American Rhapsody

[note: this is a poorly put-together post that I started two weeks ago and couldn't get quite right. pretend it's witty and well written anyway, okay?]

“What if we’re THE old people there? We should have borrowed someone’s kid,” I said to Ish on the way to San Jose to see the American Idol Concert a couple weeks ago.

“I cannot believe we’re doing this,” he replied.

This was the very first season of American Idol that I watched from start to finish, and the only season Ish had watched any of, and so when my sister got us concert tickets for my birthday, well. We couldn’t very well say NO.

And to be completely honest, we were both pretty exited to have an excuse to attend. It’s one thing to enjoy (and be oh-so-catty) about the performances at home. It’s another thing to get to deconstruct them live and in person and among people who, from the looks of it, have never heard of the Beatles.

But don’t get me wrong. I might get on my high horse about American Idol being too commercial and the contestants being all about their marketability and blah blah blah. But when it comes down to it, I feel like I can’t very well ignore something that the whole country watches. It’s a phenomenon. It’s fascinating. It’s fun. And sometimes, it’s about watching and listening to real, beautiful talent.

(Well, or train wrecks. You know.)

And so, without further ado, I will give you the briefest run-down I can muster, with only as much snark as I deem absolutely necessary. With horrible pictures.

The Venue

I guess not surprisingly, approximately eighty million people decided to see this show. On the one hand – cool. It really is a phenomenon. Yay for spirit! (Now if only all of you would vote in November...)

Um, on the other hand, I would have preferred not to have to stand behind eighty million people to get in. Or to get a drink. Or to get dinner. Or to pee. Spirit matters not when you are waiting in a long line for the ladies’ room.

Once we did make it to the entrance of the HP Pavilion, I was asked by a skeptical ticket-taker if my digital camera can take video. I said, “I have no idea.” (Which is a lie; I know perfectly well that my camera takes video but I do not want to be hassled by a woman in a bright purple jacket in San Jose because hey, I might like American Idol but I don’t like it enough to risk imprisonment for making a crap-quality bootleg.)

“...but if it does,” I offered, “I have no idea how to work it!” (which was not so much a lie). She then inspected my camera and determined it – and I – were okay to enter.

[Later on, I decided I was offended by Ms. Purple Jacket. What? I can’t know how to work my camera just because I say I can’t? Is it that easy to dismiss me as someone who is tech clueless? Do I not look dangerous enough? Well, I thought, I’ll show her! So I fiddled with my camera enough to figure out how to take video, and then brazenly took a 10 second video of Elliot. Of course, I cannot show you that video because as soon as I got home I accidentally erased it while trying to upload it to my computer. Fuck Ms. Purple Jacket anyhow.]

Also I was hassled by the ID checker when I tried to buy a beer. He claimed that I didn't look old enough to buy booze (ha! Love you, Mr. Hassler!) and also that I didn't look like the person in my photo (LOVE YOU MORE, Mr. Hassler!). But um, once I got over being back-handedly complimented, I had to desperately plea with him that, well, the horrifying photo there really is of me, and even though it is a THREE YEARS' EXPIRED license FROM ANOTHER STATE, really sir, I am 31 and do not have children and am here to see an AMERICAN IDOL CONCERT and should I really, really be allowed to do it sober?

He took pity.

Unfortunately, as everything cost A MILLION HUNDRED dollars and required standing behind throngs of America, I ended up with only one (and a half) drinks and spent the evening entirely too alert.

But back to the first point. About the entire population of San Jose was in attendance, and because we had to get something to eat before entering the arena, we missed Mandisa perform entirely. Whoops.

80 Million (Roughly)
Here: 80 million people

The Audience

Very plainly, for whatever reason, only about half the audience was made up of groups with children. The rest were mostly couples older than me and Ish, and/or groups of girls in high school and college. The screaming was unbelievable – one of the loudest concerts I’ve ever attended. The people were very happy and enthusiastic. And, um, trashy. And entirely without rhythm.

Do I sound surprised?

The late-forty-something woman next to us with hair that had probably been overprocessed enough by 1988 and wearing more eyeliner than her eyelids seemed to be strong enough to handle had not been able to get seats next to her son (who I thought was actually her boyfriend) (ew), so instead tried to chat me and Ish up. Except she was not maybe enjoying the concert in the same way we were (read: I’m guessing the term “irony” isn’t something she uses much). And maybe I would have been nicer to her or more interested in engaging if her breath hadn’t been so bad that it gave me the chills.

