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On the Scene: Idol Gives Back, Walt Disney Hall edition!

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Kelly_lThe sky was clear, the sun golden, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, er, undulating, as the audience line snaked along Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles waiting to pass through security (and Frank Gehry’s bowed steel facades) to enter. Even the usual signs for Blake and Jordin were peppered for posters touting One.org, Product Red, and Save the Children. So you would probably be safe in saying this was definitely not your typical Idol results show, right?Well, in some ways it wasn’t —no Ryan, no judges, no finalists, and instead of a stage made of curving brushed metal and glass designed to avoid right angles, a stage made of curving polished wood designed to avoid right angles — and in some ways it was. For one, the moment I heard “Billie Jean” mashed with “Don’t Stop Believin'” playing inside as people moved to their seats, I wondered: Dear heavens, Corey the WUC hasn’t invaded the Disney Concert Hall, has he?

Yes, he had. Yes, he stuck to his exact same warm-up script. And,basically, if I didn’t bring this up, I would have even less to discussin this blog post.Because even though most of the musical performances took place at the DisneyConcert Hall (outside of Jack Black, the Final Six, and Celine Dionand Elvis’ ghost), there was very little off-camera action going down. Atleast, from what I could gather from my seat waaaaay in the back. Nocelebs caught my eye, Corey the WUC was refreshingly low-key (he evenmanaged to one-on-one with the peeps in the highest balcony by the endof the show), and before performing, the musical artists all just stoodon their marks in the dark waiting for Ellen to introduce them.

Ellen,of course, was the biggest star of the night, winning a welcomingovation so deafening it gave me a mild headache for the rest of thenight. Still, I was bummed that Ms. DeGeneres kept her time on stage tothe barest minimum, appearing a scant minute before the cameras wentlive and then leaving just as quickly rather than staying to watch theshow.So it was the audience itself that provided the most entertainment forthe evening. Shirley’s already explainedthat the CBS Television City audience was asked to keep things calm andsubdued; not so much with the Disney Hall folks. Corey pretty muchgoaded us to be as loud and energetic as possible to show the CBS crowdwho was the better audience. And I think we were…mostly. I’m justgrateful the CBSers weren’t handed glo-sticks and told to keep timewith Il Divo by swaying said glo-sticks in the air, ’cause we sureweren’t able to. (There was even a little laughter as the foursomestarted to sing and we attempted to sway — was it too much for Corey tostand out of camera range and give us a little direction?)

The Disney Hall crew did take full advantage, however, of the freedomto react to what went down at CBS as if we were still watching at home.Which meant: Some mild titters whenever Sanjaya appeared on screen;silent confusion when Celine and Elvis’ ghost stepped on stage to duet;and total shock when Paula and her two best friends (you know whichtwo) appeared next to Ryan to plug the Idol Aid hotline. Seriously, theentire Disney Hall pretty much erupted upon witnessing Paula’simpressive décolletage, and the murmuring didn’t stop for well overfive minutes afterwards. A woman sitting a few seats from me evenleaned over and said “You should definitely include thatin your notes!” But the biggest reaction of the evening went to themost deserving: As instructed by Corey, we all stood to give theAfrican Children’s Choir a rousing salutation as they filed in duringthe all-star “Stayin’ Alive” video. Maybe it was the kids, maybe it wasthe Disney Hall’s acoustics, but I managed to sit through Josh Groban’s3,182nd rendition of “You Raise Me Up” without using my pen to puncturemy eardrums (Groban fans, I await your flaming below), and I couldn’thelp but tear up as the children swarmed Groban at the end. OurStanding O for them was by far the longest of the night.

We would have applauded longer for Kelly Clarkson’s fierce anddeeply felt duet with legendary guitarist Jeff Beck, but quiteliterally the moment the show cut to commercial, the one-time Idolchampeen skittered out of there as fast as her feet could take her. Atleast Annie Lennox lingered long enough to bask in our (to my ear,somewhat inexplicable) adulation as the mini-orchestra began filingaway and the stage hands tearing down the lights behind her. We allstuck around to watch Ryan give the final results — and, yes, many werefooled into thinking Jordin was going home — but then the audiencestarted to leave, skipping Bono’s mentoring words and the final groupperformance lest we all get stuck in the line for checked cell phonesand cars waiting to exit the lower depths of the Disney Hall’s parkinggarage. Because Idol may be the biggest television phenomenon in the history of ever, but nothing can keep Angelenos from their BlackBerrys and the chance to beat traffic.