Crowd is Clay's in Idols show
By David Hiltbrand
Inquirer Staff Writer/Philadelphia Enquirer
American Idol alumni Kelly Clarkson and Clay Aiken have been taking turns headlining on their current tour. Tuesday at the Liacouras Center, it was Clarkson's night to top the bill, and that resulted in a topsy-turvy show because the predominantly female crowd was clearly composed of Clay devotees.
The ladies began to scream as Aiken emerged from the back of the hall, singing Mr. Mister's 1985 hit "Kyrie" as he walked through the audience. And they continued to scream all the way through his final number and latest single, "The Way."
Whatever X factor makes an Idol an idol, Aiken obviously has it - this despite the fact that he's a one-man Andy of Mayberry reunion: He looks like Opie, moves like Barney Fife, and sings like Gomer Pyle.
He certainly didn't bother dressing for the show. In an untucked blue dress shirt, baggy gray slacks, and running shoes, he appeared to be headed for a shift at Kinko's.
As always, Aiken's clear and limber voice was impressive. The best showcase for his soaring instrument was the simplest: an acoustic medley of his "Measure of a Man," Sting's "Fields of Gold," Leo Sayer's "When I Need You," and James Taylor's "Carolina on My Mind."
Unfortunately, he had to wade through the sappy songs on his debut CD to get there. With the exception of "Invisible," the anthemic material sounded like flea-bitten Three Dog Night.
The high and low points of Aiken's set was Prince's "When Doves Cry." His slow, melismatic, a cappella preface to the song was sensational. Then the music began to jerk and throb, and it became painfully clear that Aiken doing funk is like Yanni attempting Metallica. It's just wrong.
Clarkson proved to be the more engaging and natural performer, though her reception was not nearly as enthusiastic. Like Aiken, she has a phenomenal voice, but there is greater passion and depth to her delivery.
On a stage covered with area rugs, so she could scamper barefoot, Clarkson moved a bit too hastily through songs that ranged from nostalgic ("Stuff Like That There") to soulful ("What's Up Lonely").
Her voice combines the earthiness of Bonnie Raitt with the dynamic coloratura of Christina Aguilera. But she possesses an extra gear that most singers don't: Like fellow Texan Janis Joplin, she's an elemental belter.
Until she learns to harness that power, Clarkson risks overwhelming her material, as she did on a cover of Reba McEntire's "Why Haven't I Heard From You." But she's capable of bravura moments, such as her stark and stunning rendition of "Beautiful Disaster."
Since her season on American Idol, Clarkson has grown into her voice so much that she has trouble doing a convincing rendering of paint-by-numbers pop ditties like her first single, "A Moment Like This."
Maybe she should turn it over to Aiken. In his hands, it would be a showstopper.