Clay Aiken, The Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, August 4th, 2007
Part concert, part comedy show, Clay Aiken and a live orchestra performed in front of a few thousand of his most dedicated fans on Saturday night. Before the show, I had spoken with fans of the American Idol runner up, or Claymaniacs, who told me that an Aiken concert is as much about his interaction with the audience as it is about his trademark big vocals. I was a little skeptical about how this would turn out because I appreciate rapid fire performances in live concerts. However, many an Aiken concert veteran assured me that I was in for a great night on this stop of The Soft Rock & A Hard Place Tour. Thankfully, Aiken delivered. In an entertaining two hour set, Aiken and his background vocalists Angela Fisher and Quiana Parler put together an upbeat night (somehow, in a set filled with ballads) that was just as filled with laughter (legitimate “LOL,” “LMAO,” “ROFL” laughter) from the audience as it was with strong performances coming from the performers on stage.
As is inevitably the case with many a stop on the Mobile Beat tour (big ups to the Mobile Beat bloggers who have encountered some unexpected surprises in this past week), not everything went according to plan pre-show. By the time I made it to the venue, I was convinced that there was no way that I was going to pay $15 to park in the general stack parking area (which took 2 hours for me to break free after The Fray concert earlier this summer). Last time, the marketing director of the company who put on The Fray concert helped me out tremendously, literally dragging me from “the pit” and into the photo area so that I could get clear shots of the stage. Before the show, she told me that I should have parked in the press area. Already facing past due payments on my car and student loans because of this summer’s concert tickets (who cares about my FICO score… other than my future wife, who I hope is reading this), I took a calculated risk and passed on the regular parking area and headed straight towards the non-stack parked VIP lot to work my munchkin-like charms.
I’ll admit that I name dropped. It was shameless.
“Hi, I’m Dave Chung and I was supposed to be on the parking
list for tonight (I am lying at this point). Could you double check on that for
“Sure… Sorry, it’s not on here. Are you sure that you have a photo credential?”
“Yeah, it’s waiting for me at Will Call (it wasn’t). I was told that I should be able to park in this lot last time I was here.” (And of course, I was fully aware of the fact that many on the Mobile Beat team have arrived at venues with tickets and passes going missing. But I sounded confident.)
“Who are you here with?”
“I’m with Billboard.”
The parking attendant thought about it for a second, then handed me a parking pass and told me to make my way into the parking area designated for performers, literally saving me two hours.
With absolutely nothing that said I should actually be there, I was in. Hollerrrr.
After claiming my seat ticket at Will Call, I discovered that my photo pass was missing and that I wasn’t on the list. Determined to get this photo pass, I scoured the grounds like a raccoon looking for a tasty looking garbage buffet. Amazingly, I spotted Vanessa (who resembled an angel sent from above by this point, or Waldo in a frustrating game of “Where’s Waldo?”), who had provided me with my photo pass previously, and I ran after her like a crazed paparazzi. After a brief explanation of the missing pass situation and reminder that we had met previously, Vanessa hooked me up with a photo pass. Now, I was really in.
The second I walked into the venue, I knew this was going to
be a concert unlike any other. After hanging out with teenage girls (again,
holler!) last week at Carrie Underwood’s show, I expected a similar crowd for
another American Idol alumnus. Instead, it was a much older crowd than I
expected (median age 45?), skewed about 90% female. The stage was set up for a
full orchestra, something I wasn’t expecting, but was pleasantly surprised to
find. As one of the few non-balding males in attendance (not that there’s
anything wrong with balding), I was an anomaly at the show. I found two girls
with a “Clay took our concert virginity” poster, which was more of what I was
expecting from the night’s audience. Seeing them and their sign made me feel
more at ease because I was a Clay concert-virgin that night and they seemed
pretty happy with their first experience. I suppose it says something when
people come back for more after that first intimate experience…instead of not
returning your text messages… nor calling back… perhaps blocking on IM…maybe
even Google chat… Wait, what are we talking about?
