Nashville Star 4/10/04 Recap
Welcome, y’all! It was another knee-slappin’ episode of Nashville Star this weekend as the Acuff Theater celebrated Southern Rock. Host Nancy O’Dell was all dolled up in her sexiest rockerbabe black leather outfit with red rivets and laces. If her skirt had been any shorter she would have had to claim a “wardrobe malfunction”, but she is just classy enough to pull off a look like that. When Nancy introduced Lynyrd Skynyrd to the stage to start the show the crowd went nuts. As the remaining Nashville Star contestants grinned and sang along from the front row, Johnny Van Zant belted out the lyrics to Sweet Home Alabama and the band rocked on behind him. I hadn’t seen any recent pictures or heard any recent recordings from Lynyrd Skynryd, but they looked and sounded as I imagined they would, a bit haggard but still having fun. They only had two backup singers, and I thought it was rather interesting that both of the ladies seemed a bit haggard as well. The song sounded pretty good though, and everyone there seemed to be having a great time.
The Hot Spot
As Lynyrd Skynyrd made their way offstage Nancy introduced the Hot Spot Challenge. This week the challenge involved traveling to New York City to perform and be interviewed on a talk radio show called Imus In The Morning. The trip was quite a treat for the finalists, as four out of the six of them had never been to New York before. The video clips showed them filled with wonder and excitement as they walked the streets checking out vendors and skyscrapers and all the sights NYC has to offer. They felt a little like fish out of water in such a big city, and it showed. When they sat down to have some lunch a fellow patron spotted Lance Miller in his cowboy hat and just had to come and ask him where he parked his horse. Lance looked tongue tied for a split second before George Canyon interjected, “Just around the corner”. “You’re gonna get a ticket!” mused the old codger before walking away.
If the finalists felt like fish out of water walking the streets of NYC, they must have felt like they had jumped in the deep fat fryer when they met up with Imus and crew. I’m not sure if they knew what they were getting into. Imus had them brought to his “War Room” before the show began to give them a little heads up. He said, “I like country music, but everybody else on the program, they’re just, you know, they’re just assholes so don’t take it personal.” George Canyon let out an uncomfortable fake laugh, Brent Keith squirmed, and in typical style, Matt Lindahl kicked back in a chair stone-faced and unaffected. When it was showtime the finalists filtered into the studio. Imus was there with three of his cohorts, one of whom shouted out that the performers looked like the “2004 version of the Village People”. Everyone laughed and although it was quite funny, it probably wasn’t the kind of pep talk they wanted to hear before singing on a radio program broadcast to over 10 million people. The format of Imus’s show that day was set up like a New York version of Nashville Star, and those country-music-hating “assholes” Imus had mentioned earlier were to be the judges.
Brad Cotter went first, singing and strumming a ballad about his guitar. As soon as he was done the apparent head judge had a few choice words for him, “As a New Yorker, that is exactly the kind of music I think us urban people can’t stand. That kind of sappy…” Oh, but wait, that is far too kind for the judging panel. Another of the judges jumps right in and says that Brad’s original would be a good theme song for putting a double barreled shotgun to your head and pulling the trigger. Again, moderately funny given the context, but I doubt Brad felt that way. All I could think was “ouch!”.
The rest of the clips from Imus’s show would have to wait until later on in the night because it was time to get back to the action at the Acuff Theater. The 6 remaining finalists came together to sing a Lynyrd Skynyrd classic, What’s Your Name. Brad Cotter came out first. He started the song off and got the audience to start puttin’ their hands together. Brent Keith came out next and joined in. He sounded rather flat and it was pretty obvious it wasn’t a good song for him. George Canyon was the next to join them and he sounded as strong as ever. Jennifer Hicks came walking down the stairs and I had never realized how high her voice is before. She sounded like she was on helium singing along with the boys. Matt Lindahl was next and he hammed it up Matt style, getting a chuckle from the audience. Lance Miller was the last to arrive on stage and after he had his little mini-solo the group began singing in unison. Oddly enough though, Jennifer disappeared into the audience to put her microphone up to a little girl in sing-along style, while the boys stayed on stage wrapping up the song about picking up chicks and getting them back to their hotel room. I guess What’s Your Name was a bit of an odd choice for the night considering there is still a female left in the competition who probably couldn’t pull off singing about finding a little queen and treating her right, if you catch my drift. I was just glad when the song was over because although some of them were able to pull it off, I don’t think it was a very good song for any of them. Afterwards it was time to introduce the judges. Billy Greenwood was back, as were Tracy Gershon and the mischievous Warren Brothers.
