Better than...a Taylor Hicks concert
She was once a doughy waitress longing for a chance at stardom, appearing on an unheard-of contest show to make her dreams to come true, but now Kelly Clarkson is a bonafide superstar. After 10 years in the public eye, the winner of the first American Idol is one of the most famous pop stars in the country.
With only a handful of dates left on her Stronger tour, the singer, along with her impressive eight-piece band, pulled out all of the stops at her only area show. She opened with a video montage running down her perceived public controversies surrounding her weight gain, sexuality and career tribulations, all of which got the sold-out Nokia Theatre crowd worked into a frenzy. Having performed before millions on Idol and more recently performed the Super Bowl national anthem, the singer turned the venue into her own small club.
Throughout her career-spanning set, the singer shifted between pop, rock and country. Stand-bys like "Behind These Hazel Eyes," "Since U Been Gone" and "Breakaway" were crowd pleasers, as were newer song like "Stronger." During "You Love Me," the Texas-native strolled off the stage and headed deep into the crowd and sang in front of lucky audience members.
Clarkson also brought some famous friends on stage. Beginning with fellow Season 1 Idol contestant Tamyra Gray, she also called up Michelle Branch, Blake Shelton and Reba McEntire for duets. As loud as the venue's cheers were for The Voice host, it was McEntire's appearance that clearly meant the most to Clarkson. Telling the audience that she had listened to the country icon's tape as a child and honored to have sung with her in the past, everyone was surprised when she brought out McEntire for "Because Of You."
Special guests aside, what made this a memorable evening was the earnestness of Clarkson's performance. Over the course of the evening, she was energetic and constantly interacted with the crowd. She told relatable stories like hating the gym, and explaining what it feels like to be treated poorly by a significant other. Clarkson understands what it means to be both a star and a role model, and her aw-shucks routine just feels like Kelly being Kelly.
Before Idol focused on creating stars in specific genres, the show's ideology was to find and create a superstar. As the most well-rounded and complete package to emerge from the show's 11 seasons, Kelly Clarkson is the embodiment of both Simon Fuller and Simon Cowell's original vision.
"This is the best night ever," the singer said towards the end of the set. I'm sure she's not the only one who felt that way.
Critical Bias: Clarkson is easily the best American Idol and has proved that with her staying power.
The Crowd: Exactly what you'd expect: a 75-25 split between females and males.
Random Notebook Dump: There were two uniformed police officers packing heat in the lobby. Didn't they know that this was a Kelly Clarkson concert? Sheesh.
Set list below:
Behind These Hazel Eyes
Since U Been Gone
You Love Me
Heavy In Your Arms
When You Believe (with Tamyra Gray)
Till The World Ends (Britney Spears cover)
Leave The Pieces (with Michelle Branch)
I Know You Won't
Don't You Wanna Stay (with Blake Shelton)
Let Me Down
I Forgive You
You Still Won't Know What It's Like
Mr. Know It All
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Because Of You (with Reba McEntire)
Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)
My Life Would Suck Without You