Monina's Milwaukee Recap

Hello everyone, I’m Monina.  I am a longtime lurker here, so this recap will be my first posting if MJ chooses to use it.  Before I run down the Milwaukee show for you, I would like to thank MJ for hosting this blog; it is such a wealth of information!  I feel like I am the most informed Idol fan amongst my family, friends, and co-workers because of MJ and all of the fans who post info, news, and recaps here.  Thanks for helping to make me the resident Idol expert in my circle! 

So I live near Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which meant I had to drive 3.5 hours to get to Milwaukee for the American Idols Live show.  Last year the show came to Des Moines, Iowa, so I assumed it would stop somewhere in Iowa this year – so before the tour dates and cities were released, I organized a large group of co-workers to go to the concert.  Well, when we found out the show wouldn’t be visiting Iowa this year, all but two people dropped out.  So my husband Brett and I led a caravan of six up to Milwaukee – co-worker Chelle and her daughter Jenn, and co-worker Nan and her granddaughter Anna.  All age groups were represented except for children under 15, and all types of fans were represented too – one who didn’t watch “American Idol” at all; two who watched but didn’t vote; two who watched and voted for an hour or less; and one who watched every single episode without fail, voted for the full two hours using two phones, and checked (and still checks) at least three Idol-related websites daily for the latest news and information (guess which one is me?).  So it was interesting and enlightening to have the different perspectives on the show and on “American Idol” in general. 

Brett and I arrived at the Bradley Center at 5:25 (showtime was 7:00).  I wore my Elliott T-shirt that I worked on for two hours the night before – the front has the Yaminion Pledge, and the back has a picture of Elliott surrounded by his name and the “American Idol” logo.  Security wasn’t letting anyone in until 6:00, so there were a lot of people hanging around the main entrance, but it wasn’t crowded.  About a hundred people were lined up along both sides of a driveway that looked to be leading into a private parking lot behind the venue; I assumed that that was where the Idols’ bus would be coming in.  I didn’t go over because I wanted to stay in the designated meeting spot (Brett and I had split off from everyone else earlier – we wanted to tour Milwaukee, they wanted to sleep), but I only saw two cars go down the driveway, and nobody screamed so I don’t think any Idols were in those cars.  However, towards the back of the venue there was a service entrance, and several times I heard girls screaming back there, and every time the screams went up people would run back there.  From what I could see it was just a glass door with a small entryway; Brett asked me if I wanted to go back there and try to get pictures, but there were too many people packed in back there for me to even see anything, much less get a picture. 

The security guard lied to me, because they started letting people in at about 5:50.  The rest of our party still hadn’t showed up, so Brett and I sat on a bench and watched the lines go by.  As everyone has said in previous recaps, this really is an all-ages and both-genders show.  I was surprised at the number of men in my age group (24-35).  Quite a few fans in homemade shirts, mostly for Taylor, Chris, Elliott, and Ace.  To be honest, I didn’t notice anyone wearing a shirt highlighting any of the other Idols, not even Katharine.  I even saw one lady wearing a Clay Aiken shirt from his 2004 tour.  Chelle, Nan, and the girls arrived a little after 6:00 (Chelle and Jenn were wearing homemade "Yamin Machine" T-shirts), and the line was down to a trickle by then so we got in quickly.  Right as we came in, we ran into a crowd in front of the merchandise counter.  There was no semblance of a line, just a mass of people packed in tight.  I got in “line” with Nan and Anna, not sure I would buy anything but just wanting to see what was for sale.  At least the people in Milwaukee are polite; I didn’t notice any pushing.  Same fare as last year – T-shirts, buttons, photos, the AI5 Encores CD, keychains, etc. 

Onward to our seats.  On the way there was an Idols “message board” set up, which was a kiosk with photos of the Idols hung on a wall and large pads of white paper underneath each Idol’s photo.  Fans could walk up and write messages to the Idols.  I noticed that Taylor, Chris, Elliott, and Ace had the most messages, while Lisa and Mandisa had the fewest.  Right next to that was a large cardboard cutout photo of the top ten for people to stand next to and have their picture taken.  Our seats were in section 204 – not the best, but not the worst either.  (I went to last year’s show in Des Moines alone, and it is so much easier to get a single floor seat than it is to get six floor seats together.)  I knew my pictures wouldn’t be anywhere near the quality of the pictures I have seen posted here from fans with floor seats, but Brett and I shared the camera and tried our best.  Our best pictures were actually of the jumbo-tron.  Speaking of the jumbo-tron, before the show it was playing music videos and “Idols on Tour” mini-commercials.  State Farm sponsored this thing where you could text a message to a number and then your message would be shown on the jumbo-tron alongside the State Farm logo.  People were texting stuff like “scream if you think chris/ace/taylor/elliott is hot” (Chris and Ace got the loudest screams) and “I love [insert Idol’s name].”  Some were funny (“kick pickler”) and some were just idiotic (“gorilla balls”).  I thought this was a family show?   

