'American Idol Live!' 2013 Concert Review: Highs, Lows and Headscratchers from Newark, N.J.!

American-Idols-Live-2013-ReviewThe “American Idol Live!” 2013 tour touched down in Newark, NJ, Wednesday night, with many of Season 12’s familiar themes — the undeniable awesomeness of Candice Glover and Kree Harrison, the inscrutable warbling of Lazaro Arbos (and its Pavlovian effect on teen girls) — in tact.

But that doesn’t mean there weren’t surprises — good and bad — from the Top 10 finalists (plus sing-off winner Aubrey Cleland). Among them: Amber Holcomb’s mojo disappearing faster than Nicki Minaj at the end of the Idol season; Devin Velez developing a stage presence that (almost) matches his powerful pipes; Angie Miller getting torn between two personas; and the Idol Powers That Be displaying an impressive ineptitude with a selection of group numbers that were almost entirely inappropriate.

RELATED | Can J.Lo and Will.i.Am Save American Idol? Not Unless the Show Follows These 4 Simple Rules!

Let’s jump to a rundown of the show’s best and worst moments, shall we?

CONCERT MVP | Just as Season 12’s telecasts frequently peaked with Candice’s soulful, pitch-perfect performances, so too did the Newark tour stop reach its crescendo when its champ finally emerged at the end of the show for a four-song solo set — with one marked difference. Without the competitive pressures of the competition, Candice has become a looser, more vibrant performer, evidenced in her high-energy cover of Beyoncé’s “End of Time” as well as the sparkling, reggae-tinged original “In the Middle” (a very good bit of foreshadowing for her forthcoming debut CD, Music Speaks). Still, it was Candice’s pair of ballads that showcased her full vocal and emotional horsepower: She imbued her coronation single “I Am Beautiful” with so much conviction that I un-ironically became a Swaybot on the final chorus. And the effortless beauty of her jazzy twist on The Cure’s “Lovesong” was so transcendent that a hush fell over the Prudential Center crowd, lest anyone miss a single twist or turn of her delivery.

WORST SOLO PERFORMANCE | Preceding the final one-two punch of Kree and Candice was Lazaro Arbos’ baffling karaoke-bar rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory,” complete with almost-inaudible lower register, strained high notes and a white-socks-with-dark-pants-and-shoes combo that put the “ick” in ridiculous. The optimist in me wants to believe the teenage girls in the audience were screaming to drown out the sound of his vocals, but alas, until these misguided lasses learn that Google Image Search is a great source of male eye candy, the Lazaros of the world will always be able to move their share of concert tickets.

MOST SURPRISING PERFORMANCE | Kree’s “All Cried Out” and “Up to the Mountain” were as sublime as you’d expect — her voice really is as soothing as 1,000-thread-count sheets, and as rich as an Ina Garten dessert — but I was most delighted by her gritty cover of the Alabama Shakes’ “Hold On.” The song choice may have flummoxed half the concert audience, but in a post-Idol setting, I hope Kree manages to infuse her love of modern country with her excellent skills in the blues and roots-rock arenas. It may not be the most obvious commercial approach, but seeing how country radio only has room for two or three female solo acts anyhow, it might be wise for her to zig-a-zig-aaah when everyone else expects a zag, yes?

MOST DISAPPOINTING | Amber’s set got relegated to the opening half of the show, but instead of using it as an opportunity to dominate, she seemed to fade into the seizure-inducing backdrop of flashing landscapes — think Madonna’s “Ray of Light” on a clip-art budget — that accompanied her cover of “We Found Love.” No doubt, Season 12’s fourth-place finisher has a stronger, more pleasing voice than Rihanna, but Amber looked slightly embarrassed during the dance breakdown, and later, joined by Aubrey and Angie Miller on Ariana Grande’s “The Way,” she seemed to lose energy (or maybe interest) by the halfway point. What happened to the brassy kid who slayed “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?,” “She’s Leaving Home” and “My Funny Valentine” on my TV a few months back?

