Above: David Cook gives the Royals some winning support Saturday night at the Sprint Center. Photos by Timothy Finn/The Star
David Cook's five-song set at the Sprint Center on Saturday was a lot like Friday's: The arena was slightly less full (by half a smattering of seats in the upper deck), but it was just as loud, maybe even louder.
Instead of the Chiefs, he represented the Royals, wearing the No. 08 jersey they gave him when he threw out the first pitch at a game back in May.
Because it was his last night here, he thanked his hometown several times, for supporting him like it has and for showering some of that devotion and love on the nine other contestants on the tour: "Everyone who comes off that stage says you are an amazing crowd."
True. But not many of them are likely to feel that kind of response in a room as big as the Sprint Center again.
The American Idols Live tour showcases each season's Top 10 contestants. This year's tour has been hitting arenas all over America. The response in Kansas City was extraordinary, thanks to Cook.
Friday night's show sold out so fast that a second was added. Both nights the crowd enthusiastically greeted the nine performers who preceded him on stage, but there's no doubt why the place was sold out, and nearly sold out two nights in a row. Had Cook not been on the program, it's doubtful the tour would have more than half-filled an arena for one night -- if it bothered to stop in Kansas City at all.
Saturday's show unofficially drops the curtain on this season, which turned into a storybook tale for Cook and his hometown. The tour ends a few weeks in Tulsa, his second hometown. After that, the 10 contestants will scatter and work on whatever careers they can forge out of the show and this tour. Of the 10, Cook appears by far the most prepared to jump into the big time. He seems most comfortable on stage and as polished as the kinds of big-time bands or performers who do the kind of music he wants to do, from Nickelback and Daughtry to Collective Soul.
The futures of the nine others, however, don't seem so certain:
David Archuleta: He sang a Josh Groban song, which was wise because that direction seems to be his best bet for success and longevity. He still seems awkward and unsure of himself on stage, though, especially when he talks to the audience. You can't be cute forever. But his fans adore him and he does have a voice that can crush a silky ballad. The best thing he has going for him is that like Groban's, his primary demographic is wide -- females from 10 to 60 -- and loyal.
Syesha Mercado: She ended both of her sets with powerful covers of Beyonce's "Listen," and both nights the crowds went crazy. So she can sing. The trick will be distinguishing herself in a field -- R&B/pop -- that is crowded with ladies who can sing as good or better than she can. She nailed "Umbrella," too, but there are already enough Rihannas in the world she wants to inhabit. She told us music theater will be one of her endeavors but not the only one. She may have no other choice, though.
Jason Castro: He did the acoustic, boho-folk/soul thing in a packed arena, and the crowd gave him some rapt attention (aside from the screaming girls). He's a wild card. His quirky personality could be an asset or a detriment. Somebody ought to be able to turn him into the next Donovan Frankenreiter -- but more popular.
Brooke White: After Cook, she showed the best stage presence and rapport with the crowd. Her three covers were all spot-on: "Let It Be," Feist's "1234" and Coldplay's "Yellow." Comes off much better live than she did on the show. She, too, is trying to crack a crowded and younger field (Feist, Sarah Bareilles, Colby Caillat, Brandi Carlile ...)
Carly Smithson: She wants to rock heavy, which is wise because there aren't a lot of women doing that these days. On the other hand, it's a tough world to crack (ask Kelly Clarkson). She had no problem filling the arena with her big siren voice, but the rest of her feels less-convincing as a hard-rock singer. The game plan won't be easy or obvious.
Kristy Lee Cook: One of the biggest surprises. She seemed amateur on the show. On the tour, she sounded ready to get both boots in the door of country radio. She has the looks and the voice. She just needs to polish the finer points, like how to move during a song and what to say before and after. (She needs to watch Carrie Underwood, who has figured out that less of both is more.)
Michael Johns: The crowd loved him, but all he did was karaoke the hell out of a couple of classic rock songs. He'll probably become popular back in Australia, but I'm not sure the genre he's aiming for -- rock/soul/blues -- will support him over here. He'll be just another average voice.
Ramiele Malubay: She's a wisp of a girl who is relatively new to all of this, and she didn't seem to believe in the material she had to sing on this tour. She seemed even less enthusiastic about the choreography they gave her. She told us she's hoping to get into the Disney machine, either a movie or a TV show or a musical. That seems like her best bet.
Chikezie: He, too, sounded and looked much more professional than he did on the show. But his style is old-school R&B/soul -- neo-Luther V. -- and I don't see him doing anything bigger and better than Reuben Studdard.
And as for David Cook: Part of him must be chomping at the bit to get this gig over with and move on to his own material, his own band, his own career. His hometown gave him a spectacular reception, but he also showed he has the talent and personality to make it big elsewhere. I'll be surprised if he isn't at least as big as Daughtry. And if he gets bigger, Saturday won't be the last time he rocks the Sprint Center.