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'American Idol Live!' returns to Sarasota

There's no Sam Woolf this year, but organizers still hope for big crowds

July 2, 2015

Last year, the "American Idol Live!" tour made its first stop ever at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. The Sarasota crowd turned out to be one of the largest on the tour, thanks in large part to Bradenton's Sam Woolf, the "Idol" finalist who drew a fanatical following here and all over the country.

There's no local connection this year, but the "American Idol" people are apparently hoping the Bradenton-area audiences liked last year's show enough to see the 2015 version.

There are some changes, though. This year "American Idol Live!" features a live band for the first time.

This year's winner, Nick Fradiani, also represents some firsts. He's the only "Idol" winner ever from the northeast region. He's the oldest winner ever -- he auditioned when he was 28, the upper age limit for the show, and he was 29 when he won. He's also the first "Idol" finalist who had previously appeared on another network TV talent show. The pop/rock band he fronts, Beach Avenue, made it to Judgment Week on "America's Got Talent" in 2014.

Also, this year's tour will include only the top five "Idol" finishers, not the top 10. Fradiani said that's a good thing.

"The audience is going to get a chance to really get to know each of the contestants," he said. "We'll have more of a chance to show our personalities."

Details: 7:30 p.m. July 8, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Tickets: $41.64-$76.95. Information: 941-953-3368,

-- Marty Clear