I covered my first "American Idol" homecoming concert...and lived to write about it.
I drove to Leesburg, Ga., and joined thousands of people for Phillip Phillips' Saturday concert at Lee County High School. How many people attended? I heard estimates of 25,000. Even though that wasn't an "official" estimate, the number doesn't surprise me. Maybe the official number was a little lower, but it was really hard to tell the full scope of the crowd.
"I can't thank y'all enough," Phillip said on stage. "I don't even know what to say." He performed seven songs. Here's the set list:
1. Jam session
2. "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder
3. "Still Rainin'" by Jonny Lang
4. "Nice and Slow" by Usher
5. "Thriller" by Michael Jackson
6. "Volcano" by Damien Rice
7. "All Along the Watchtower" by Jimi Hendrix
I arrived at the high school around noon. I'd guess a thousand -- maybe 2,000 -- people were already in line. Again, that's just a rough estimate. It was hard to tell where the line started. Gates weren't supposed to open until 2 p.m. Officials let people in about an hour earlier than expected. The concert was scheduled to begin at 3 p.m., but things were predictably behind schedule...as in, maybe two hours behind schedule.
Phillip was visibly grateful and appreciative upon taking the stage. "I'm so nervous and excited," he said. His brother-in-law played in the band on stage with him and at one point during the concert, Phillip presented his brother-in-law with tickets to the "Idol" finale. Phillip's sisters joined him on stage for his performance of "Still Rainin.'"
U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr., D-Albany, was among the leaders who honored Phillip during his Leesburg appearance. "As your congressman, I have always said that we here in southwest Georgia and the 2nd congressional district have the best and the brightest and the most creative and most talented people anywhere in the world and your performance on 'American Idol' proves that beyond a shadow of a doubt. You do us proud," Bishop said.
Leesburg is a small town north of Albany, Ga. Support for Phillip extended to Albany, with many businesses posting signs in his honor. Remember, country singer Luke Bryan also hails from Leesburg. The town has obviously rallied behind Phillip. Case in point: Before I left town, I spotted people ordering Phillip Phillips shirts from a cool Leesburg coffee hangout called Java the Hut. The place had apparently already gone through one supply.
Here are some snippets from Saturday's performances. Most of these songs included jam session portions that I didn't film. Here's the first one, Phillip's version of "Volcano" by Damien Rice:
Phillip performs "Still Rainin'" while joined by his sisters:
Phillip's rendition of "Nice and Slow" by Usher:
Phillip closes the show with "All Along the Watchtower" by Jimi Hendrix
Finally, this very short video doesn't feature Phillip but it's my best attempt to give you an idea of the crowd. This was taken at the very end of the show. The concert was even more packed during the music.