And first up, it’s…
Once again Nancy gathers the finalists together to tell them she will be reading off names of the finalists that have made it through as the night goes on. There are 6 finalists but only 5 will be given the opportunity to perform. The first performer of the night…Matt Lindahl.
In his prerecorded introduction Matt talked about the trip to New York. He really liked the elm trees in Central Park and was hoping to have a chance to climb up in one to hang out. He said he could tell he was in New York though, because there were fences around all the trees that said, “keep out”. Matt took the stage wearing something other than his overalls for the first time in the competition. He had on a very loud patterned satin shirt, a pair of jeans and his red ball-cap. Although it was a change, it was in keeping with the deliberately humorous appearance he shoots for. Matt sang Call Me The Breeze. He was even more animated than usual, and was almost spastic with his washboard playin’ hillbilly dance moves. The cameras flashed to Lynyrd Skynyrd in the front row and you could tell they were enjoying it. It wasn’t much of a vocal stretch for Matt, but he did a competent job with the song. As the song came to an end Matt held that falsetto note and proceeded to smash his washboard on the ground. The entire audience lost their minds with laughter at his ode to rock music. Billy Greenwood, who has never been sold on Matt as a headlining performer gushed, “You have turned a doubter into a believer”. Tracy Gershon was speechless and just held up her bic lighter. Nancy O’Dell asked her usual meaningless segue question of Matt and continued looking hot in a black leather skirt. Then she went backstage to reveal who the next performer would be.
Jennifer Hicks was the next to perform. Her prerecorded intro showed her having fun on the New York trip. I didn’t notice much of anything else because her cleavage was somewhat distracting in that it was so prominently displayed in the video and I had never noticed it before. When she took the stage though, she was wearing a sedate black pantsuit. She was all set to perform the Charlie Daniels song The South’s Gonna Do It Again. The only problem is that when the band began to play, Jennifer’s microphone wasn’t working. She kept singing until the sound finally started to come out, but after a few more seconds Nancy O’Dell came walking out from backstage and cut the band off. Nancy said that in order to be fair Jennifer would be allowed to start the song over because of the technical difficulty. All in all Jennifer recovered quite well. It seemed like there was one line that she stumbled over or forgot part way through, but the judges didn’t seem to mind. The Warren Brothers commented, “I love what you do every week, you’re a pro”. Billy Greenwood wanted her to sing it yet again because he “enjoyed it every time”.
Brad Cotter was the next to take the stage, leaving only Brent Keith, George Canyon and Lance Miller huddled together to wait out the elimination results. Brad had on a studly black leather jacket that actually matched Nancy’s outfit quite nicely. Being that he is so obviously taken with her, I found that to be rather amusing. In his prerecorded intro he talked about the New York City trip mentioning that it was so much fun “it was like spring break”. OK, now either he’s secretly gettin’ the girl, or he really needs to get out more. Brad’s song was Hold On Loosely by 38 Special. Other than Brad’s slight country accent, I didn’t really notice anything particularly “Southern” about the song. He hit some notes that sounded really good and few that didn’t. The judges loved him though. Tracy Gershon told him, “You’re ready to make a record”. Addressing the hard time he was given on Imus’s show, the Warren Brothers told him, “Nobody wants to be liked by a drooling old man in a bolo tie”, which got a few chuckles. When it was Nancy’s turn with him she asked him about getting “no sleep in the big apple”. Brad quickly shot back that he “was up reading scriptures all night”, and then chuckled impishly.
Back to the Hot Spot
After Brad was put through the ringer with Imus and company, it was Brent Keith’s turn. We saw a quick snipit of Brent’s original song and then heard from the judges, “I thought there was only one girl in the competion!”. OK, that was pretty flippin’ funny, but OUCH! Although we aren’t privy to the entire numbering scheme we hear the head judge give Brent a 4. Next up to the mic is Lance Miller. Apparently Imus has been plugging Lance’s original song, George Jones and Jesus because he likes it so much. Lance felt like the pressure was focused on him to perform well, and he did. Imus applauded and said, “I like that!”, but his cohort thought it was too twangy. In an amusing cut away we here Lance admit that sometimes he’s even too twangy for Nashville. George Canyon stepped up to the mic next to perform his orginal song Letting Go, written from a soldiers perspective. They gave him a bit of a hard time about being a country singer from Canada, but by the time he was done singing he had at least half of them sold. They were emotionally choked up over the lyrics, so he managed to transcend their distaste for country music. Oh, except for the head judge…who took pleasure in giving him a 4.
