It wasn't Leesburg, but it still seemed like "Home."
Season 11 "American Idol" winner Phillip Phillips performed that song Sunday when the "Idol" tour stopped at The Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga. The show featured performances from last season's top 10 contestants. I chatted with Phillip, as well as Jessica Sanchez and Joshua Ledet, before the show.
Phillip, who won the 11th season of "Idol," hails from Leesburg, Ga. This was pretty much his closest thing to a "hometown show" on the "Idol" tour. At one point in the concert, fellow "Idol" contestant Colton Dixon said it was good to be in Phillip's hometown. Leesburg isn't exactly close to Duluth, but I'll let that one slide.
"It's good to be home," Phillip said upon taking the stage toward the end of the show.
Under the current format of the "Idol" shows, we have to wait until the end of the concert for the winner to perform. The first half of the show focused on contestants who placed 10th through sixth, with some group numbers thrown into the mix as well. The second half featured solo performances by contestants who placed fifth through first. So we sat though the entire first half of the show with no sign of Phillip. And alas, he was absent from a group number set to a One Direction song.
Compared to last year's show, I think the first half lacked energy. But I think I liked this year's top three performances better than what we saw from Haley, Lauren and Scotty.
Video break, anyone?
In this video, Phillip discusses being back in Georgia and the boost his single "Home" got from being featured on the Olympics.
While on stage, Phillip mentioned going horseback riding in Georgia on Saturday. I ran into his parents after the show and asked them where he rode -- you know, just in case he was galloping across Columbus. Not the case. He was apparently at an Atlanta-area private residence, according to his mom.
Here's a video interview with "American Idol" runner-up Jessica Sanchez, who was much more talkative than I expected. She's really sweet. In this video, she discusses her boyfriend, fellow "Idol" contestant Deandre Brackensick, as well as fondness for Georgia.
Finally, here's third-place contestant Joshua Ledet. He talks about his plans for the future and his friendship with fellow "Idol" contestant Hollie Cavanagh. (Collectively, they're called "Jollie.")
Here's a quick roundup of my impressions of the 10 singers. Here's a set list.
Erika Van Pelt: After reading very positive reviews of her rendition of Pink's "Glitter in the Air," I had high expectations. Ultimately, however, I felt like something was missing. The biggest problem with this one was timing. It showed up early in the concert when momentum was still building. It was song No. 4 and would've fared better later in the show, as far as crowd response is concerned. I still like her voice, though.
Heejun Han: Novelty act or serious performer? I imagine many concert guests still hadn't decided after leaving Sunday's show. I'd summarize his solo performance -- John Legend's "Green Light" -- as "fun." He got a few screams from the crowd during the rap part. I won't say he was an essential part of the show, but he didn't bore me, either.
Deandre Brackensick: Yes, his hair is just as phenomenal in person. Deandre's biggest advantage? He has some serious energy working in his favor. The show didn't give me an indication of where he'll end up in the future, but he can really work a stage.
Colton Dixon: For placing seventh, Colton certainly has more signs of a post-"Idol" career than contestants who placed higher on the show. Colton T-shirts were on sale at the vendor stands, which is surprising since even contestants like Hollie and Skylar didn't get their own shirts. Heartthrob potential, maybe? I'm divided on Colton's set. Surprisingly, my favorite was his original song, "Never Gone." The rest of it could've lacked more contemporary appeal. He has a fan base, though. His willingness to interact with fans pre- and post-show definitely helped. I spotted him chatting with fans outside the venue around 4 p.m. He also interacted with fans after the show.
Elise Testone: First, the minuses: I still think Elise over-sings. A lot. At times, her energy just seems forced and over the top. But -- and here's her biggest plus -- at other times she demonstrates a passion for music that some of the other contestants seem to lack. So here's my advice: Just be yourself, Elise. You only lose me when it looks like you're playing a role.
Skylar Laine: Believe it or not, I think the show could've used more Skylar. Her energy is just as strong in concert, and I would've loved to hear a solo tune different from what she performed on the show. For her solo performances, she sang "Gunpowder and Lead" and "Stay With Me."
Hollie Cavanagh: I think the tour organizers made a great move in putting a Demi Lovato song ("Give Your Heart a Break") on Hollie's set list. It almost reminded me of what they did for Thia Megia on last year's tour. (She sang a Selena Gomez song.) The concert heightened Hollie's youthful appeal, something that got buried by ballads during the show.
Joshua Ledet: Josh's version of "It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World" got one of the strongest responses of the night. That's not too surprising. We got the same vocal power and energy that we saw on "Idol." He has stage presence. I'm still not sure where he'll end up musically, but he definitely had some of the show's more memorable moments.
Jessica Sanchez: For me, she was the night's biggest surprise. I expected her to be somewhat aloof during our pre-show interview. That wasn't the case. And while I often criticized her for appearing stiff during the show, she exuded a lot more personality than I expected. Very pleasant surprise.
Phillip Phillips: I'm still a fan. The Atlanta show paralleled what I saw during his hometown visit in Leesburg. You might be skeptical of Phillip's victory on paper, but when you see him perform live it's an entirely different experience. He really is an entertainer. His cover of Damien Rice's "Volcano" (featuring Jessica Sanchez) was probably my favorite moment of the night.
One more thing...I was lucky enough to sit beside the AJC's Rodney Ho at the show. Here's his review of the concert.