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Monday, November 11, 2002  

I knew months ago that my wife was going to be spending yesterday evening in the same room with American Idol’s top ten finalists (as well as twenty thousand other people). What I didn’t know at the time was that I’d be there too.

For weeks, I gave Trash a hard time about her not inviting me to come along. “I want to go,” I’d say, and she’d say, “No, you’ll just mock the whole time,” and I’d say, “Why do you think I want to go?”

Eventually, I started wearing her down. “You can come if you promise not to mock,” she’d say, and I’d say, “I think you know me better than that.”

In the final week, one of her guests fell through and I was in for sure. “No mocking,” Trash warned. “I’m going to mock,” I insisted. “Okay, no mocking when we’re there,” she asked. I refused. “That’s my prime mocking window,” I pointed out. Eventually she wore me down to the point where I agreed to her proviso “Please do not spit directly in Kelly Clarkson’s eye where I can see you do it.” And although I never had any intention of doing so, I even made her negotiate hard for that.

Saturday, she mentioned the concert again. “I don’t know if I want to go,” I said nonchalantly. The look she gave me was more penetrating than an MRI.

The main reason I wanted to go was to experience the executive suite. The Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul is ringed with swanky executive boxes between the upper and lower decks. You can’t even get onto the mezzanine level without an executive suite ticket, but once you’re there you can stand above the main level ticketholders and try to drop pennies into their butt cleavage (theoretically). As for the suites themselves, these ridiculously expensive chunks of real estate have been the source of much contention, especially in this town where everyone and their elected representatives spend so much time arguing not over whether we need a new stadium, but how many we need and who’s paying for them. I’m not interested in that argument. I’m much more interested in the fact that the suite had free beer.

The free beer also made it a lot easier on Trash, mocking-from-me-wise. Not that she got off scot-free, mind you. From the moment EJay Day appeared on stage sporting the fugliest hairstyle in the history of the universe (and I’m counting combovers, Londo from Babylon Five, and everything ever done to the collective heads of Christina Aguilera, David Letterman, and every Saturday Night Live castmember ever) until the group singsong at the end drove us bodily out of the venue, she spent a lot of time studiously avoiding my gaze. Every once in a while she’d venture a guarded glance in my direction and see me staring back at her with a dead-eyed “this is all your fault” expression on my face. This would happen during the tackier examples of choreography, costuming, pyrotechnics, blocking, stage banter, and musical performance. So it was pretty much constant. Eventually she started thumping me to make me stop.

At this point, I need to print a retraction. Some people have compared Justin Guarini to Sideshow Bob because of his hair. I am one of those people. However, having seen him perform live, I now understand that Sideshow Bob, a two-dimensional representation of a humanoid figure rendered entirely in ink, has more bones in his legs than Justin Guarini does. It’s a little confusing, because watching Justin on TV gave the impression that the man was constructed entirely from cheese, so watching him caper around on those Gumby legs of his made me wonder where all the calcium went to.

Here’s what I learned about some of the other finalists:

Without his glasses, Jim looks way too much like James Van Der Beek. Or maybe that was just all the smug he was wearing.

Were all the guys required to have a J in their names, preferably in initial form? I don’t know, I’m asking. Throughout the evening, the Jumbotron showed a couple of shots of the crowd in which people were holding up signs celebrating the idols. They would have us believe that someone held up the initials A J and then later someone else held up the initials R J, but I’m pretty sure it was the same J both times. I’m not that easy to fool, punks.

Ryan Starr is painfully aware of how out of her depth she is. She handles it by trying to distract us with seven miles of bare torso.

Nikki McKibbin is so bitter that she put up with Simon for so long and then lost and still doesn’t get to go home. Getting to twirl around in a Stevie Nicks shawl while warbling “Rhiannon” doesn’t come close to making up for that.

Seeing Kelly Clarkson turn around and do that ass-shakin’ move like a belly dancer in a hip-hop video is more than a little incongruous. I thought she was supposed to be a big spaz, you know? Clearly, I’m not the only one who thought so. One of the signs held up during her performance simply read “DUCKA DUCKA DUCKA.” That cracked me up.

I think there’s somebody on the tour whose entire job is to brief the kids on what city they’re playing in. I heard the words “Minnesota” and “St. Paul” more times in two hours than I could have in a week inside the State Capitol. Maybe somebody mistakenly addressed “Cleveland” as “Columbus” or something, and now everyone’s on double-secret probation. I don’t know if they spend the entire bus trip between stops drilling the name of the next city into the kids’ heads, bit it even worked on Ryan Starr, who couldn’t even remember Christina’s last name.

There are worse things than being a starving musician. For instance, there’s being a musician in the American Idol touring band.

As far as I’m concerned, it was all worth it for the hospitality suite. If I’d paid money to see this show, I would have gotten what I deserved. Instead, I got paid—in beer! That’s better payment than I’ve gotten most nights when I was providing the music.

* * *

For a more detailed recap, check this out. It’s about the show in Long Island, but it sounds just like the show I saw here. That implies an almost total lack of improvisation and spontaneity, doesn’t it? Excuse me while I defibrillate myself.

posted by M. Giant 3:20 PM 0 comments


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