for days? I
was 10 feet away and a shiver literally ran through me. BTW whoever was in the upper left nosebleed section of the arena--you guys ROCKED!
Your stomping sounded like a herd of cattle and I loved how Clay kept mentioning you. (I think he was a little scared of you too lol).
ISY--his arm and leg movement during "Good luck I wish you well" reminded me of Tom Cruise in "Jerry Maguire" when he yells "FINE!" at Cuba Gooding Jr. WDC--that very low and thud-like "satisfied"? I didn't realize I had audibly groaned until my friend nudged me.
OA--Kelly got a great reaction from the audience when she came back out, although I thought she was going to trip in her too-big strappy shoes! She looked beautiful in the white suit though. I wish they had hugged longer! Overall, I had a GREAT time. Really interested to find out how he sounds on Tuesday when I go to San Jose, because I watched the San Diego ISY and WDC video today and he sounds AMAZING--no helium voice at all. (Plus he sings a lot of cool extra notes that we didn't get.)
Note to Clay--When you start touring solo at smaller venues and you're sick and you know your voice is going to sound like helium voice, you might want to think about postponing the performance. Just something to think about. (It's just my opinion people don't start throwing tomatoes
at me yet!!) I still love you! :-)
One last thing--after we waited until 12:30 am for them to come out only to see a white van rush off with them inside, my friend Bobby (who's gay but never thought Clay was attractive) said "Ok he's hot, he's TOTALLY hot."
Shani and Gene--it was great hanging out with you afterwards! Who knew Sacramento at 2 am could be so fun?
Apr 2 04 5:29 PM
Quote: Did this really happen to me? My hand will never be the same These things dont happen to me. They just dont. Go to a concert? Sure. Luck out and get some fantastic seats, well once. But be singled out by Clay Aiken? Never! Did this really happen?
Im a new member here at ezboard and Ive got to tell you, this is fun. Ive never in my wildest dreams thought Id have something fun to share but its been a wild couple of days so why not?
Okay so here we go. Yesterday I went skydiving. Its my second time going and wow, what a thrill. To anyone that is thinking about it GO! It isnt as bad as it looks and its such a rush. You feel like youre flying, but really your falling towards the earth at 135 miles per hour ... 13,000 feet above the ground. Dont hold back, we only live once just GO, you wont regret it! This week I dragged 3 of my friends from our jobs at Disneyland on a road trip to jump out of a plane it turns out, that was nothing, I really mean nothing compared to the thrill of Clays performance.
How I got such great seats I dont know. God smiled on me on Tuesday. You know how you go to a concert and hope to get noticed? Sort of like you want that person to know youre there for them and love what they are doing. If you dont get noticed, you still had a heck of a time, but who doesnt want to lock eyes with Clay Aiken? So my group made a few signs and I had an idea to put a picture of me skydiving on mine. It read, I jumped 13,000 ft. for you Clay! Then there was an 8 by 10 picture of me freaking out while falling through the air (I got that pic at Walgreens for $3.50 by the way great deal). My friend Tiffany talked me into signing the picture in case Clay happened to notice it. Props for Andreas great design and Stephies glitter. This was a group project.
The Bue Sisters were great and hands down for Kelly. She blew the doors off of that place. I felt bad for not standing but I didnt want the people behind me to not be able to see. While I recognize Im pretty short ... (52 is actually considered short in America) Im sure people still wouldnt have been able to see. I was soooooo thrilled when everyone just stood up for Clay. How could they not? What a performer!! He sauntered out with his fun hair and beautiful voice and the crowd went crazy! Up the steps, taking his time, looking into the faces around him what a great night. Then he was on the stage, and I tell you I couldnt have held my sign any higher. It was like a bad fitness routine Clay looks this way the arms shoot up, he turns away they drop down again. After three songs it was about the time I realized it would have been a good idea to put the glitter on a little earlier so the glue could have dried. Woops! Well you live and learn, then you change clothes because youre gluey and shiny. But wait, it looked like he read it. I look at Andrea, she looks at me! Oh my gosh he read our sign!!!!! Yes! But wait, there he goes up the steps and hes gone again to the other side of the stage. So I figured right then and there the sign should stay down. After all, Clay read it so why still hold it up? About that time Andrea hits my arm for giving up but come on, were just there to hear him sing.