Anywho, this family show didn’t start until about 7:15-7:20, with the “American Idol” TV show music.  Oh, the fond memories that theme song brings back.  Mandisa started off with “I’m Every Woman,” of course (I’ll spare you all the general performance descriptions that you’ve read already and just provide some details you may find interesting).  She dedicated “If I Was Your Woman” to all the “fine men of Wisconsin” rather than Ruben.  Did Ruben finally call and ask her to stop?  She did the whole “dream big” inspirational speech, for which she received polite cheers.  Then Ace came in after she started “I’m Your Angel” and the screams echoed all around with camera flashes popping.  This was a special song for Brett and me because it was our "first dance" song at our wedding, and the day of the concert was also the day of our five-year anniversary.  (What a wonderful husband, to come with me to this concert on our anniversary.  I love you forever, honey!)  Mandisa and Ace’s rendition brought tears to our eyes; they did a wonderful job with it.  Ace then did that weird heartbeat thing (isn’t that just his fist under his shirt?) to begin “Father Figure,” and while I rolled my eyes at all of his cheesiness (taking off the jacket, putting on the beanie then throwing it, running his hand through his hair), the screaming girls ate. it. up.  Nan, the grandma in our group, was particularly impressed with his leap during “Harder to Breathe.”  I love Maroon 5, but Ace’s version of that song didn’t do it for me.  It started out okay, but at the end when he sang “is there anyone out there ‘cause it’s getting harder and harder to breathe” over and over in his falsetto, I found it annoying.  Ace said that Milwaukee was the loudest crowd they’d had so far, which he appreciated because it was the first show his parents had made it to. 

Next was Lisa with a snippet of “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.”  Poor Lisa was the “bathroom break performer” – as soon as she sat down behind the keyboard, people started heading for the restrooms en masse.  Which was a shame, because she really is talented to be able to play the piano/keyboard so beautifully and sing at the same time.  Of course, I’m sure most of the young folks didn’t know “Your Song” or “Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” so it’s no wonder they were bored enough to go to the bathroom.  I don’t know those songs that well myself (I’m 27), but I was enjoying watching her play.  It’s hard for me to believe her when she says that those songs are her favorite songs and they mean so much to her, when I’m ten years older than her and barely know them.  Maybe they’re so special to her because she can play and sing them so well.  Lisa introduced her best friend Paris Bennett, who was wearing a tank top that read “America’s Most Wanted” with a drawing of a crown in the middle (she is a princess, you know – if you didn’t know that, she was sure to remind us all several times).  I thought the choreography on “Waterfalls” was cute, but I was disturbed at the realization that it was two 17-year old girls singing about motherhood, sex, and HIV.  Yikes!  Brett gave the performance an “F-minus” – we both thought Paris’ voice was too low.  Even if you knew the lyrics, you couldn’t understand what she was singing half the time. 

Paris continued with “Midnight Train to Georgia” and “Crazy In Love.”  She said she was the “dancing queen” of the tour and she wanted to see how Milwaukee gets down.  She encouraged the people at the immediate left and immediate right of the stage to pump their fists in front of their chests – I know that’s hard to picture, but it was amusing to watch.  Nan was very impressed and thought Paris outdid herself.  I felt she was doing way too much during “Crazy In Love” – she lost her breath over and over and dropped words and lines everywhere.  The part of the choreography where she used the chair didn’t blow me away; maybe my expectations of something along the lines of Usher or Justin Timberlake were too high. 