MOST IMPROVED | Devin Velez’s “Somos Novios (It’s Impossible)” reinforced the fact that, despite his shortcomings during the competition, he’s got a voice that’s big enough to fill an arena. What I didn’t expect, though, was the charisma he showed while upstaging fellow finalists Curtis Finch, Jr., and Burnell Taylor on a rendition of “Suit & Tie.”

MOST CONFUSING | Look, I recognize that a lot of Idol contestants are still works in progress in terms of figuring out their artistic direction, but third-place finisher Angie’s set was almost jarring in its transition from the sexy grind of Jessie J’s “Mama Knows Best” — which found Ms. Miller at her hammy, drama-student worst, writhing atop a piano — to a truly riveting version of the self-penned “You Set Me Free” where Angie (and her insanely luscious cascade of hair) actually played the piano. Whatever road Angie chooses in the future, she needs to remember that not everyone can be Katy Perry, nor should everyone want to.

BIGGEST SCENE-STEALER | God bless Janelle Arthur, who threw her pint-sized self into every single moment she was allowed on stage: Her committment to the choreography single-handedly sold what was an otherwise peculiar four-gal version of “Blurred Lines”; her gorgeous harmonies as a background vocalist on Paul Jolley’s “Blown Away” upgraded the entire thing from rock solid to fantastic; and her drama-filled reading of the Band Perry’s “Better Dig Two” (definitely one of the night’s highlights) proved she could easily be a headliner — if a label is smart enough to take a gamble. (Based on her original “Young and Reckless,” which sadly didn’t make her set list, we know girlfriend’s got the material.)

BIGGEST COMPLAINT | What I wouldn’t have given for a few extra solo performances — or a few thoughtfully selected duets — instead of the slapshod hodgepodge of group numbers that found the Idols tackling current radio hits that seemed to suit almost none of ‘em. I mean, did no one in charge of the Idol tour ever listen to the lyrics of “Blurred Lines” or fun.’s “We Are Young”? Did anyone really want to witness Candice and Kree being forced to cover One Direction? Is there ever an appropriate setting for Paul, Janelle and Kree to have to team up on the lyric “Everybody’s feeling sexy/ Holler if you’re ready”? If you answered “No” to all of the above questions, then you’re definitely feeling my pain, and (I suspect) the pain of the Idol Season 12 finalists.

That said, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit the final one-two punch, a mashup of Anna Kendrick’s “Cups” and Phillip Phillips’ “Gone, Gone, Gone,” worked surprisingly well — while proving Candice’s voice is ridiculous in its versatility. Come to think of it, has anyone thought about a soulful twist on “Home” to help spur interest in Candice’s debut album? Hey, the 2014 Winter Olympics is gonna need an unofficial theme song…

Have you caught the “American Idol Live!” 2013 tour? What were your favorite and least favorite moments? Sound off in the comments, and for all my Idol-related news, commentary and video, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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58 Comments
  1. Nicole says:

    It’s like you heard my mother and I’s conversations at the New Orleans stop of the show. Perfect recap of it. :-)

  2. reality says:

    Kree was excellent at the show I went to. She is amazing! Too bad she is not getting a record deal. What is Jimmy thinking?

    • laurel says:

      He rolled the dice on Jessica Sanchez and Haley Reinhart and he lost. I guess he’s not willing to take a chance on Kree. I think she would have done OK though, country music fans seem to be more loyal to their idols and actually buy their music after idol.

      • Danny says:

        It would have helped in Haley’s case if they didn’t release her album during the final week of the next season. It got zero publicity. I get that not all critically acclaimed albums sell well & some that the critics pan sell great. Still, as a rule of thumb the ones who get better reviews sell better. Her album got real good reviews.