So its not two minutes later that Mr. Aiken walks onto his beloved catwalk and says to turn on the house lights. He wanted to see his signs. This is where it gets mind blowing. He looks around for maybe two seconds when he looks right at me and says, Whats that sign all about? Hmmm, it would have been good if I had held it right side up. One more mental note to remember. So I frantically try to fix my sign and he reads it out loud. Honestly, after looking at it again, the 1 did sorta look like a 7. So Clays confused because he read it out loud and is wondering what I jumped 73,000 ft. for you Clay! means. He was like, what on Earth does that mean? Hold the phone, is he talking to me? Me? 52 Sherri? Shoot, he was.
I yelled back that it only read 13,000 ft. and Clay banters back that 13,000 isnt all that impressive. He laughs and says hes kidding. I really though he would just drop it there but he was still curious. Clay said he didnt understand how I did that FOR HIM? Sure I went skydiving, but I did it for me. So he posed the question and I I oh my heck I yelled out that I fell for him. He said what? I again yelled, I fell for you Clay! There is no feeling like a stadium in synch saying AWWWWWWWW. This happened so fast, I just know he had a sorta funny look on his face like he thought I was nuts for jumping out of a plane and said, Get up here. Im still not sure if he heard what I said. So I walked up and repeated myself one more time. Clay wiped an imaginary tear from his eye and asked me my name. Wooo- into the microphone! Was this really happening?
So I ripped off the picture and said I wanted him to have it. He asked how he was supposed to know it was for him because his name wasnt on it. Good point, lucky for me my cargo pants came with built in sharpies. Well, not really, but I did have one and quickly wrote his name on it. He said that I was giving him my autograph and that was a turn of events, so hed have to make sure Id get his somehow when the show was over. Then he said he would keep it and that the next song was for me!
Now Ive heard him say that but Clay didnt dedicate it and walk away. The music started for When You Say You Love Me and he just stood there looking at me. This is my all time favorite song. Really I love this song! Then slowly he knelt down, sat on the catwalk and swung his legs over the edge 1 foot away from the gate I was leaning against. Holy cow Clay was really singing to me? No way! I just stood there looking at him. My mind was racing because this stuff doesnt happen. So I just basked in the moment. I have no idea what my face looked like but later I found out they had cameras on this the entire time and everything was shown on the huge screens by the stage. After a minute he reached out and held my hand. So there I am, staring up at Clay Aiken as he held m hand and sang WYSYLM. I tell you his eyes were locked in this moment. He knew, as well as everyone else, my knees didnt stand a chance here. I just enjoyed it this was a truly great moment. But this was at least 4 minutes. Thats like, 240 moments. Then and oh my heck then he bent down and kisses my hand. My jaw must have dropped what a great picture that would have been. The song was almost over so Clay winked at me and stood up as I just stood there utterly and completely speechless. What else could I do?
On my way out I took pictures with dozens of people. I shook hands and tried really hard to breath and retell this story. I have big eyes to begin with; I guess they look really huge on that big screen because I heard about it. Trust me, Clay would do that to anyone.
I am writing this now and still its hard to think. Clay has an amazing talent. He can perform and connect with his audience and its amazing that this happened. Who else would take the time to acknowledge someone in the crowd like that? It could have been any one of us age, disposition, ethnicity these things dont matter to Clay. He looks into people and connects with there wherever they are at. I know my story is kooky because I write like I think, but Clay is real. Hes a normal guy with a big heart and gift and hes using his talent for a great good in this world. I was lucky, let me stress lucky, to have this moment. Everyone who writes about Clay does so because hes touched their lives I guess its pretty literal now in my case. Im thankful, maybe someday Ill get to tell him that.
You know, after this, skydiving isnt such a rush.
Apr 3 04 8:47 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 14 04 7:57 PM
Quote:Wednesday, March 31, 2004
Arco Arena, Sacramento, California
Clay Aiken is a funny, funny man.
That is not a revelation to any of us, but just how quick his wit is can be literally astonishing to see in action.
I find myself in the thirteenth row center of Arco Arena, 24 hours, hundreds of miles, one plane trip and a two hour drive from where I had seen him the night before. Arco is a cavern and an echo chamber, but I hold it close to my heart. This is the first place I ever saw Clay perform, what seems like five years ago, during the last week of the AI2 tour.
On that August night, I knew that I would see him again, but I dont think my wildest imaginings would have placed him here so soon, with two and a half million albums sold, making his rock star entrance as he sings Kyrie .