Bucky was up next with “Superstition,” and I chose to take my restroom break as “Drift Away” began.  I could still hear him in the restroom though.  There wasn’t a huge line for the restrooms at this point – again, I’m glad that I’ve been reading the recaps so I knew when intermission was.  Later on, Chelle and Jenn told me that they weren’t all that impressed with Bucky.  He got a fair amount of screams though.  I got back at the end of the “You’re The One That I Want” duet (I knew at which point Pickler came in because I could hear the screams suddenly get louder from the bathroom).  Pickler’s hair was short and flipped up at the ends, which made her look older.  She went into “I’m The Only One” and the whole song was an octave or two (or is that pitch?) higher than when she sang it on the show.  She sounded very close to singing through her nose; I wonder if her voice still needs some rest.  After that song, she babbled on and on about nothing, in an obvious attempt to catch her breath.  Maybe she’s sick and the song just left her winded.  When she said, “Okay, I’ll stop boring you and sing another song,” Brett said, “Thank you!”  “Walking After Midnight” actually led into a medley of a few country songs, which I recognized at the time but can’t remember now.  After that, Pickler let us know that they were taking a break and would be back soon. 

Nothing interesting to report during intermission – more music videos and text messages on the jumbo-tron.  Oh, I forgot to mention that the Pop Tarts were running around dancing before the show.  Woo-hoo.  I should also say that the section I sat in was the tamest I’ve sat in in all three shows I’ve been to (Seasons 2, 4, and 5).  They didn’t get up when the performer(s) ordered them to, except at the end during “We Are The Champions” and “Living In America.”  They pretty much just sat there and clapped politely.  Two girls in front of me screamed for Ace every now and then, and there was a drunk lady who was clearly a Taylor fan, but other than that there were no outbursts of cheering like mine when Elliott took the stage.  I was up out of my seat screaming, dancing, and clapping the whole time, probably to the annoyance of everyone around me.  I didn’t care, I was just disappointed in my section and all my fanaticism didn’t breathe any life into it.  Oh well.  I’m getting floor seats next time even if it means I go alone again. 

Chris started off with “Whole Lotta Love” after intermission, and the place BLEW UP.  I could hear him because my section was quiet, but I’m sure if I had been sitting anywhere else I wouldn’t be able to hear him over the screams.  Milwaukee loves them some Chris, and rightfully so – he was awesome!  One of the best of the night.  He also said Milwaukee was the loudest crowd so far.  He played his guitar while he sang “Wanted Dead or Alive,” and held out the mike for the crowd to sing some of the words.  Chris’ stage presence is amazing – I couldn’t take your eyes off him, and even the songs I didn’t know, I was still dancing and rocking along.  “Renegade” sounded different to me than it did when he sang it on the show, but the parts where the guitars stopped and he sang with just the drum beat were great.  He said that he was sick, almost in an apologetic way, but he was so excellent that I couldn’t tell.  Brett said he could tell – he felt like Chris was holding back.

When Chris started “Savin’ Me,” I started getting antsy because I knew who was out next.  When Elliott emerged, it was my turn to BLOW UP, along with many, many other screaming fans throughout the venue.  Everyone who has praised this duet as the showstopper is not lying.  It moved me to tears, it was so beautiful.  Both Elliott and Chris seemed to be feeling the words, not just singing them, and Elliott’s voice is just beautiful.  Chris played his guitar during this one too.  I wish I could get an audio file of this performance and just play it over and over!  Whoever decided that Chris and Elliott should do this duet is a genius. 

Elliott went into “Never Too Much” and then “Moody’s Mood For Love,” which I love because it showcases all the nuances of his voice.  The vocal acrobatics he performs in this song are brilliant, and he sounds even better than he did when he sang it on the TV show.  Most people sat down during this song because it lends itself to that, but I don’t think anyone was bored.  I of course stayed standing and swaying to the music.  Chelle and Jenn are Elliott fans too, and we were all gaga over this performance.  Elliott closed with a snippet of “Trouble,” which I wish was longer because I was dancing like an idiot and didn’t want it to end.  He is obviously more comfortable on the stage, and I’m sure all the screaming girls helped with that.  I was pleased to hear that Jenn went to buy an 8x10 photo of Elliott after the show, but the main floor merchandise counter was sold out of his photos so she had to go find one on an upper level.  Yay Elliott! 

I think the guys singing “Patience” came in here.  The lights came up on them and the girls screamed, of course.  Each guy was featured in solo during the song, and each one received screams – the loudest were for Chris.  Bucky threw his cowboy hat into the crowd at the end.  I heard he threw his guitar pick too – a friend of Jenn’s was actually sitting in the 4th row and told us later that she caught it, but dropped it and someone else snatched it up.  This group sing was great and shows that the guys owned Season 5; further confirmed by the fact that the girls didn’t even have a group sing tonight. 