        • maxine says:

          Ya, she should have had her album out when she performed Free on Idol. I don’t know who was to blame for that, but that was the stupidest thing ever! I honestly think it would have made a world of difference and she would have generated enough album sales to warrant a second single, second video and most importantly a tour for Listen Up! Instead she got none of the above and was dropped by Interscope. It also would have helped if Interscope had picked a single that radio would have played, like Oh My! or Undone, instead of Free. Radio dictates what people buy and as much as I love Free, I can admit that it’s not a song that would have ever gotten a lot of radio play. But whatever, none of this matters now, what’s done is done, and there’s no sense in dwelling on the past.

      • robbie says:

        Haley is done but I would not count Jessica Sanchez out just yet. Interscope is developing her as an artist with longevity and not an overnight sensation. There are still many plans in the works. Otherwise, she would have been let go by now.

  3. Mary says:

    I didn’t go to a show this year, none around me but by the sounds of your recap I didn’t miss anything. It is really sad that a few talented singers were stuck with a bunch of lemons. This is not justification, but Amber is pregnant and it might be taking its toll on her doing all these shows, especially if she is in her first trimester. Anyway I wish all of them good luck.

  4. AM says:

    I saw the show in Fairfax VA last weekend & Kree & Candice were definitely the highlight for me. Kree is my favorite, so I thought she was the best of the night. Her set was fantastic and showed that she can not only sing ballads, but also rock & get the crowd going. I got to meet Kree & Candice at the after party and they were both so sweet to everyone. Just because Idol didn’t sign Kree to Interscope’s label, doesn’t mean another label won’t sign her after the tour. Interscope sucks anyways and Kree needs a smaller label that will let her do her own thing artistically. Can’t wait for her first album!!!

  5. Nephtalia says:

    I loved Curtis solo. While his line in meet and greet was inexistent, he got an uproar during his rendition in the audience. Amber is pregnant, so I understood her hesitancy to shake too much on those high heels. I actually enjoyed the ‘We are young’ and ‘Blurred lines’ renditions. Like I always say, the Idol audience and those buying tickets as it was evidence in the VIP meet and greet and the audience are teenage girls and their mothers. So those group performances are sing along, lets enjoyed each other company that would encourage that audience to come back. Oh, and Angie <33 She was everything I hope for and more. I avoided to watch the spoilers online so I can get the whole experience live. And I still believe she is superstar material ! She exudes confidence, but humility. Put it on me now is stuck in my head. For one Idol to have vocals, stage presence, musicianship and to be soooo beautiful, she will go far. I love my Kreedom. So understated! But a voice of gold! I unfortunately had to leave before Candice performed. So I watched it online. Sublime vocals! She complimented my sister dress in meet and greet. The two years before we had two sold out live Idol tour in NJ. This year, I could not find someone to buy my third ticket. No WGWG is definitely the reason for that! Otherwise, I truly enjoy the show.

    • Cindy says:

      I loved the concert, and I’m glad that I went. My favorite performances were from Candice, Angie, Kree and Janelle. Angie’s voice sounded beautiful, and she’s confident on the stage. Janelle and Angie are really good performers. Candice has an incredible voice, and she looked so happy. Myself and a lot of other people stood and clapped for her at the end of her set. Kree’s voice is gorgeous. I thought wow about five times during her set. I wish more people would go to the concert. It was really good.

  6. Mike says:

    I guess I’m just surprised that people are actually going to this thing. I’m not sure I’d go if someone gave me the tickets for free.

  7. Marianne says:

    Biggest Scene Stealer = Janelle – – – no surprise there for me. She was (after Candice) my favorite this season. She’s naturally sparkly and very talented! Amber is pregnant? This is the first I’ve heard of this.

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  9. Bee says:

    So I know Candice and Kree were your favorites this season, and you never really liked Angie (and I know everyone has their own taste) but could you review her whole set please?. What did you think of her new song, Put It On Me?

