Santa Cruz Good Times

Saturday
Sep 05th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Passion Play

james_durbinYou've got another think coming if you think you've seen everything James Durbin can do. Last night, he turned in not one, but two of the solid, quality performances the judges have come to expect from him every week on American Idol—a straight-up rocker, with a side of passion such as we rarely see in showbizzy Idol performances. It was Now and Then Night, and since there are only five contestants still standing, each of them got to sing two songs to fill up the 90-minute time slot—one contemporary tune, and one oldie (ie: pre-'80s).

James was up first with the rocker, "Closer to the Edge" from the modern emo rock band 30 Seconds to Mars, combining strong vocals with an easy onstage presence, working the stage and the audience. "You're ready for stadiums," declared judge Jennifer Lopez, adding, "(The competition) is yours to take!" "He wants it!" echoed Randy Jackson.

Okay, the judges say that about all the kids these days; they pretty much stopped actually judging anything after the competition was whittled down to the Final 10. A more spontaneous take on James came from the week's guest mentor, Sheryl Crow, shown in the offstage clips trading licks of the song with him in rehearsal. "I got to sing with James," she giggled to the camera, later. "I feel like I can officially retire now!"
But for his second number, James came back with something completely different (as usual), the emotional, yet explosive ballad "Without You," from Harry Nilsson.( It was certainly emotional for James; he said he equates it with saying goodbye to his wife and son after a visit so he can go back to the competition; in the clips, he couldn't quite get through it in rehearsal without breaking down.) Onstage, he got through the whole song; he was in tears by the end, but he sang with plenty of heart and soul, even that acrobatic stretch in the middle where you have to sing the chorus a second time, an octave higher.

Of course, as most singers do, in order to stretch to that octave, he had to start in a slightly lower register than might have been comfortable for him. But he sang the tender opening so beautifully, and the entire performance was so honest, he made it all work in his favor. "It's yours to lose!" said Randy. "That's just as good as it gets," chimed in Steven Tyler. "You are a true, true, artist. You're serious about winning this thing," said La Lopez. "He's amazing, you guys!" she told the crowd.
The thing is, the judges have been spoiled by James; they expect him to be fabulous every single time, and he always is, so they're kind of used to it. Some of their more breathless responses last night came for contestants who have been kind of skimming along who suddenly got the idea they should do something a little more, you know, competitive. Scotty McCreery actually had a lot of fun onstage with the rollicking "Gone" from Montgomery Gentry; his performance incorporated a lot more jumping around than usual. Ditto country songbird Lauren Alaina, stamping around onstage to Carrie Underwood's "Flat on the Floor." (Hmmm, suddenly all these crooners are trying to "do" James and kick up some dust.)

But Scotty's vintage number, a twangy rendition of Elvis' "You Were Always On My Mind," plopped him back in the same old rut. (Although the judges heaped him with praise, natch.) Even less successful was Lauren's attempt on the Righteous Brothers' "Unchained Melody." As producer Jimmy Iovine pointed out in the clip, "she's a young girl singing a very mature lyric," and while she hit all the notes with her big, pure voice, she communicated nothing of the anguish, or the soul of the song. So it was kind of a joke when the so-called judges got all orgasmic, and gushed there was "nothing to judge" in her performance. Oh, please.

(And while we're at it, can host Ryan Seacrest just shut up with that "Scotty the Body" stuff, awreddy? Where did that come from? Even Scotty seems embarrassed by it. Also, the next time Randy says someone is "in it to win it," can you please just shoot me?)

Only Jacob Lusk and Haley Reinhart got mixed reviews last night, Jacob for attempting both parts of the duet "No Air" by former Idol alumna Jordin Sparks and Chris Brown, and Haley for singing an unreleased Lady Gaga song, "You and I." (Gaga evidently sings it in concert.) Jacob came back to apply his big, walloping voice to the old Nazareth song, "Love Hurts," with plenty of power and finesse, but he boggled a note in the middle, which could be the deciding factor as the competition gets more cutthroat.
Haley, on the other hand, is getting more and more fun to watch. I thought she rocked the Lady Gaga song. (So what if the audience isn't familiar with it, as some of the judges carped? A vocalist's job is to sell a song, not lead a singalong.) I think she's doing a lot more interesting, jazzy, bluesy things with her voice since she started hanging out and singing with the late, lamented Casey—much more than when she used to flounder through "You Really Got a Hold On Me," or "Piece of My Heart" like she didn't have a clue what they were really about.

Last night, she closed with a pretty gutsy version of "House of the Rising Sun"—including a very cool, smoky part in the second verse after rising to a big crescendo at the end of the first verse. ("Best performance of the night!" raved Randy Jackson, with typical restraint.) My one word of advice: she should have opted for a female POV ("It's been the ruin of many a poor girl / Dear God, I know, I'm one..."), which wouldn't have altered the rest of the song at all, and been both gender- and historically-correct. But this is a small complaint for a performer who's learning to develop a little passion onstage.
As usual, James is the leader of the pack in this department. After his ardent "Without You," he confessed, "Every week, I leave everything on the stage." Let's see Scotty match that.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

You Are What You Post

Online personality algorithms put astrological profiles to shame, but UCSC psychologists are raising questions about sharing personal data

 

Venus Direct, Mercury Retro Soon, Honoring Our Labors

As Burning Man (nine days, Aug. 30-Sept. 7 in the sign of Virgo) burns in the hot white desert sands, a petal of the rose created by retrograde Venus and the twelve-petaled Sun in Virgo’s petals unfold. All of us are on the burning ground (Leo) in the womb (cave of the heart) of the mother (Virgo), gestating for humanity once again (each year) a new state of consciousness. Both Virgo and Cancer, feminine (receptive energies) signs, are from our last solar system (Pleiades). When humanity first appeared on Earth we were nurtured by the mother, a matriarchy of energies (on islands in the Pacific). Eve, Isis and Mary are part of the lineages of our ancient Mother. Overseen by the Pleiades, the Earth (matter, mater, the mother) in that last solar system was imbued with intelligence (Ray 3). As we move toward autumn, another mother, Ceres realizes she has mere weeks left with her beloved daughter, Persephone. Persimmon and pomegranate trees prepare for autumn, their colors signs of hope as the light each day continues to dim. Sunday, Venus in Leo turns stationary direct, yet continues in her shadow until Oct. 9 (when retrograde Mercury turns direct). Slowly our newly assessed values emerge from the Venus retrograde. We thought in Venus retro how to use our resources more effectively. Mercury retrogrades Sept. 17. Monday is Labor Day. Let us honor the labor of everyone, all life a “labor.” Let us honor Labor Day and all those who have “served” (labored for) us this past year. We honor their labors. We honor the labor of our parents, those who have loved us. We honor our own labors, too. We are all in service, we are all laboring. We are all valuable.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of September 4

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Sushi Garden

Local sushi empire expands to Scotts Valley

 

Do you overshare online?

I don’t think so. I just post things about my life, like successful things. Sometimes I just like sharing different news that I find interesting, or favorite artists, clothes, music. I like to post photos. Natalia Delgado, Santa Cruz, Server

 

McIntyre Vineyards

I recently met up with three friends for dinner at Sanderlings at Seascape Beach Resort. We chose to eat outside so we could watch the sun set over the ocean, but the Aptos fog rolled in and swallowed it up.

 

Sustainable Supper

The Homeless Garden Project’s Sustain Supper series supports its award-winning programs