American Idol: And Then There Were Three

What a night on American Idol. A whole night of firsts, including the debut of Rock Night.  We also saw the first Led Zeppelin cover on the Idol stage, as well as the introduction of duets for the first time in the show’s history. One of the duets didn’t work out so well while the other was very, very good.

We also got to see a heavy metal star for the first time as the mentor.  Slash, lead guitarist for Guns N’ Roses, as well as other projects, took the contestants to the Roxy Theater for their mentoring sessions. It was great to see them working out their chops in front of a whole band, on a stage, instead of the usual venue of a room with a piano. Very different and very effective.  It was also very cool watching Slash allowing Kris to use his guitar for his song.

The show started off with the explanation by host Ryan Seacrest that there was a bit of a stage mishap earlier in the day. Apparently, one of the towers that holds the American Idol signage had partially collapsed, making the stage unusable to continue with the dress rehearsals. While he didn’t say who got to rehearse and who didn’t, as the night wore on, it became fairly evident.

What follows is how I saw last night’s performances, best to worst, including the duets. I will say that the line between best and worst is quickly shrinking, as all 4 contestants are so good.

1- Adam Lambert – Adam opened up the show for the first time and did it in masterful fashion. His cover of Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love was nearly flawless, right down to the “way down inside” part. This was a great song choice for him, despite Judge #6’s (daughter Tara) assertion that he should have gone with Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Yeah, that would have worked well, too, but he rocked the house with Zeppelin. I think that Kara’s declaration of “You are a rock god” is a little premature. Maybe we should let him win the damn show and drop a track or two before we go there?

2- Adam Lambert/Allison Iraheta – Interestingly, Adam got to open the show with his Led Zeppelin cover, and he got to close the show, yet again. This time singing Foghat’s Slow Ride in a rockin’ duet with Allison. And let me tell you, they rocked. Randy said they should do a duet on their album, and he may be right. They were in synch with each other, and they played off each other beautifully. Both of them had just the right voice for the song and they didn’t disappoint.

3- Allison Iraheta – In talking with my friend Bruce earlier in the day, he made a very good point that Allison would be well served by picking a track by Pat Benatar. Hell is For Children or Heartbreaker would have been great choices. I had to agree. She has the perfect voice to pull of either. Apparently, she wasn’t listening as she picked Janis Joplin’s Cry Baby. Overall, it wasn’t a bad choice, although if she had to go with a Joplin song, I would have loved to hear her sing Piece of My Heart instead. Her voice is just gravelly enough to have pulled it off. And yes, Simon, she sounded very much like the original, but when you’re singing Janis, you almost have to. Also, Paula’s comment that if they ever do a Joplin biopic, she should get the starring role was a little overboard. Did she forget one of Bette Midler’s finest roles when she did The Rose? Paula, Paula, Paula…

4- Danny Gokey – Ok, Danny was most definitely out of his element singing Aerosmith’s classic song, Dream On. That being said, he did a pretty good job with it. He even made a valiant attempt at the last, long note. He sounded more like he was shrieking in pain at that point, but he still held the note a lot longer than I thought he would. The rest of the song sounded good in his gravelly voice. No, he’s no Steven Tyler, but really, who is?

Kara made yet another confusing comment when she said that Danny should have gone with earlier Aerosmith, like Crazy, or Cryin’. Um, there is no earlier Aerosmith than Dream On, which was their first hit back in ’73. Both Cryin’ and Crazy came out 20 years later (’93) on the Get a Grip album. And Kara, just so you know, Livin’ on the Edge was also on that album.

5- Kris Allen – I have to say, I was very disappointed in Kris’s song choice. His voice is not strong enough to carry the Beatle’s Come Together, and sadly, he showed that last night. Parts of the song he managed to slow down enough to change it up a little, but it just didn’t sound right at that tempo. If Kris really wanted to go with the Beatles, which he seemed to, saying that his first choice was Revolution, he may have been better served going really old school, like I Want to Hold Your Hand, or Help. That’s more his speed and he could have done a lot with both songs, not unlike David Cook’s amazing version of Eleanor Rigby last season.

6- Kris Allen/Danny Gokey – The biggest problem with this duet was that there was absolutely no chemistry between the two performers. The second problem was that, as I’ve said before, Kris’s voice just isn’t powerful enough for a rock song like Styx’s Renegade. Danny did a pretty good job with it, but Kris’s feeble attempt dragged the song down. They did admit that they didn’t have the opportunity for a dress rehearsal for this performance, and that very well may have been the reason for the lack of chemistry, but I’m not convinced that it would have mattered if they practiced or not.

Danny Gokey
– While he does have a large following, he just hasn’t been all that great over the course of the past several weeks. If there is any justice, tonight will be his first, and last time in the bottom 3.