But she, too, seemed to be having a grand old time.

Whereas we had to assume that the man next to her had lost a bet. Or something. He spent the entire time looking as though he was in sheer agony. I am not kidding in the slightest when I say he remained in his chair, eyes closed, head bent forward, thumb and forefinger pinching the bridge of his nose as though trying to stave off the migraine that was his surroundings. He was there with children. We assume his wife had won.

Also, I found it kind of interesting that there was a group of (presumably) middle-aged, Indian couples sitting behind us. Three couples, all with looks of slight bemusement on their faces. They didn’t speak during the show. They didn’t stand or dance. They simply sat, looking inexplicably contented. Perhaps they were high.

More likely, perhaps they had left their kids at home.

Anyway, despite being among many people who were older than me, I stopped dead in my tracks during the first ballad.

Know why?

Because there, at the concert, during a slow, heartfelt song intended to tug at our heart strings (if not loins, depending) NO ONE got out their lighters.

Everyone just used their cell phones.


I felt old. Like the first time I heard a child ask, “What’s a record player?” (Except actually, I was more horrified the first time I heard a child ask, “What’s a Punky Brewster.” But you get the point.)

The Performances

And now for the part you’ve all been waiting for! Sort of!

As I mentioned, we sort of missed Mandisa’s performance (which is too bad because I really liked her).

It’s also too bad Ace couldn’t have performed first, because we didn’t miss his performance.

Now, let me speak plainly, if I may.

Ace annoys the ever-loving shit out of me.


His constant making of the “Look How Genuine I Am” face seems like a cross between Zoolander and a sad puppy who is not sad because you have stopped petting him but because he has chewed up your shoes and peed on your bed and knows you’re about to discover that and when you do you will want to return him to the pound instead of awarding him with a movie deal.

Mixed metaphor, but seriously.

Ace was then joined on the stage by Lisa, and as you might imagine, this was not exactly a powerhouse of a duet.

Lisa’s fine but yawn.

The Official Stance of American Idols

I don’t get it. I think she’s...well, fine...but hardly a star-quality solo performer. (San Jose, for whatever reason, felt differently. They LOVED her.) Even when she busted out her keyboard in an effort, I suppose, to prove that she’s multitalented, it was still boring. Frankly, it’s not THAT hard to bang out some chords to a song someone else has written. Eh.

But then...

::Biggest Disappointment of the Evening::

...she was joined by Paris.

Paris in August

The moment I heard Paris audition back whenever the season was kicking off, I was floored. So much sound and soul and timing and poise that even Ish (who was in the kitchen doing the dishes, trying his best not to get sucked into an entire season’s worth of madness) (haha!) said, “Who was THAT?”

Remember? How Paris sounded amazing?

Sigh. Instead of doing any of the songs that made her stand out so incredibly, she just seemed like a cute teenager with a good voice and no personality of her own.


She did her “fun” version of Midnight Train to Georgia –

Here we have Ish impersonating a Pip:
Woo! Woo!
“Woo Woo” (note: he is not drunk,
despite what this looks like.
Blame the photographer.)

– and the Beyonce song (and dance, despite the judges having expressly stated she should not try and be a mini-B) and I dunno. It was fun to watch. But it was a far, far cry from her auditioning with “Take Five.” She’ll grow into herself, though. I hope. Before her marketers package her into complete mediocrity.

Alright. So around this point, I realize the show has a formula. Idol Wannabe #10 (ex. Mandisa) performs a couple solos, and is then joined by the Idol Wannabe #9 (Ace) for a duet. Then the #10 leaves and #9 does a couple solos, until he is joined by #8 (Lisa) for a duet. And so on.

Which is how it came to be that Paris (#7) was forced into doing a duet with #6.

Bucky has his charms, I guess, but I am certain I am not in his main demographic. I found myself standing (perhaps I was even dancing, I’ll never tell) when Paris was shaking her booty, but then when Bucky appeared, I sat back down. I don’t dislike him, it’s just. The long hair, the open collar, the skinny black jeans, etc. sort of make him the poster boy for Not My Type. I suppose if his thing is your thing, he’s pretty good at it.

