Review and photographs by Kirsten Ferguson
There was no phalanx of half-naked warriors striking Egyptian poses, no toga-clad dancer bouncing his groin acrobatically off a tightrope, no appearance by Cee Lo Green in an over-stuffed marching band outfit.
Compared to halftime at the Super Bowl, Kelly Clarkson’s recent concert at the Times Union Center was relatively tame and uncontroversial. Its edgiest moment came when Clarkson, drenched in blood red light, performed a dramatic cover of “Heavy in Your Arms” by English indie-pop band Florence and the Machine over a tribal, primitive beat.
She doesn’t have the hot pink flamboyancy of Nicki Minaj or the bird-flipping rebelliousness of M.I.A., or the skill for self-reinvention that’s propelled the career of the Queen of Pop, Madonna herself.
But back in 2002, during the very first season of “American Idol,” the ever-prickly Simon Cowell told Clarkson she was destined to be a huge star. Since then the Texan singer – and eventual Idol winner – has parlayed her gymnastic voice and “girl next door” demeanor into a successful ten-year career (an aeon in the pop world).
At the TU Center, Clarkson had an eight-piece band backing her as she alternated between heartfelt ballads (her self-penned “You Love Me,” a cover of Coldplay’s “Fix You,” the piano driven “Never Again”) and big pop hits (crowd favorite “Breakaway,” the feisty “Mr. Know It All”) – all interspersed with Clarkson’s relatable, down-home stage chatter.
The crowd in the not-nearly-full arena was surprisingly sparse, especially given the recent success of Clarkson’s latest chart-topper, “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You),” a powerhouse of motivation that got fans up and dancing in their seats. (But it was a Tuesday night, and many of Clarkson’s young fans appeared to be of school age.)
Of all Clarkson’s songs, her biggest and best tune came early. “Since U Been Gone,” a song hip enough to have been both covered by rocker Ted Leo and sampled by the DJ Girl Talk, was given a revamped electro-pop charge while Clarkson jumped energetically up and down in front of multi-colored, laser beam lights that gave the set a dance-party-on-the-Battlestar-Galactica feel.
Greg Haymes’ review at The Times Union
Excerpt from Dave Singer’s review at The Daily Gazette: “Everything Clarkson does is over the top — it’s the American Idol way. So simply plastering country superstar Jason Aldean on the screen to sing their duet ‘Don’t You Wanna Stay’ wasn’t enough; they had to deliver an overdrive version. When she returned to singing alone with her full band, the power returned to the right level. The group is well produced, the songs are tight and strong and she is a bright, happy star on the stage. ‘Already Gone’ was the most interesting tune of the night, and maybe Clarkson’s best performance. Other big moments included ‘Breakaway,’ ‘Never Again’ and ‘My Life Would Suck Without You.’ Clarkson’s range of styles remains narrow. She may choose to reinvent herself as she matures, or she may stick to her core brand. Regardless, she’s a talent, and while she’s been rewarded far more than most at her level, she’s done well with it.”
KELLY CLARKSON SET LIST
Behind These Hazel Eyes
Since U Been Gone
You Love Me
Heavy in Your Arms (Florence & the Machine)
Fix You (Coldplay)
Medley: The Trouble With Love Is/Walk Away/How I Feel/I Want You
I Know You Won’t (Carrie Underwood)
Don’t You Wanna Stay (duet with Jason Aldean on video)
Let Me Down
I Forgive You
You Still Won’t Know What It’s Like
What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger)
My Life Would Suck Without You
Because of You
Mr. Know It All/Miss Independent
MATT NATHANSON SET LIST
To the Beat of Our Noisy Hearts
Come On Get Higher