Katharine was next, and given all the negativity that has swirled around her off-stage, I was surprised to hear all the screams when she started “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree.”  She changed it up from the way she sang it on the TV show.  She was wearing a long black dress with a flowy skirt, but of course it had a plunging neckline so Brett could enjoy the view.  (He cheered for her more than anyone else, ha!)  I don’t have much to say about Katharine because I’m not a fan, which I realize is mostly because she beat out Elliott for runner-up.  I’m not bitter anymore; I’m just neutral on her.  But she is an accomplished singer and she has striking facial features.  And lovely hair – it’s easy to see why she got the Big Sexy Hair deal.  After her first song she told us that she missed the first three weeks of the tour due to being ill, and she was still under doctor’s orders, so “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” would be her last song.  I’m still partial to Kimberley Locke’s version, but it is a really good song for Katharine to showcase her voice. 

So then I started looking around to see where Taylor would emerge.  He started singing “Jailhouse Rock” and you could hear his voice, but you couldn’t see him.  People had started to cheer, but not as loud because they were too busy trying to figure out where his voice was coming from.  Then the spotlight popped up on him on the floor at the back of the venue, and again the place BLEW UP.  I wish he had sung more than a snippet because it’s so much fun to watch him dance to this, but the song stopped as soon as he made it up on the stage.  The screams continued as he picked up his guitar for “Hollywood Nights,” and I noticed a lot of older people get excited when this song started.  They were up and dancing through that and “Livin’ For The City.”  The excitement really escalated when he announced that he was going to sing “Do I Make You Proud” and dedicated it to the troops.  I think this is one of the better Idol coronation songs, not because the song itself is well-written or anything, but because of what Taylor brings to it.  Lots of cheering all through this song.  A couple of times, he would hold a note and then wave the mike back and forth in front of his mouth while he held the note, giving it the effect of sounding like kids when they make “Indian” noises while playing “Cowboys & Indians.”  Chelle and Jenn thought this was hilarious.  Taylor also said that Milwaukee was the loudest crowd; at first when Ace said it I thought “oh, I bet you say that to all the pretty cities,” but when Chris and then Taylor said it, I got to thinking they might be telling the truth.  Taylor did the whole, “thank you, you’ve been great” as if he was done, but anyone who’s ever been to a concert knew it wasn’t over and the noise was deafening.  I was surprised at how many people (mostly in my section, ha) actually thought it was over and got up and left!  Did the fact that the house lights didn’t come up give them a clue at all?  Hopefully they’ll learn someday. 

Taylor returned to the stage in a Green Bay Packers jersey (#4, Brett Favre) and the place BLEW UP yet again!  Smart move.  He jumped into “Takin’ It To The Streets” and it was awesome!  I’m a Michael McDonald fan and I remember dancing around my living room when Taylor sang this on the TV show, and it was the same here.  Just watching Taylor get into the music and dance in his maniacal way makes you want to do the same!  My group was up on our feet dancing and clapping; it seemed the entire place was rockin’, especially when he broke out his harmonica and went to town on it – one-handed!  Taylor has amazing talent; I’m eager to hear what he’ll do on his upcoming album.  Watching him perform live is so much better than watching him on the TV.  He left the stage to thunderous cheers, then the Idols Mandisa through Elliott came out for “We Are The Champions.”  Cheese galore in the land of Wisconsin cheese, with pointy poses and arms waving and all of that.  I do wish there had been more group performances during Season 5 rather than performances by Shakira and such – I think this group of Idols is the best since Season 2, and they perform just as well as a group as they do individually.  The show ended with “Living in America,” and Taylor yelled “Milwaukee” two or three times during the city naming, then he yelled “You Cheeseheads!”  That was funny.   

Overall, this show was the best-performed and the most fun and entertaining out of the three shows I’ve been to (I’d place Season 2 second and Season 4 third).  So glad I came and totally worth the drive; I would have enjoyed it even in the nosebleeds!  Hey producers, bring the show to Iowa next year, we love the Idols!  After the show, I asked my group what they thought, since it was the first Idol show for all of them.  They all had a great time and were pleasantly surprised by how much fun it was.  They raved about the second half of the show, and I have to agree I enjoyed the second half much more than the first.  I’ve had “Savin’ Me” stuck in my head ever since.  If anyone knows if a recording of that exists, please let me know!  Thank you, readers, for your time and thank you MJ for posting this!   GO ELLIOTT!!!