Not a fan of chest hair

My favorite part about Bucky singing was that, as soon as he appeared and I sat down, crazy bad-toothed breath lady leaned over to me in a near-panic. “Bucky! It’s Bucky! Bucky is singing!” she informed me. Thinking that I had seated myself prematurely. Thinking that surely I did not know Bucky was singing because I’d want to stand for him. I just nodded at her. She stood.

Then we got to the part of the show I was waiting for.

Kelly Pickler joined Bucky for a completely flat, completely soul-less butchering of one of the greatest ridiculous duets of all time, “You’re the One that I Want.”

Oh, I Got Chills Alright...

You know. Healy saw this concert in Worcester, Massachusetts. After her solo, Kelly engaged the crowd in lively conversation, mostly focused around her trying desperately to pronounce “Worcester.”

For those of you who are uninitiated, it’d pronounced, Wuss-ter. Kelly asked for help from the crowd. They tried. She tried. “Worssesster?” They tried more. She tried more. “Werster?” Finally, she mostly got it. “Wuuuhster?” she offered. The crowd cheered.

Until she asked, “Now how do you pronounce the name of this state?”

Honestly, Kelly is a mockery of herself and I love her for it. (So fun to be catty. I mean, I know she’s an easy target. But she's a WEALTHY easy target, and I have no sympathy. Especially since she seems all too happy to capitalize on being stupid.)

She was uncomfortable on stage. She seemed terrified, actually. She didn’t look like she was having a good time, and her voice was entirely unremarkable.

Not a Girl, Not Yet a Stripper

(I’m kinda waiting for the Ace-Pickler Porn Company. What, like five years?)

Then there was a break. It was already seeming like a super-short concert, so to add a break seemed kind of insulting. I spent the entire time waiting in line for the bathroom, behind some woman who kept bumping into me for no understandable reason. (13 times I counted.)

Interestingly, all the buzz was about Chris – when we’d see him, and how hot he would be.

Elliott was next up, and he was fabulous. He had charm and charisma, and he gave the same sense in person that I got from watching him on television – the sense that he couldn’t possibly be doing anything that would give him more pleasure. He was happy. He sounded great. I loved his song choices and enjoyed watching him.

[Here is where I would have uploaded a bootlegged video clip of Elliott performing if I weren’t so technologically lame.]

Elliott Charms

So then Elliott was joined by Chris, and the HP Pavilion officially lost its shit.

What a Good Duet Looks Like

Chris performed like the rock star he is. He sounded awesome (of course), and you could, while he was on stage, completely forget that you were at an American Idol concert surrounded by people even more uncool than yourself. He played the guitar well, he owned the stage, and his was a stand-out performance.

It definitely felt like the young female audience was there to see him.

We Love Chris

(You can’t really see it, but these girls were all wearing tshirts and holding signs for Chris.)

Then there was some stupid guy song, performed by Chris and Elliott and Bucky and Ace and it was kind of boring and forced. We all know that these guys wouldn’t be friends outside of this show, and that they wouldn’t ever be expected to perform together (what with such different styles and such), so it was just a little too painfully contrived to be enjoyable.

And speaking of contrived.

My God, but is Katherine ever beautiful. Seriously. She is, to me, absolutely drop-dead gorgeous. Her voice is very lovely, too.

However, her giggling, “Aww, shucks, you like me” attitude annoys me beyond belief, and reminds me of Ace in a more honey-soaked way. I tend to find girls who giggle – as opposed to laugh – generally kind of annoying, and at this point there is just something about her awww-shucks-ing that I find insincere.

Also, why is she trying the power ballads? She does not have that kind of vocal strength, and should not pretend to.

For my own part, I wish she would just go the Marilyn Monroe route. If you’re going to giggle, own it. Be giggly and sexy and sing simple songs (“Fever” springs to mind), and make that your thing. But don’t wear super sexy dresses with your boobs hanging out and get all tarted up and then sing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." (Whoever thought "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" should be a power ballad in the first place needs to be smacked also.)

Tits McPhee

I am happy to say that Taylor got his own entrance. We heard him before we saw him, and then realized he was entering from above, coming down the aisles singing.

And then, all too slowly, I realized he’d turned the corner and was coming down the aisle NEXT TO ME.


I don’t care if you think Taylor is a goofy lunatic with unnaturally white hair (who, by the way, looks surprisingly like my ex-husband). I think he has genuine soul and amazing charisma and is fun to listen to and I love him. (Despite the looking like my ex thing.)

