'Idol Live!' oversung, spartan

"American Idol" winner Scotty McCreery, in Newark, N.J., Sun- day, joined the "Live!" troupe at the Wells Fargo Wednesday.
"American Idol" winner Scotty McCreery, in Newark, N.J., Sun- day, joined the "Live!" troupe at the Wells Fargo Wednesday. (JEMAL COUNTESS / Getty Images)
Posted: August 20, 2011

American Idol's starmaking machinery grinds away unceasingly.

The same night Season 10's finalists came to Philadelphia for the "Idol Live!" tour, the show's newly reunited judges - Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, and Randy Jackson - were gathered in Savannah, Ga., to pick Season 11's Hollywood contestants.

So enjoy your time in the spotlight, kids. For most of you, it won't last long.

If Wednesday's show at the Wells Fargo Center proved anything, it's that rank has its privileges. As reigning Idol, Scotty McCreery carried the lightest burden. The North Carolina teen didn't make an appearance until nearly two hours into the show. (That included an utterly superfluous intermission. Y'all go out in the lobby and buy some Idol merchandise now.)

There was a long, overblown buildup to his introduction, one that included everything but Thus Spake Zarathustra.

But McCreery deserved headliner status. He has a preternatural maturity and confidence as a performer that exceed all his predecessors at this point in their careers.

His solid five-song set peaked with a cheeky cover of Thompson Square's "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not."

If McCreery was the prima donna, Pia Toscano was the workhorse, marking more stage time, both alone and in choral tandem, than any of the other 10 singers.

This defies belief, but her voice was almost too big for the Wells Fargo. When Toscano hit some of her big notes, I kept expecting the speakers suspended from the rafters to explode.

Some of the night's musical highlights included Stefano Langone singing Bruno Mars' "Grenade." As good as it was, he could have really benefited from backing vocals. Which is odd because four of the girls came out to harmonize on Langone's next number, "DJ Got Us Falling in Love," an Usher song on which he didn't really need any help.

Also memorable was the duet between Casey Abrams and Haley Reinhart on Sarah Vaughan's "Moanin'." It even featured a scat battle.

The best showmanship came from crowd favorite James Durbin during his raging take on Muse's "Uprising." With a red wool beanie pulled down over his ears, Durbin was the only singer to connect effectively with the crowd.

Most of the others seemed lost on the stage, which was curiously spartan and industrial-looking. Thia Megia tried to compensate with a series of outfits adorned with long, flowing capes. She looked like a diminutive Supergirl.

It was a typical Idol outing: a familiar Top 40 set list that seemed to spring from Now That's What I Call Music 37, music that was oversung and underperformed by 11 singers desperately in need of a choreographer.

Contact staff writer David Hiltbrand at 215-854-4552 or dhiltbrand@phillynews.com. Read his pop-culture blog at www.philly.com/dod.

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