7/18 Boston Globe Tour Review: Free from show’s pressure, improved singers surprised at ‘Idols Live’

By Sarah Rodman

MANSFIELD — For much of the recent season of “American Idol,’’ many of the finalists ran a very narrow gamut from mediocre to dull, frustrating to competent. Transcendence was in short supply, and it was sometimes as much, if not more, the fault of the contest itself than the performers.

So, it was a pleasant surprise that the ninth season’s top 10 gave a more-entertaining-than-expected performance last night at the Comcast Center. There was still plenty that was corny, and occasionally — in Idol parlance — “pitchy’’ about the 2 1/2-hour revue, but the singers themselves had heart.

Free from the pressures of judges’ barbs, inane theme nights, and a behemoth national viewing audience, the entire slate of singers improved on their competition performances, even much-maligned tween favorite Tim Urban.

Andrew Garcia returned to the strummy, crowd-pleasing well of Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up.’’ Didi Benami pleasantly trilled her way through Kara DioGuardi’s “Terrified.’’ Katie Stevens, who can sing but floundered with image issues on the show, overreached for the junior diva spot with songs like Christina Aguilera’s “Fighter.’’

Fresh-scrubbed teen Aaron Kelly went pop country with tunes like Keith Urban’s “Somebody Like You.’’ Michael Lynche played up the loverboy-soul angle with his dreamy take on “This Woman’s Work’’ and Justin Timberlake’s “My Love.’’ And Casey James showcased his guitar heroics on the Black Keys’ “I Got Mine’’ among other tunes.

The venue was less than half full, but local finalist Siobhan Magnus was given a hero’s welcome for her early three-song set including a reprise of her dramatic take on the Rolling Stones’ “Paint it Black,’’ complete with one of her glory notes at the climax. She also bopped through No Doubt’s “Spiderwebs’’ and Muse’s harder-edged “Stockholm Syndrome,’’ which the six-piece backing band clearly enjoyed playing.

Runner-up Crystal Bowersox, sporting a retooled smile, earned cheers for her rousing versions of songs she did on the show, including Patty Griffin’s “Up To the Mountain’’ and Melissa Etheridge’s “Come to My Window.’’

And victor Lee DeWyze poured his gratitude to the affectionate crowd in his 20-minute headlining performance, which included heartfelt, if sometimes overwrought, performances of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah’’ and the Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody.’’

The “Idols Live’’ tour always has a sheen of ultimate fantasy karaoke, but this particular gang radiated a likability that made watching them enjoy their 15 minutes heartwarming.

via Sarah Rodman, The Boston Globe | srodman@globe.com

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