Last night, July 27th 2011 kicked off The Voice Live on Tour with the eight semi-finalists from the first hit season of NBC’s newest in reality television competitions. LA TV Insider Examiner was on hand for all of the high notes, special pairings, and yes, even a surprise guest, and we can attest that The Voice Live on Tour certainly lived up to its name! Unlike the show itself at times, this concert performance was not about showy back-up dancers performing over-rehearsed numbers while the next generation of musical talented belted their hearts out center stage. Many times it was just the performer his or herself with a microphone (and occasionally a guitar) standing in the spotlight and going to town on songs they breathed new energy into throughout the course of the season. And they never sounded better.
From the opening number when all eight semi-finalists stepped on stage to sing “Freedom” to the closing encore where they all returned for a special rendition of “Man in the Mirror” (and everything in between), all of the magic notes were hit, the rhythm was felt immediately, the voices were clear and crisp and pure. Sure, early in Dia Frampton’s sweet cover of “Heartless” she missed a line, but she proved she is more professional than a number of current pop stars as she slid right into the next line without so much as blushing, and she rocked the rest of the song and every subsequent one after (including an impromptu duet with Blake Shelton on “Won’t Back Down” because– as Frampton put it– L.A. deserves a little something “extra!”). Frampton really came alive when she got to sing with her people– whether that was just surrogate big brother Shelton or the group as a whole, but others, like Nakia and Vicci Martinez commanded the stage even when they were alone on it, leaping from side to side and bending down to slap hands with the enthusiastic fans in the front row.
True to the spirit of The Voice on NBC, the tour utilized social media where it could, specifically asking audience members to text in votes for Javier Colon’s final number. After performing his jaw-dropping auditioner “Time After Time” with his acoustic guitar in hand, he also tackled “Fix You” and “Stitch by Stitch.” When it came time for his encore, the choices were “Angel,” “Landslide,” and “Don’t Stop Believin.” Admittedly we thought it was a set up for “Landslide” to win and then Stevie Nicks, who was in town filming America’s Got Talent earlier, to pop out on stage, too, but in the end the Gleeks took over and Colon killed yet another “new” track.
All of the “hits” of The Voice were tackled– from Martinez’ emotionally raw take on “Jolene,” to Casey Weston’s fun “Black Horse and a Cherry Tree” (on which Martinez and Beverly McClellan banged on the bongos), to McClellan’s acoustic performance of team leader Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” (which she performed as a duet with Nakia, with Colon on backing guitar). Xenia got a little help from her girls Weston and McClellan on backing guitars again with “Running” and then actually played a new one for the crowd– “Breakeven,” which sounded tailor made for her raspy voice. It would have been cool to see more unique pairings like these, but at the same time, we’re glad each performer got to show off what they do best– what their fans were voting for all season long.
The biggest surprise of the night– well, to her but probably not to anyone else in the Gibson Amphitheatre– was the standing ovation Frenchie Davis received after tearing up “Love Takes Over.” Genuinely speechless for a second, Davis could only thank the crowd a few times, shaking her head. And after she brought down the house with “Like a Prayer,” the crowd was on their feet again, even louder and longer than the first time. Davis may not have won the title, but she certainly won over a whole new set of fans!
The format of The Voice Live on Tour was split into “rounds,” in a way, much like the episodes themselves unfolded on-screen. Once the semi-finalists each had their time to shine individually and with each other, the finalists got to perform the original songs (Martinez’ “Afraid to Sleep,” Frampton’s “Inventing Shadows,” and Colon’s “Stitch by Stitch,” with McClellan opting to go for a blues track instead. Colon kept his hat this time around, though McClellan did toss her kitschy heart shaped sunglasses and her drumsticks into the pit, and Nakia got so into “Your Sex is on Fire” that he whipped off his ascot.
The Voice Live on Tour wasn’t without its flaws, though. Perhaps it was because it was just the very first leg of the small (six city) tour, or perhaps it was because each of these talents come from different backgrounds and genres, but someone behind-the-scenes decided to incorporate the audience warm-up guy from the live show tapings of The Voice into the concert as well. Instead of allowing the performances to flow into one another and keep up the party vibe, this guy– and forgive me, but I don’t know his name. To me he is not a comedian, nor a hype man but simply a fifth rate Carson Daly wannabe. Taped messages from Daly or even Alison Haislip would have been better than this guy, but really none of that was needed at all. Anyway, this guy would step on stage just as the audience was on their feet, cheering and clapping and dancing along. And he would suck the energy right out of everyone so that whoever was about to step on stage next had to start from scratch and build us all up again. It was weird; it was unnecessary (he was basically trying to “sell” the crowd on people of which they were already fans); and it was unfortunate because each and every of the eight performers gave us all they had and at times, it felt like the audience couldn’t match the energy they deserved because of all of the interruptions.
But that being said, The Voice Live on Tour is a guaranteed good time for the music itself. Of course we would have loved to get a taste for the artists beyond the show and hear them each perform one of their true originals– something they wrote for themselves, even if before their time on the show. But we supposed they have to leave something for their individual eventual tours!
The Voice Live on Tour has five more cities to hit over the next few days, while season two auditions have already begun. The second season of The Voice on NBC won’t premiere until January 2012, though, right after the Super Bowl. How will you pass the time!? Sound off in the comments below!
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