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Last ride for ‘American Idol’?

Five top singers come to San Diego on what may be the hit TV show’s final live tour

By Bill Pinella • U-T | 9 a.m. Aug. 14, 2015

After 14 seasons, thousands of contestants, astronomical television ratings and millions of dollars in a lot of wallets, “American Idol” is about to call it a day. But before the final season begins, Nick Fradiani and Jax are along for the long, last (or next-to-last) ride on the “American Idol Live” summer tour bus.

“It wasn’t going to last forever. Nothing ever does,” said Fradiani, the winner of the recently completed Season 14. “It changed pop culture. It’s been a huge addition to pop culture in this country for more than the last decade.”

Fradiani, 28 and the seventh male winner in the show’s last eight seasons, and Jax, a 19-year-old from East Brunswick, N.J., were talking from a tour bus recently somewhere between Bethlehem, Pa., and Worcester, Mass. That same bus will roll into San Diego this month for the 30th stop on the 37-city cross-country tour. (It hasn’t been announced yet if there will be a tour next summer.)

The only difference this time is that there will be more empty seats on the bus. For the first time, the “Idol” front-office staff decided to whittle the performers from the top 10 to five. That changed everything on a Summer Tour that had gotten to the point where some shows had been canceled in recent years.

And it wasn’t as if Fradiani or Jax were throwing their fellow Nos. 6-10 finishers under the bus, but …

“Sure, I felt bad that they didn’t get to go on tour with us,” Jax said, “but I think with just five it is working out very well. We get to perform more than they did in the past and tell our individual stories so the fans really get to know us.”

Performing along with Fradiani (Guilford, Conn.) and Jax are Clark Beckham, Rayvon Owen and Tyanna Jones.

“American Idol,” which returns in January for the final time, held the No. 1 ratings slot on TV from 2003-11. During Season 5 the show averaged 39.5 million viewers and held on to an average of 30 million a season until recent years when ratings dipped and expenses increased.

Will Fradiani, as the next-to-last winner, be included anywhere along the way during the final season?

“I don’t know,” he said, “but I sure hope so. I’m certain they will have a lot of surprises. I even heard that Simon Cowell might come back as a guest judge one week.”

And would he have enjoyed being critiqued by the acerbic Cowell?

“I would have loved it,” he said.