    Ok, I’m not from the US so I haven’t attended the concert, but I’ve viewed countless videos of the concert: Here’s my opinion on it:
    The first half was boring. No one stood out in a good way. Aubrey’s song was nice, but not spectacular or anything, but she enjoyed herself, unlike Amber, Amber didn’t seem like she wanted to be there. ‘The Way’ was just not good.
    Curtis was just way over the top in his song. Devin and Paul were ok. Burnell I still can’t decide if I like his voice, lol.
    Only group performance that I enjoyed was the mash up before interval, and Wings.
    Ok on to the 2nd half:
    Angie kicked that off with a bang! Mama knows best had more energy and show in it than the whole first half! The piano stint was a bit strange, but quite sassy – she was in no way writhing. But this song set the energy for the 2nd half. You Set Me Free was perfection! Her live performances of this are always hauntingly beautiful! I really love her new song Put It On Me and I hope that is more the direction she’ll go with her career !
    I really enjoyed Janelle’s whole set, wish she’d done stuff like this on Idol. I’d definitely go watch her concerts. She’s a great performer!
    Yeah, I’m not even going to comment on Lazaro, it was just bleh.
    Love Kree’s voice, and she was definitely looser and more relaxed than on Idol. But still not exciting enough for me. I’m not the biggest country fan, so I probably couldn’t watch her whole concert, but I won’t deny her voice, it’s beautiful!
    My comments for Candice are similar to Kree’s. Candice’s voice is unbelievable! I mean wow! The new song is actually cool, I might buy her album if it’s more of this and less ‘I am beautiful’. But also, not a lively enough set for me.
    I loved the finale mash-up! The cup thing was cute:)

    (Sorry for some bias, I’m obviously an Angie fan ;)
    There ends my rambling review, lol!

    • HTGR says:

      “Sorry for some bias, I’m obviously an Angie fan ”

      no, no it’s good it balances out his now more clear than ever anti-Angie bias and overblown Candice bias (Candice does have a great voice, but he never points out how she can get totally out of control with runs and this and that and I mean even for the Star Spangled banner, all of a sudden nearing half way into it and on I wasn’t even sure what country the anthem being sung was from she so totally went away from the melody, a huge shame, since at the very start her voice was simply amazing, so she has it, she just needs to learn some control and to hold back and not go crazy adding this and that and that and that on top of everything, stay with the melody more and when you are just hitting into a huge emotional rousing point don’t suddenly kill it by adding some out of nowhere, unneeded, unwanted set of runs and such, she does have some mad talent just gotta learn to not overdo the tricks quite as much)

  10. Amy says:

    Idol “touches down in my state” just as I’m leaving it for a wedding on the date they play here. Before I knew of the wedding I considered going only if I’d gotten free tix since they’re playing the casino where I often do get free concert tix…but only to see Candice, Kree and Janelle. It would have been hard to suffer through the rest, and because of that I might have passed. Idol is smart….had they done it like they used to…have everyone come out in order of their Idol exits, no one might have shown up until the final 5. I’ve gone to Idol tour exactly once…Season 7, mainly to see David Archuleta, (worth the price of that admission alone)…but I really liked most of Top 10 that year too. Since then, even though I loved Phil Phillips last year, I have not been interested in paying for Idol tour to see all top 10. I would however pay to see Phil, Candice and maybe Kree or Janelle solo.

  11. Deni says:

    Damn, showing your bias once again Michael. I was actually agreeing with a lot of what you said until your stupid “writhing on the piano” comment – this is so not true, there was no writhing involved. She freakin sat on the piano, sang, stood on her knees, sang and jumped off.
    A reviewer should be unbiased, but you bring your dislike of Angie from the whole season into this review. And then you don’t even mention her new song.

    • PGV says:

      Maybe it depended on where you saw the show. I thought Michael was very accurate in his use of the term “writhing” for what Angie did on the piano at my concert site. I was almost embarrassed for her, as I looked around and saw moms looking on uncomfortably at her and their impressionable young daughters. It was a side of Angie I had never seen on the Idol Show!! lol

      Notes from my concert site… Curtis was a nice surprise. He was more restrained, less churchy, and vocally on point during When I Was Your Man. He had the girls screaming during his falsetto runs. Janelle stole the show Every Time she hit the stage! My eyes were always drawn to her. She was by Far the best Performer! The fact that Kree hasn’t been signed boggles my mind. Her vocals were incredible!! And Candice… Yes, she’s even Better in person! She had me tearing up, yet again, during I Am Beautiful and Lovesong, to which I jumped to my feet applauding after. *chills*

      Overall it was a pretty good concert, but then I went into it with very low expectations. I agree with you Michael on some of the group numbers, but I thought Paul, Kree and Janelle sold their number purely by having Fun!

