Kelly Clarkson Is Even ‘Stronger’ At Hollywood’s Troubadour
Kelly Clarkson‘s appearance on stage at Hollywood’s small Troubadour club last night represented nothing so much as relief — for the fans who’d been lined up down the block to see one of the pop’s greatest talents up close for free, and for faithful listeners who’ve been waiting for the official release of an album said to be “almost completed” a full year ago.
Perhaps most of all, it seemed to come as a relief to Kelly Clarkson, who seemed deliriously happy to finally roll out the tunes she’s had stocked away. Holding up a copy of her CD early in the show, she said, “This is my new CD. I just got it today… I’m in love with my new album.” And then she spent the evening showing why. We, along with a compact crowd that included Kelly’s friend and country music legend Reba McEntire and (possibly) American Idol music whiz Michael Johns, watched in awe as she kicked out new jams from Stronger, busted out a cover of Carrie Underwood’s “I Know You Won’t” and rocked “Miss Independent” in a punchy hour-long set. Details below.
Seeing Kelly in the bare-bones 500-capacity Troubadour made perfect sense — not just because she can crush those old Sunset Strip rock anthems, but because she lacks any need whatsoever for elaborate production. She may have to dress up when she sings for the First Lady, but she seems much more herself in a t-shirt in a tiny rock club. (She performed barefoot to boot.)
Here she is opening the show with “Dark Side”:
Kelly then whipped through a rock-tinged set of “Miss Independent”, “Walk Away” and the Stronger track she says is likely to be the album’s second official single, “What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger)”.
Little wonder that “What Doesn’t Kill You” songwriter/composer Ali Tamposi approved.
Once Clarkson had the crowd’s hearts racing, she stepped in front of a fan to cool off, and as it blew through her hair, she jokingly name-checked Beyonce before launching ahead. She offered shout-outs to several songwriters and producers in the crowd, including “Mr. Know It All” co-writer Brian Kennedy, before taking on “Sober” — a song added to the set list via a special fan vote conducted on TVs in the Troubadour bar before the show. Kelly called it “one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written.”
That was followed by what might stand as the night’s biggest surprise: Kelly brought out a cellist to accompany her on a cover of Underwood’s Carnival Ride track “I Know You Won’t”. (We didn’t catch this, but apparently Kelly said she got the idea to cover the song after seeing Underwood perform it at the iHeartRadio festival a few weeks ago).
Kelly then returned to her own material, knocking out “Already Gone” and then introducing the defiant new track “You Love Me” by saying that “sometimes people get really confused” about “what the idea of love means.” But she wasn’t finished quite yet.
“This is where my sass comes out,” she said, before kicking into Stronger‘s first single, “Mr. Know It All”, reaching out to the crowd to shake upraised hands. She closed the show with the #1 smash from her previous album, “My Life Would Suck Without You”. (Full setlist here — the band returned afterwards to encore with a raucous “If I Can’t Have You.”)
In the course of an hour, Clarkson proved what we suspected: she’s spent that loooong, leaky two-and-a-half-year stretch crafting an album of shrewd, durable pop music — and she serves it with the same unaffected, natural delivery that first rocketed her to stardom. When she drops her 10-megaton vocals on a crowd, all other manufactured effects (Lady Gaga’s flaming piano, KISS pyrotechnics) are exposed for what they really are: illusions. Kelly Clarkson is the singular pop superstar who actually shines brighter the more you dispense with theatrics.