The winner of Fox TV's first 'American Idol: The Search for a Superstar' competition, during the summer of 2002 Kelly Clarkson went from an anonymous talent to a nationally known singer performing for an audience of millions of viewers. One of the show's most naturally gifted singers, here tonight (for the second time in three months!), playing to over 10,000 people the young Burleson, TX native's vocal talents were again loud and proud for her young audience.
Opening up for her, and vocally getting the still-streaming in audience warmed up for the impending arrival of their collective new musical hero, the Graham Colton Band are more than worthy of such a position. Led by the man of the same name, the Oklahoma City raised 24 year-old kicks off his set with 'Don't Give Up On Me' and 'First Week.'
Asking people to stand up, sing, shout and do whatever they wished to, amazingly as Colton heads into 'Cut' they all do exactly just that! Then, seeing that his young crowd are extremely receptive to his wishes, he requests that for the next song 'Killing Me' that they chant "Cumbyah" and begin some group hugs - which, for the most part, many do! Bringing his short thirty-minute set to a close with an energetic version of REM's 'The One I Love' and 'Cigarette,' singer/guitarist Colton thanx the crowd profusely, primes them once again for the imminent arrival of Clarkson, and is then gone.
As the incessant high-pitched chants of 'Kelly, Kelly, Kelly' began to suddenly increase, the house lights go off, the young screams are taken to a whole new level of piercing, and her band take to the stage. As the lyrics to 'Walk Away' are sung by a huge pair of red lips on a video screen center stage, it's not long before the real deal comes abounding onto the carpeted stage. Barefoot, smiling ear-to-ear, and dressed to kill, the 21 year-old is full of life and more than ready to cull live from her first two albums for her adoring fans.
"How y'all doin' tonight," she asks, genuinely interested, genuinely listening to some of the front row responses. With the continual, and increasingly eerie sight of Clarkson's ‘alive’ eyes high above the stage on two separate video screens - ala George Orwell's '1984' - the show moves forward with her Rascal Flatts cover of 'I'm Moving On.' She then follows this quiet moment with an even quieter moment, and one that her young fans found themselves (for the one and only time during the evening!) quite bewildered with! Covering almost perfectly the classic solo Annie Lennox song 'Why,' the moment for us adults was breathtaking, just not so much for the younger ones!
With the set now lit in lime green and clown red, the bouncy 'Gone' is next and is buffered quickly by a wonderful new track from her forthcoming CD, 'Come Here.' The soulful rock track is truly a winner with everyone there and from the vibe of it is perhaps the sound that finally allows Clarkson to find her musical comfort zone. After an ultra-quick costume change, Clarkson's back in her MTV wedding dress for the angst-ridden song 'Behind Hazel Eyes,' before she's changed again and toned the gig down for a solo rendition of 'Beautiful Disaster.'
Coming into the final bend, the fan favorite 'Hear Me' is next, and having just ripped the sound values of her debut CD ("I hated the production of the first album!"), she introduces the band, before launching into the final song of the set, the hi-nrg 'Since U Been Gone.' Coming quickly back out, she begins the last song of the show with a question: "How many of you came here tonight to sing a song with me?" Beginning the song front of stage, two acoustic (and seated) guitars either side of her, the audience now being filmed and plastered across the back video screens, 'Breakaway' is served up to the masses.
And then, one hour and ten minutes later, it's all over. As flushed as a cherry tomato, as worn as a rag doll, and glistening like a swimmer just out of the water, Clarkson waves frantically at her fans. "God bless," she manages to still get out, "And please come back when we come back."
by Russell A. Trunk