I find that entrance thrilling, but this is also a place to find unexpected comedy. He knows his own history: is anyone else who recalls the way he broke down when he was announced as Americas wild card choice more than a little amused by the sight of the ultra-confident rock god standing at the top of those stairs?
Tonight it is Good evening, Sacramento as he talks about his second visit here. All of the bleacher seats in Arco are built on a wooden platform which creaks when you walk on it and reverberates with the movement of thousands of fans. He says he heard people stomping their feet on top of my dressing room while Kelly was on and he expects to go back and find that the roof has fallen in.
Its Wednesday, so we get the AI3 update --- one contestant gone and two of his favorites in the bottom three because youre not voting!
The Singer glances around, giving us a reproachful look and, raising his hand says Heres a testament to not voting!
His timing is superb --- this gets a huge laugh --- but this is also an acknowledgement of the absurd. Clay knows that there are no more dedicated voters on the planet than the members of his fan base, and we all know that the triple platinum, record-setting, AMA and BMA award-winning, best selling artist on the RCA label for 2003 is also the loser of AI2. Despite the vagaries of life and art, he is exactly where he is supposed to be.
Another song performed, another fantastic vocal, another reminder of how phenomenally gifted Clay is as a singer. I am fortunate in that I will see him on other nights; tonight I am paying particular attention to his rapport with his fans.
Alright: he is asking for the houselights to be turned up, and he starts to read a few signs. Almost immediately his attention is captured by something he sees to his left. Theres that quizzical look again: First of all, you have to hold your sign right side up. I cant tell if the sign really is reversed or if hes teasing, but he gets another big laugh.
We dropped 73,000 feet for you. What does that mean? Oh, 13,000 --- not as impressive, never mind. Quickly, dismissively, he starts to walk away. Thats the second punch line in ten seconds.
But he is intrigued and stays with the bit.
You went skydiving? But not for me --- youre obviously crazy. (Another laugh.)
You jumped for me?
And the fan, up to his snark, replies We fell for you, Clay as he makes a silly face. (Good one, Sherry.)
She hands him a photograph of the skydive and he reads, I jumped for you. Theres no name on this. You might have jumped for Kelly for all I know.
I am cracking up. He is just lightning fast --- no wonder one cynic thought that all of these bits were from RCA plants. He doesnt have people from every board working for him; thats just one super quick-witted man standing on that stage. The cynics should have noticed that, all the way back on AI.
The evening moves on and it is time for I Survived You. He will find no humor is this song --- it is stark and angry, with bitterness breaking into a somber triumph. I survived --- he gives the Death Stare as he pauses --- you. Brilliant.
And then he does something I have never heard him do before, in 19 cities previously. Clay Aiken breaks into his sunny grin and says in a low voice, Im not really that angry. Im kinda boring
Timing is everything. Because of the pause he took before he broke character, the joke did nothing to dispel the impact of the song. If anything, it heightened it, because he has made us aware of the difference between the performer and the man. Drama is hard, but comedy is harder.
It is time for the acoustic set and, as the singers and musicians move into their places, the Arco Rumble starts up once again. All around the arena, everyone is pounding their feet. It must be intimidating for rival teams who show up here, but tonight it is a sign of love.
And Clay hears it. Im not sure if you are applauding or trying to run away. It is unbelievable how skillfully he connects yet another punch line to a joke he told half an hour ago.
He is so playful throughout the set but, thankfully, leaves the humor after the introduction of Doves. I am so glad when the sensual playfulness between the couple being depicted doesnt spill over into joking between the people who are performing it. Serious subject matter, given the professional performance that it deserves.
With all of his wonderful music that brings us together, we are also showing up at venue after venue across the nation because we have heard how enjoyable the evening is. There is so much laughter here.
He laughs at his inability to dance. He laughs at how we respond to him. He laughs at the very idea that he is sexy.
Yes, Clay Aiken is a funny man, but all of the work he puts into entertaining us, night after night, shows that he is also a caring one. He cares about all of the people who turn out to see him, who support him in a thousand different ways as he journeys through the world of entertainment.
Clay wears his love for his fans on the sleeve of the fugly jacket he is wearing tonight. That Muppets-meets-the-Munchkins jacket may be funny, but there is nothing laughable about the way the man inside of it feels.
There is so much heart and so much humor everywhere you find him.
Another show over, another city in the rear view mirror, another audience on another day.
And so down the road he goes and I follow happily after him, on to another city, with love and laughter.
© 2017 Yuku. All rights reserved.