Last Night: American Idols Live at BankAtlantic Center

American Idols Live

July 6, 2007

BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise, FL

Better than: Watching the show

Last Night: American Idols Live at BankAtlantic Center

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Photo by Lauren Papiernik

Hours before the American Idols Live show at the BankAtlantic Center I was standing in the rain trying to find my way into the arena. At the last minute I found out I was not granted a review ticket. Although, they had allowed me the great privilege of interviewing the performers before the show, apparently the Miami Herald and Sun Sentinel are the only papers in town that merit review tickets. But then Jammin Jorge from Power 96 approached me with a proposition: if I agreed to sing a song on air, he would give me two tickets to the show. Shameless and desperate, I immediately took him up on the offer. Just a few minutes later, I was singing Rihanna’s “Umbrella” (ella ella eh eh eh) on the radio. My day had already turned out to be a lot more interesting than I expected, and it wasn’t even five yet.

The tour, sponsored by PopTarts (no, seriously), features the top ten contestants from season six of American Idol.

The show started off with a group number, in which all ten Idols performed a spirited yet mediocre “Let’s Get It Started.” For the remainder of the evening, the Idols took turns on the stage for solos, duets, and even full-band numbers.

The strongest singers were given the most solos, such as fourth-place Idol LaKisha Jones, who performed a stunning cover of “I Will Always Love You.”

This season's most famous Idol, Sanjaya Malakar, mostly sang in group numbers, but he made up in charm what he lacked in vocal ability. A shy 17, Malakar was the focus of much attention—and contempt—on this season’s show, as he advanced despite his poor performances.

“My family helps me stay grounded,” he said. Jokingly, he told the crowd “it takes more than a good voice to make it on American Idol.”

Blake Lewis, this season’s runner-up, has a lot more than just a good voice. Lewis is the obvious crowd favorite, earning high pitched screams from his many female fans.

“[American Idol] is all about communicating with people. That’s why people love to watch,” he said.

In that case, Lewis has definitely mastered the art of communication. He has a Justin Timberlake vibe, from his boyish good looks to his bad-boy tattoos, complete with his beat boxing talent, which he showcases almost every chance he gets.

Unlike Lewis, Melinda Doolittle is not the crowd favorite, but rather was the judges’ favorite last season. Despite her extraordinary talent, Doolittle placed third in the competition. When asked if she was disappointed, Doolittle shook her head. “I’m so grateful,” she said. At 29, she is the oldest of the Idols, and admits, “most of the crew call me Mama. These are my babies.”

This season’s winner, Jordin Sparks, isn’t a baby, but at 17, she’s accomplished more than most adults. Sparks is a surprising talent, her voice far more mature than would be expected at her age. She is obviously nervous as she talks to the crowd. Her performance is lively, her youthful exuberance taking control of the crowd during her cover of Pat Benatar’s “Heartbreaker.”

Before taking the country by storm, Sparks was a die hard American Idol fan herself. “I’m addicted to the show,” she confesses. “On Season 3, I went backstage and got Fantasia’s autograph.” After winning Idol, Sparks is now on the receiving end of fame, and is only slowly realizing it. “Me and my best friend hung out for the first time after the show, and I wanted to go to the mall,” recounts Sparks. “We just kind of looked at each other and then it hit me. I was like ‘sorry’.”

In less than a year, the Idols went from being nobodies to some of the biggest names in American pop-culture. Admittedly, the show has received much criticism from music snobs, like myself, who have a hard time buying into the spectacle. In response to people who won’t take the show seriously, who think it’s a joke, Lewis simply states, “it’s the best avenue for talented solo-acts to get out there.” I have to admit, he has a point.

While the show did hit some sour notes, including a somewhat painful cover of “Hey Jude”, the Idols put on an entertaining show. There is a surprising amount of talent among this season’s Idols, and considering their loyal following, it can be expected that future releases from Sparks and Lewis will tear up the charts. After seeing the show, I might even pick up one of their albums, just don’t tell anyone. -- Lauren Papiernik


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