And the moment I realized he was headed right for us, I thought, I MUST GET A PICTURE OF HIS FACE.

Meaning that rather than actually stop to hear him or make eye contact with him or touch him, I fiddled with my camera in a frenzy, and forgot that you have to push the button half-way down first, then let it focus, THEN take the shot.

DAMN IT. I was fiddling so hard with my camera, and so poorly, that I almost dropped it RIGHT AS TAYLOR DANCED ON BY ME.

But! Because of this, I had to catch my camera, and when I looked up, we made eye contact.

This momentarily stunned me, but then I recovered and took a very awesome picture of the back of his head. You can tell that the girl in front of me was rather moony over Taylor walking by, too.

Ish was the only one smart enough to actually reach out and touch him. So Ish can say he patted Taylor’s shoulder.

Whereas I only have a picture of it.


The End.

p.s. So yeah. I wish this post were funnier or more insightful or used better language, but what can you do. I'll just hope that the mere fact that Ish and I attended the concert in the first place is plenty funny enough.


  1. oh, it's funny alright. :P

    LOVE you!

    BTW, I suspect they were holding up their phones, not to mimic the soulful lighter thing, but to record whatever song was on at the time. I could be wrong, but I've done that with my phone at a concert.

  2. So glad that you and Ish enjoyed at least some of the AI concert and that after dragging him to that, you're still together! But enough about you... Speaking of power ballads -- Clay's newest album, "A Thousand Different Ways", which I already love (thank you, "sneak peek"), will be available on September 19th! No need to rush out to buy a copy of your very own, though -- I'll send you one!

    xoxo Your favorite opportunistic, unabashed Aiken fan

  3. i have to admit i have NEVER watched american idol, not even for 5 minutes, but this post cracked me up anyway. i think i've seen some of these people who have been on the shows on commercials and stuff.

    i'm not living in a box or anything, i mean, i watch survivor and stuff like that, but just never got into american idol.

  4. it's plenty funny, k. i giggled...uh, i mean, LAUGHED...all the way through!

  5. I went to a 98 Degrees concert back in the day. I was 24-ish, I think? Which is still entirely too old to be going to see boy bands. Nick Lachey totally winked at me. I could have Jessica Simpson's career.

    P.S. - Taylor and his band used to play at my brother's bar on the gulf coast quite often and I was pleased to learn that he's a really cool guy.

  6. Brought to you by the Ford Company, excepts from "AI: Backstage and Uncut":

    Kelly: Y'all want me to put thay-at in my may-outh?

    Ace: :::puppy dog eyes:::

    Kelly: I hope it tastes better than Calaymari?

    Ace: :::puppy dog eyes:::

    Flash forward to Kelly and Ace goin' at it in the back of a Ford Expedition with the other finalist piled into the front seats singing a catchy rendition of "Low Rider".

    The End.

    PS....thank you for being the only other person in the world that thinks Lisa was nothing special. I can't tell you how many people I know who thought she was the shit. I didn't get it.

  7. Hi there, found you via Finelly and think you are super funny. I'll be reading more but just wanted to say HI for now. :)

  8. Perhaps they were high.

    More likely, perhaps they had left their kids at home.

    potato, potahto.

  9. And yes, I can say I patted Taylor's shoulder.

    However, I think I shall say I grabbed his ass. In a wholesome way.

  10. I never watch American Idol, but after reading this, I don't have to.

    Great coverage.

  11. Haha, it is kind of funny that you actually went to this concert. I watched most of the season but would probably never pay money to see them in concert, but as a gift I would totally go. Sounds like a hoot ‘n’ a half, with a large dose of adolescent girls and social rejects. BTW, Katherine McPhee doing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” makes me cringe a little. That’s just not how the song is done. Judy Garland is way better than you, she should just stick to what she’s good at. Oh, and she’s a home-wreaker according to my coworker who claims to know someone who knows her. Valley girl, I wouldn’t put it past her.

    othur-me – That was hilarious.

  12. Great commentary! I would have went to the concert if there was one in my town...JUST to see Taylor of course.

  13. Please Please do more coverage of AI next season!
    You said what I always think - but you are much funnier than I ~
    Especially about Ace & Paris & Lisa.
    I'm trying to stifle my laughter at the office (where everyone has an AI opinion ~ and at least 1 attended the concert @ HP too)
    I started watching when my sister's best friend was a contestant.


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