Another live performance
Back at the Acuff Theater it was George Canyon’s turn to perform. In his prerecorded introduction he talked about the affect of visiting ground zero at the WTC. Being a former law enforcement officer he was greatly moved by the trip. George took the stage then to perform the Allman Brothers classic, Can’t You See. I didn’t know what to expect from George in a show focused on Southern Rock, but he really pulled it off. He did a good job with the song. Billy Greenwood was very positive in his feedback, telling George, “Regardless of the outcome of this contest, I can’t see you not getting a record contract.” George looked about as happy as I’ve ever seen him upon hearing that.
Every time there are guests on the show Nancy takes the opportunity to head down to the first row to schmooze with them. This time was no different. Actually, the length of her skirt may have been a bit different because she had to do some serious strategic hand placement in order to sit down without showing America the promised land. I hope they didn’t have to do multiple takes, or we might be seeing Nancy soon on an episode of Girls Gone Wild.
The Hot Spot concludes
There were only two performers left in the New York version of Nashville Star on Imus’s morning program. Next up was Jennifer Hicks. The judges seemed to be rather taken with her physical appearance and never really let Imus get in any interview questions. They just kept heckling her like horny construction workers. After she sang her original song they thought she was “pants down, I mean hands down” the best singer. Even the head judge passing out all the 4’s gave her a 7. Either they were preparing their audition tapes for Howard Stern’s show or they really are the “assholes” Imus made them out to be. The last to take the mic was Matt Lindahl. Matt, of course, took their ribbing in a very light-hearted way. When he heard, “This guy looks like you just ripped him off a tractor somewhere. I mean if you tell me your girlfriend’s name is oink oink, I’d believe you!”, he laughed wholeheartedly as if they had said something funny. He sang his original song, Jump Off The Bridge, to it’s fullest comedic effect and nearly the whole studio was laughing by the end. The head judge told him, “Anybody that makes you laugh gets a 10 outta me”. I guess it was a good thing they saved Matt until last. Ending the Hot Spot on a positive note made the humor overshadow some of the nastier comments. Which is not to say that nasty comments can’t be funny, they can. These guys just have a special knack for trying too hard or something though, because they came off like a bunch of monkeys flinging poo. Occasionally funny, but mostly just ridiculously stinky.
And the final performer is…
It’s that time in the show that Nancy hates. You guessed it - elimination time. All 6 remaining finalists are gathered on stage as Lance Miller and Brent Keith are summoned to step forward. They each have an arm around the other and it is clear that they are friends. Nancy opens the envelope and reads the name of the final performer…Lance Miller. As Lance goes backstage to get ready to perform, Nancy talks with Brent Keith, the eliminated finalist. She asks him what he would like to say to his supporters and he says he “loves everybody”. Again she asks him about his mother. Jeeze. Is it just me or does she cram the subject of Brent’s mother into every conversation she has with him? The poor guy already gets teased for looking like a girlie man, he’s on his way out of the competition…is it really necessary to point him out as a momma’s boy again?
Lance Miller’s prerecorded intro showed him leading a sentimental toast with the other finalists while in New York. He made his way to the stage in his black cowboy hat and performed Ramblin’ Man. Maybe I’m just biased because I like the song so much, but I think he sounded great. The Warren Brothers did too, “Ever since you did that song about drinking beer for breakfast you have been kicking ass!”. Tracy Gershon called him a “meat and potatoes country singer”, but Billy Greenwood thought he “didn’t seem comfortable” although his vocals were strong. Lance didn’t sound like he was making excuses or anything, but he mentioned to Nancy that it was a bittersweet moment for him when she read his name because he is roommates and such good buddies with Brent that it choked him up a bit to see him get eliminated. Hopefully Lance will get one more chance to shine next week and rid himself of any lingering nervousness.
Lynyrd Skynyrd took the stage one final time to sing their new song written by The Warren Brothers called Red, White and Blue, before the credits ran. If that was the first single they ever released they never would have gotten famous. Of course that is just an opinion. If you’re an over-the-top Skynyrd fan you probably like it, but I guess I’ve already passed through that phase. I was glad when their song was over, and I was ready to start rewinding to catch some much better singers and songs from earlier on in the program. See you here next week when Nashville Star’s special guests will include Terri Clark and Trace Adkins!