That's probably why Clarkson seemed free on the stage Saturday at Trump Taj Mahal's Mark G. Etess Arena, deconstructing some of her hits, and covering Black Keys and Patsy Cline tunes.
The stage is an anything-goes zone. And she does that well.
Clarkson could strip down her "Behind These Hazel Eyes" to an acoustic guitar and a bluesy warble, or wail out with just a piano's tinkle and six-string fuzz behind her on the Keys' "Lies." Clarkson and her 11-piece band could ramp up the dire plink of "Never Again" and turn it into a chilly Euro-disco dance track.
It was her party, and the casino's mix of elders, hipsters, and school kids was in on the revelry.
Make no mistake: It was a sleek and shiny machine Clarkson maneuvered - like the Wilson sisters from Heart on their glossiest '80s hits. Manicured cuts like the curvaceous "All I Ever Wanted," the insistent "My Life Would Suck Without You," and the halting "Miss Independent" (despite the latter's inclusion of a dirty Black Sabbath riff) were slick, driven by her band's cool calculations and Clarkson's flawless - too flawless at times - voice. It was like Grace-Kelly-in-High-Society perfect.
At first, Clarkson's demeanor seemed equally icy. Yet she thawed when chatting up the audience ("It's going to be a big, rambling night!"), talking up her own fan worship for those whose tunes she would perform, and hitting on comfortably fit covers, like her slow, bluesy bounce on Cline's "Walking After Midnight" and her flitting, flirty mashup of "That I Would Be Good" (Alanis Morissette) and "Use Somebody" (Kings of Leon).
Suddenly, Clarkson seemed at home.
Clarkson's opening act, Parachute of Charlottesville, Va., was a cool, lusty surprise - a saxophone-driven pop-soul band whose hefty groove and smooth warm vocals (courtesy of William Anderson) came across like an unscrubbed version of the band Maroon 5.