  12. Lois Benton says:

    I saw the L.A .show, being a big fan of Candice and looking forward to hearing all the girls and Burnell. I thought Amber was just having an off night, but she appeared to be lacking energy in L.A., too. Sweet little Janelle practically stole the show, with her cheery high energy enthusiasm. I was sitting near the stage and caught her cuing Lazaro a couple of times, with a good-natured smile and a slight cheery nod. She’s a duck; I’d adopt her in a minute. Lazaro wasn’t as bad as I was afraid he’d be, but he was the only one whose performances were mediocre, at best. I loved Candice’s performances, but I think my favorite performance of the night was Kree’s “Hold On.” I agree with you that that was darn good.

  13. JAson says:

    Haha! Newark? Couldn’t sell tickets in NY? Is that picture from the concert. They look like their dressed for rehearsal!

    • Jake says:

      Unfortunately the Newark venue was only 60% full if that and I heard the show at Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, NY last night was even worse. This will go down as the worst selling Idol tour for sure.

  14. JAson says:

    Why do you throw an insult at Katy perry in nearly every article you write. Enough already!!! We get it! You don’t like her! Let’s try mixing it up a bit! Stop trying to be Perez Hilton already!

  15. TheGirlsRock says:

    Problem with your criticism of Angie is that her fan base has youtube-ed every performance multiple times from every conceivable angle. So people know better. The Mama Knows Best is meant to be campy with weird facial expressions and drama. It’s an act…. you know…. a show for the audience. And no mention of the new song she wrote or the continued great response to You Set Me Free? Writhing….really….she must have refused an interview or something.

    Actually the rest is pretty right on… and adds to your season long campaign for Candice and Kree. Enjoyed all the girls this year. Devin and Janelle are pleasant surprises on stage.

  16. vortexpanel says:

    Amber would’ve been a way better winner than that grizzly bear who took the title.

  17. manchesteru says:

    All you can write about Angie is about she was writhing (which isn’t true) and her hair (and i think her hair was beautiful)??? Not even her new original Put in on me???

  18. Jake says:

    I went to the show at the Prudential Center. I have read many tweets about how great the crowd was. The crowd was awful!!! Candice and Angie were great but Kree was the highlight for me!!! I liked Janelle as well but her act comes off as too staged or contrived, like she is trying too hard, like she did on the show!!!

  19. GS says:

    Who’s the chick in the pic that looks like Santana from Glee? I haven’t watched since Scotty won but I still enjoy reading about the demise of Idol.

  20. Mel says:

    Who is it?

  21. laurel says:

    If it makes all you Angie stans feel better, Michael’s favorites never do well post idol. Let me see if I get these right… Season 12 – Candice Glover, Season 11 – Skylar (can’t even remeber her last name), Season 10 – Haley Reinhart, Season 9 – Crystal Bowersox, Season 8 – Allison Iraheta. Granted it’s still too soon to call for Candice but Skylar never even got a record deal and the others were all promptly dropped by their record labels after one flopped album. So don’t feel bad that Michael isn’t a fan of Angie, it’s probably a good thing and bodes well for her. LOL.

    • TheGirlsRock says:

      Don’t want to see any of these kids not do well. Just get tired of people who continue on with their Idol narrative when the COMPETITION is OVER. Angie, Candice and Kree aren’t really in the same ballgame anyway so just be fair in your reporting. AI knows this much.

      Besides, except for the tasteless writhing comment he didn’t say anything really bad … he just really didn’t say anything lol.