I’m positive that the beer vendors didn’t have to check one ID the whole night and there would be zero smell of illicit drugs filling the air (there was a skunk smell, which briefly fooled me). In front of me, a group of women discussed how Michael Buble was sold out at the venue for three consecutive nights, but that “he’s just not Clay.” Claymaniacs who had seen him numerous times in concert, like Wisconsin-native and Claymaniac Sarah Logghe, who is traveling and attending Aiken concerts throughout the summer, were in attendance tonight and this would become more obvious as the night went on. (Yes, I am that short)
The full set list for the night was as follows:
- Here You Come Again
- Everything I Have
- I Want to Know What Love Is
- When I See You Smile
- Every Time You Go Away
- TV Show Theme Song Medley
- Open Arms
- When the Lights Go Down (originally by Faith Hill, performed by Quiana)
- Right Here Waiting
- Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word
- Measure of a Man
- Without You
- The Way You Make Me Feel
- “Cool Song” Medley
- Listen (originally by Beyonce’, performed by Angela)
- Lover All Alone
- Because You Loved Me
Opening up the show with “Here You Come Again,” Aiken brought everyone seated in the pit to their collective feet (after they told me that they were going to stay seated as I kneeled in front of them to snap pictures). Despite the fact that this pit was no where near the pushing and fighting for position that I’ve become accustomed to, the energy and enthusiasm in the pit was impressive. Immediately, I noticed how respectful the Clay fans were and how they attend concerts for the purpose of listening, not to sing along loudly like at a rock concert (see me at The Fray), nor hurl expletives at the stage like a hip-hop concert (see me at any hip hop concert). On a side note, that would really hurt my feelings if I was a rapper, which is clearly the only reason why I haven’t yet been signed by G-Unit, as my lyrical skills is no doubt “fly” and “on point,” naw mean? No? Me neither.
Next up was “Everything I have,” which is my favorite Clay song off his second CD. If you’re a ballad lover who enjoys curling up on your couch with some hot chocolate, a self-heating face mask, a towel wrapped around your head while you use a deep conditioning treatment, while you get emo to whatever music is playing as you watch a simulated fireplace on your screensaver (because real fire is SO 90’s. Ew.) like I do (this is half true…which makes me self-conscious), this might be one of the better ballads that many have never heard. After the two ballads, Clay performed “I Want To Know What Love Is,” which heavily featured Angela Fisher’s vocals as well. At the end of the song, Aiken and Fisher had an on-stage battle performing runs, which was a lot of fun for both everyone in attendance as the runs were overdone to the point that they were as hilarious as they were impressive.
Clay asked the audience if it was hot outside because he was overheating on stage. Immediately, women started exclaiming, “TAKE IT OFF, CLAY!!!” With the reflexes of a paranoid schizophrenic cat supped up on adderal, I ran into the aisle ready to snap pictures (in the name of the Mobile Beat, of course), only to return blushing and disappointed to my seat. What makes Clay’s show so entertaining is that he, Angela, and Quiana are such engaging personalities who are so comfortable on stage that you can’t help but get drawn in as they joke around with each other and the audience. Clay’s humor is self-deprecating and honestly, much funnier than I would have ever expected. He joked that the few men in the audience there with their wives were probably getting drunk before the show, thinking “This is the only way I’m going to get through this… this, and Barry Manilow…” I can’t make some of this stuff up.
A first for me, but apparently a mainstay of this year’s Aiken tour, was the TV Show Theme Songs Medley. Clay revealed that he sang the theme to “Perfect Strangers” (big ups to Balki and Cousin Larry) for his American Idol audition before the judges asked him to sing another song. Singing songs from TV shows that spanned about three decades, Aiken and his backup vocalists performed theme songs from not only Perfect Strangers, but Full House, Laverne and Shirley, Diff’rent Strokes, Charles in Charge (which Quiana performed so well like it was ready to be released as a radio single), The Jeffersons, and other well-known TV shows. The unusual and pretty wild medley that saw Aiken take off his jacket and dance around the stage for brief stints, got a rousing standing ovation from the appreciative crowd that enjoyed the trip back in time.
Bringing the audience back to their seats, “Open Arms”
brought the audience back to their seats to take in Aiken’s vocals as he and
Angela put together some pretty incredible harmonies. It was an interesting experience
to be part of such an engaged audience, to the point where a woman sitting next
to me took a cell phone call during a song and received some of the dirtiest
looks I have ever seen in my whole life (my look being the most fierce, “Blue
Steel,” baby) from what was probably one of the nicest audiences I’ve ever been
a part of. Next, Aiken gave the stage over to backup singer Quiana Parler. She
performed Faith Hill’s “When The Lights Go Down,” which featured some powerful
runs and some Whitney-like flashes of vocal brilliance. It was refreshing to
see an artist give his background vocalists so much credit, as Clay did at
numerous points in the night. It was well deserved because as Clay put it,
Quiana “blew the crap out of that song.” If my body could produce such sounds
every time I blew the crap out of something, let’s just say that I would never
make it off the can in the morning.
