American Idols Live!: The Top 11 Hit L.A.’s Nokia Theater

Idolator Staff | July 16, 2011 4:43 pm

After a couple of lackluster seasons, American Idol caught fire again this year. New judges and a lowered age requirement resulted in the best bunch of talent to come along since… well, that’s up for debate. (We say since Adam Lambert took the stage during Season 8, but we’re sure you’ve got your own favorites.) Last night the American Idols Live! tour rolled into Los Angeles, and we couldn’t resist heading over to the Nokia Theater to see the Top 11 strut their stuff. Some received much more attention that others (hello, Pia!) but every Idol had their personal time to shine.

From the handmade signs and incessant fan chanting, it was clear that a vast majority of the audience had come to see 17-year-old winner Scotty McCreery. However, his army of supporters would have to wait until after intermission. The first half of the concert was dominated by the lower ranked Idols with a special emphasis on shock departee Pia Toscano. She opened the show as part of an all-girl medley singing Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”, and then showed off her impressive pipes by belting out “Empire State Of Mind” before launching to “California King Bed” with Stefano Langone.

Pia’s real moment to shine came later when she returned to sing her new single “This Time”. We were slightly underwhelmed by the studio version, but the song packs a bigger punch live, allowing the 22-year-old to tear into the lyrics with more passion and emotion. And while Pia’s vocal chops are beyond reproach, she might want to think about hitting J-Lo up for some dance lessons. It became glaringly obvious as the night progressed that choreography is really not her thing. Oh well. That never stopped Mariah or Whitney!

Other highlights from the first half included Stefano showing off his washboard abs while taking on Usher’s “DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love”, the highly questionable ensemble Thia wore – Tina Knowles would have drawn the line at her matching evening gown with matching cape – during her performance of “Who Says”, Naima’s energetic rendition of Jennifer Lopez’s inescapable “On The Floor”, Casey Abrams busting our his upright bass once again, and Jacob’s fabulous cover of Cee Lo Green’s “Forget You”. Of the bunch, Stefano would appear to have the most pop star potential. Surely there’s a boy band somewhere that needs a new member? We doubt NKOTBSB would even notice one additional singer added to their lineup.

The second half of the show began with chants of “Scotty! Scotty!” but first it was time for the rest of the Top 5 to strut their stuff. An injured Lauren Alaina didn’t let a bulky leg cast stand in her way as she thanked the audience and performed a set of country songs. Her first single “Like My Mother Does” got a particularly strong response from her fans.

James Durbin made his first appearance next, walking through the packed theater singing Guns ‘N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child Of Mine”.  His set was short in comparison to the other performers, but he definitely has presence. As does soul sensation Jacob Lusk, who hit a bunch of crazy notes and showed off some impressive moves while singing “You’re All I Need To Get By”.

Third place-getter Haley Reinhart proved to be a real fan favorite as she delivered a quirky set in a sexy cocktail dress that showed off her smokin’ hot pins. She definitely has a knack for bringing something unique and personal to songs that have been covered a million times before. Her rendition of “House Of The Rising Sun” was almost eerie, while she brought the crowd to their feet with an unusually camp version of “Benny & The Jets”. How long until we see new music from this girl?

Scotty’s army exploded when the Season 10 winner eventually took the stage. He looked confidant and his voice sounded even deeper live. The highlights were his new single “I Love You This Big” and a surprise duet with Lauren on “When You Say Nothing At All”. Time will tell if Scotty is destined to end up next to certain past Idol winners who shall remain nameless in Flopville,or follow in the footsteps of Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson, but if his fans last night have any say in the matter, big things await the teen country crooner.

—Reporting by Mike Wass