  22. MB says:

    Please leave “Home” alone. That belongs to Phillip. Let Candice find her own hit. If she needs to steal a song from Phillip’s album to create interest in her album I don’t have much hope for her.

    • Lois Benton says:

      That’s an interesting perspective, considering that American Idol is a show all about covers. “Home” is a really good song. Candice and company were better than Phil Phillips. The catchy riff in “Home,” by the way, seems inspired by Blake Shelton’s “Voice” contestant’s Xenia’s “Sing You Home,” which came out a year and a half before Phil Phillips’ hit.

    • Lois Benton says:

      That’s an interesting perspective considering, considering that American Idol is a show about covering other artists’ songs. “Home” is a really good song, but I like Candice’s and company’s well-sung version better than Phil Phillips. That’s nothing against Phil, really, other than the fact that his type — pleasant, but not great, cute white male singer with a guitar — has worn out its welcome in my house. I also think that “Home” owes something to “Sing You Home,” which came out a year and a half before Phil Phillips’ hit. “Sing You Home”,” if you don’t know it, is a catchy song by Xenia of Blake Shelton’s Voice team.

  23. chisra says:

    Saw the tour when it came to Fairfax, VA! My daughter and I enjoyed it ALOT! Devin’s our fav – and he was even better in person!!! We like all of the idols – they all seemed to be having fun!

  24. Pat says:

    The lack of Aubrey praise or even a mention disappoints me Slezak. She looked and sounded like a star up there on “Blurred Lines”.

  25. dia says:

    eh….so how about angie SINGING?i felt you focused on her looks rather than anything else….and seriously in the middle was a good song?really?oh yes i am surprised that kree isnt signed to be honest i always felt kree is the one that will have better career from all this season idols but we ll see goodluck to the top 3 girls they need media support rather than nonsense to boost them from the low rating season

    • April Eunice says:

      UMG Nashville refused to pick up Kree. kind of sad, really. and yeah, next time Michael, try not to focus more on Angie looks….. O_o

  26. AM says:

    There are plenty of other smaller country labels besides Interscope/UMG Nashville that can still sign Kree. I think she would be better off with a smaller label anyways, so I’m still thinking she will get signed soon. She is definitely working on her album, as she stated in an interview earlier this week. She said she starts recording in Nashville immediately after the tour.

  27. Tiffany says:

    I disagree with this review. I thought Lazaro did fantastic!!!!! He sang with all his heart and his confidence shone through. He was such a great showman and he looked nice. I loved his songs!!

  28. Tim Greatly says:

    Worst season and tour ever. I’ve seen them all.

  29. Tim Greatly says:

    Hopefully next year there will not be an agenda and the judges will let talent rise to the top.. even if it’s another WGWG.

  30. Temperenace says:

    First paragraph, “in tact’ is one word = intact.

  31. Jeanette says:

    Can we start a fan revolt not to have JLo return??

  32. Ker Oppi says:

    Why is this guy so against Angie? Agreed with everything in his review but thought Angie did just fine.

  33. Maya says:

    My favorites by far were Angie, Candice (but only Lovesong, I didn’t really like the rest of her set. She sang AMAZINGLY, but the song choices were kind of boring) and Janelle.
    I thought Angie’s set was really amazing. I felt every word of You Set Me Free, and at the end I stood up and clapped. Put It On Me was actually a really good song. I would buy her album in a heartbeat! Janelle has somehow gone from an underdog to a SUPERSTAR. Janelle was definitely the most entertaining. If she doesn’t get a record deal, well… we have a problem.

    I’m withholding bias as much as possible, I’m a die hard Angie fan. I wish Michael would have watched her Youtube channel during the season, it’s FANTASTIC. She’s a lot more comfortable and vocally spot on in her videos than on the show.

    • Maya says:

      Oh whoops, forgot to review Mama Knows Best. I thought it was good. She wasn’t writhing on the piano! Though it was really entertaining, I think she would have been better off singing “Who You Are” instead, just because it was really her second best performance of the season (next to “You Set Me Free”), as well as the fact that it would have flowed into her originals much better.

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