San Francisco is the last stop on the audition trail, where two years ago Adam Lambert auditioned. Los Angeles showed tarnish, but perhaps San Francisco will shine with gold.
They open with a scene of a lovely young woman sniffling her way down an esplanade along the estuary near AT&T Park where half a million hopefuls will be processed through the initial rounds. She turns to the camera and gives us one of the best lines this season: Just because someone f*rts, let ‘em finish singing, okay?
The judge arrival is shown film noir style and I don’t know why. I also don’t know where they have set up the audition room as Ryan didn’t say, but it is somewhere in Union Square. For San Francisco, they’ve added a violet hue to the stage set which complements Randy’s sweater. Taking their seats at the table, JLo and Randy decide that Steven is going to be the mean one on day one. But, Steven doesn’t find his tetchy until day two.
There are more back stories this round, most of them touching, one to bring tears; but not for the first to audition. Inesse Lee, 22, from Tujunga, CA is originally from the Ukraine and has all the confidence in the world in her beauty and talent. Her music videos are showcased and she thinks she is a blend of Shakira and early Madonna. When on the platform, she lists belly dancing and yoga as two of her talents, so of course, Randy insists she demonstrate. She’s not bad, though when she begins her song from a yoga position, she loses them. Steven finds her cute and precious, but also finds her pitchy with a melody all over the place. JLo says she has a cute spirit, but in the end all three say NO.
The morning continues to bomb and so do the seagulls at the baseball stadium. People show off the white splats as cameras roam the stands. The afternoon is brighter, however, and San Francisco starts to show off the gold. Three get their tickets:
Brittany Mazur, 21, Tucson, AZ
Lara Johnston, 20 Novato, CA
Matthew Nuss, 25, Huntington Beach, CA
JLo: That is the way to start San Francisco.
Stefano Langone, 21, Kent, WA was in a horrific accident he was lucky to survive. Once recovered enough to be in a wheel chair, he refused to stay there and now has full function of his limbs. What he missed the most when he couldn’t do it was playing the piano. He sings, “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” in a good voice and for the first time in awhile, production shows a contestant singing their song all the way through without interruption. JLo thinks Stefano has star quality. He leaves with three huge YES and a ticket to Hollywood.
The sun rises on the second day and warms up those who have camped outside the stadium all night eager for their chance at a ticket. Randy declares, “Let there be talent, today!”
Clint Jun Gamboa, 26 is a Karaoke bar host from Long Beach, CA. They show a package of him hosting, but now he wants to step out and show what he can do. He also gets to sing a full song and tells them that he had his training in gospel choirs. Steven tells him to never lose that and gives him a YES along with Randy and JLo.
Randy: One of the best I’ve seen in San Francisco.
Of course, San Francisco is not without its crazies and Ryan calls the next package - Too Far Out There.
Monkey-man Kenneth Berba hits the platform and hears a very quick NO; Weston Lee Smith’s vocal is met with silence. Okay – now I’m laughing. Drew Beaumier shows up as a full blown transformer car – a kit he built himself. He crouches down into “car” position and tries to sing, “Born to be Wild.” He gets his NO, but not before Steven wants to know, “How many gallons per mile?” The last we see of him he is in car crouch and wheeling down the sidewalk. At least he entertained them, and me.
We learn from Ryan that three girls from California earned gold tickets, but this is a montage where we don’t learn their names.
Here is the first of the AHHH stories with a happy ending. Julie Zorrilla, wearing sparkly silver shoes, celebrated her 20th birthday on audition day. She was born in Columbia and immigrated with her parents and her brother to the US in order to escape the violence of war. With footage of the carnage and destruction in that country, her father narrates their journey through tears. She changes up “Summertime” in a breathy voice, but Steven likes her range. JLo likes the way she plants herself on the floor, which shows a performer. Randy also likes it and says he hasn’t heard this song since Fantasia, “Blew it out of the box.” They give her three big sparkly shoes YES. After she leaves to hug her family, the judges wonder if she is their winner.
I mentioned at the beginning of day one that Steven gets tetchy on day two. Mr. Tetchy has arrived.
Dave Combs, 25, from San Francisco, has long, stringy gold hair framing facial hair. He tells the panel that real men have hair like his. When he tells them he is going to sing a Beetle song, Steven perks up; but once the mess is over, Steven – who is wearing a Beetle T-shirt – asks him, “Did you see what was on my shirt? I thought you were going to represent.”
Steven: No? NO – you were so far off the melody it was like you were on another planet.
A hurt Dave leaves without a ticket and JLo and Randy try to soothe an angry Steven.
Now on a roll, Steven continues his glares with Rich Deschamp, David Johnson, and Sabrina Corbett who wears a cop costume that doesn’t come with handcuffs.
Back to a saner Steven as Emily Ann Reed, 26 enters the room. She moved from Arlington, VA to San Francisco because she needed to spread her wings. But, the first house she actually wanted to live in burned to the ground the week before, and they show news footage of the firemen trying to save it. She brings her guitar and hopes that American Idol will give her the life she dreams. She sings, “You’re Getting To Be A Habit To Me,” and JLo says that she has a different voice that they haven’t heard. Steven loved her old-timey voice, but her melody was a lot to be desired. Randy disagrees with Steven and likes her different voice. JLo gives her one more chance in Hollywood, so with one NO and two YES she is through. JLo says that she has the singer-songwriter vibe previously seen on American Idol, so before she goes she picks up her guitar and manages to impress Steven as well.
JLo: I was right. I’m going home.
So while Emily Anne was the last singer to be seen in San Francisco, the producers want to showcase the best as last to be seen by us. Ryan claims that this is the voice we’ve been waiting for; and it brings the opening with Adam Lambert right to the close with James Durbin.
James Durbin, 21, is from Santa Cruz, CA, raised by his mom and has two older sisters. The video package of his home life plays as he tells us his story. His dad, a bass player and musician, was absent most of his life before he died of an overdose when James was nine. That trauma contributed to sleeplessness and stress which led him to Stanford University Hospital and a double diagnosis of Tourette Syndrome and Aspergers Syndrome. He was bullied at school because of Tourette and became lost. But, he met an angel at a bar, Heidi, who became pregnant. With a child who looks to be about two years old, they are living on the cheap as he doesn’t have a job.
In order to keep Tourette under control in front of the judges, he will need to remain focused. He does this by disappearing into his music. He has the range of Adam Lambert, but a rougher quality to his voice. When he finishes his first song, he asks permission from Steven to sing one of his and proceeds to do so in the upper range. Steven says it is over the top. JLo says he sings from the heart. Randy says he likes the range – it is crazy. James gets his three YES for Hollywood.
From Adam to James, San Francisco has come full circle. They end the show with a montage of golden ticket holders and a few crazies from ALL the auditions and then…
The PRESSURE of Hollywood Week begins tomorrow night; MsFroggy will have the first cuts.