Review: 'American Idols Live!' sags under overwrought production

Midway through Tuesday night’s "American Idols Live!" show, what should have been a simple command was handed down: “Everybody get up.” Then, as Robin Thicke’s sexy, disco-dipped summer anthem “Blurred Lines” rang out through Nokia Theatre, four of the series’ female finalists emerged to deliver a saucy rendition of the tune.

It was a desperately needed uptick in energy for the two-hour show, which was the annual in-concert display of the competition’s top 10 contestants. But regardless, most of the crowd at Nokia Theatre spent the evening seemingly unaware that they were at a concert, and not at home watching “Idol” from their couch.

But the fault shouldn’t be placed on the audience, as the show’s overwrought production played a healthy role in sucking the energy out of the theater.

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Between the opening credits from the TV show that opened the night, pre-taped segments from host Ryan Seacrest and outgoing judge Randy Jackson and a few unnecessary group numbers, the presentation felt like a bloated episode of the series, a particularly impressive feat given how overstuffed the show is.

The production, which would have been better suited for larger arenas (the tour once filled Staples Center and Tuesday’s Nokia Theatre, which seats 7,100, was nowhere near capacity), even swallowed a few of the contestants throughout the night.

When the show opened with this season’s female finalists tackling Little Mix’s current hit, “Wings,” they were overpowered by a dialed-up sound (microphone feedback would be an issue all night). Season standout Amber Holcomb was washed out by a dizzying visual display during her set as she ran through a Rihanna smash, and she appeared frustrated by the crowd's lack of enthusiasm. The male contestants also struggled with finding their footing on the raised platforms during a take on Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven.”

Even worse, during an otherwise stellar set from early frontrunner Angie Miller, the flashing lights pounded the venue so harshly that fans on the lower level of the theater were forced to look away.

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By the second act -- there was a commercial-filled intermission -- a few of “Idol’s” tiniest fans near me were tuckered out and snoozing next to equally unenthusiastic parents.

Production woes aside, for those that followed the last season of “Idol,” the narrative -- aside from incendiary headlines on sagging ratings, bitter rivalries and the likely mass exodus of the judges panel -- was the competition’s batch of fierce female competitors.

During the season, the female finalists played the game so deftly they knocked their male peers out week by week, marking the show's first all-female top 5 and bringing the show its first female winner since 2007.

This was on full display Tuesday as the ladies, including winner Candice Glover, got ample stagetime as the contestants backed each other up during solo sets.

The night’s obvious standouts were Kree Harrison, the country songbird who came in second, and Glover, the R&B-soul diva with the voice.

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Harrison’s set, which moved from Patty Griffin’s classic “Up to the Mountain” to the singer’s debut single, “All Cried Out” and a tune from Alabama Shakes, was the night’s warmest, and most seamless, moment.

Even Glover, a powerhouse belter at heart, was loose with her showing that harnessed arena-ready foot-stompers (courtesy of a Beyonce tune and a reggae-tinged single from Glover’s upcoming debut) with sweet, stripped-down intimacy.

Too bad most of the audience couldn’t muster up the energy to truly enjoy it. Maybe they were blinded by the flashing lights.


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