After a brief intermission and orchestra tune up (what a trip to see this at a non-classical concert!), Clay and Co. returned to the stage to thunderous applause to perform “Right Here Waiting.” Even as large moths and large airborne bugs attacked Aiken, Fisher, and Parler during the performance like crazed women ripping at my clothes every time I walk into a room (I’m completely joking), the trio pulled off an impressive vocal performance that featured some of the longest notes I have ever heard in my whole life by Aiken. “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word” was one of my favorite performances, as it featured more of Aiken’s vulnerability in his voice, instead of his trademark huge vocals. Following these two ballads, Clay performed “Measure of a Man,” the title track off his first album to huge applause. Even if you’re a Clay-hater (and I know they’re out there), the piano, orchestra, and Clay’s huge vocals on the chorus made this a performance that would be difficult for anyone not to smile at. It was one of the most electric performances on the night and it made me wish that Aiken performed more songs off his first CD like “Solitaire,” “Invisible,” and “This is the Night,” but it wasn’t meant to be.
Before performing “Without You,” Clay joked with the
audience about topics ranging from laxatives to the fact the he performs a ton
of slow songs and how he didn’t want to bore the audience with ballad-palooza
(I made that up, not Clay. He’s wittier). The harmonies on the song’s huge
chorus were spot on and I think the superb performance of the track brought
many in the audience back to the version by Harry Nilsson that brought the song
to legendary status in the 1970’s. For me, it brought me back to the version by
Mariah Carey, but there were numerous generations in attendance that were could
appreciate the song in different ways. Afterwards, Clay sympathized with the
males in the audience, apologizing for all the slow songs, but guaranteeing
that “Your wife will be very happy when she gets home,” before performing
Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” as he weaved in and out of the
After confessing to the audience that he was not cool and fumbling over using phrases like “Fo’ shizzle,” Clay, Quiana, and Angela let loose in what I call the “Cool Song” medley, which included radio hits from the past two decades. Kicking off the medley with an orchestra accompanied version of Sir Mixalot’s classic “Baby Got Back,” the medley included “Like a Virgin,” “Bills, Bills, Bills,” “1999,” “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy,” “Oops, I Did It Again” (which was accompanied by some hilarious Clay Aiken faces), “Yeah!”, “Sexyback,” “Achy Breaky Heart,” “Opposites Attract,” and “Beat It.” It goes without saying that this was a big crowd pleaser, more about the medley itself than the vocals. If you took a step back, it was hilarious to realize that all these songs were performed with a full orchestra of people in white button down shirts. It reminded me a bit of the 50 Cent Vitamin Water commercial where the orchestra plays the theme to “In Da Club.”
Nearly stealing the show, singer Angela Fisher performed “Listen,” made famous by Beyonce’s performance in the movie Dreamgirls (yes, I saw it, girlfriend). I was really excited for this performance after hearing about it from some Clay veterans earlier in the night. Angela tackled every note with all the passions of a Beyonce’ and Jamie Foxx argument on the big screen and worked the crowd into as much of a frenzy as you can possibly do with a ballad. People cheered audibly during each of the choruses and Angela’s stage presence was an absolute joy to behold. She received what could have been the most well-deserved standing ovation of the night.
Next up, Clay did by performed “Lover All Alone,” a song he co-wrote with David Foster. The result is a really passionate ballad that featured an incredible cello solo to go along with Clay’s vocals and a simple piano melody. Clay finished out the show to a crowd waving glow sticks side to side during his performance of “Because You Loved Me.” Before performing the song for an audience that wanted more, Aiken joked that half the crowd would be at the next show anyways, which resulted in a lot of laughter. After meeting so many Aiken followers that night, I am positive that Clay was being completely truthful in that statement because his fan base really is that dedicated.
In what was probably the most relaxing concert I’ve ever attended with the most respectful crowd I’ve ever been a part of (I am positive not a single expletive was spoken all night), Clay Aiken put on a great show vocally and in terms of entertainment for the audience in attendance. Not only is Aiken a powerful vocalist who has developed his own identity and following that has gone well past him being a “guy from American Idol,” but he puts on a hilarious show that is filled with more laughs that you’d ever expect from a ballad-filled evening. While I wish that Aiken performed some more songs from his first CD, few Aiken fans would ever leave his show unsatisfied, as the singer manages to make everyone feel like they’re just hanging out with Clay and his band for the night. With strong vocals throughout the night and random banter that surprisingly did not annoy me between songs (almost an impossible task), Aiken became more than just a singer to me tonight, but lived up to his reputation as a strong entertainer as well.