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'American Idol': On the scene for the Top 10 results, plus Justin Bieber performs

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It’s night two of my initiation into the art of writing on-the-scene recaps for Idol, and I am already noticing the symptoms of Idol overload syndrome, which includes getting a Justin Bieber song stuck in your head. See, while last night’s results show may have only lasted an hour for you, who were resting on your insanely comfortable couch while eating these treats while having this cat curled up beside you, I was in the Idoldome for more than four hours. The reason? Usher’s performance of “OMG” was taped (twice) before the live show, and after the show, 16-monthyear-old Justin Bieber shot a two-song concert, which will air during a future Idol episode. While it was definitely a long haul, the evening luckily was stuffed with many memorable moments, including a Bieber fan who was tackled by security and what appeared to be some sort of altercation between Crystal and Andrew during the Sean Combs/Puff Daddy/P. Diddy/Diddy/Diddy Dirty Money thingamajig.

I arrived to my seat at 4:30 p.m. Usher’s crew was testing out all of the equipment, including two flame machines. The guy in charge of the pyro effects was holding two joysticks in his hands. All it took was a simple flick of the stick and, whoosh, a tower of fire worthy of Daniel Plainview’s attention appeared. Corey the Warm-Up Comedian was particularly excited by the presence of pyrotechnics as he repeatedly yelled, “Pyro’s fire! Pyro’s fire!” By the time Usher was ready to perform, the studio was about two-thirds full, so the audience members sitting on side sections (including me) were relocated to the center section. The judges weren’t present, nor were their stand-ins. Fox probably thought viewers would be too distracted by Usher and will.i.am’s Auto-Tuned vocals to notice the empty table.

And then, just before Usher was about to start OMGing, Justin Bieber materialized before our eyes. Okay, so the kid just wanted to see his mentor perform, but bringing Bieber out mere seconds before Usher stepped on stage was a mistake. The two pits were predominately female last night, and as soon as they noticed Bieber was sitting in the audience, they could care less about Usher. Debbie the Stage Manager could have announced that a meteorite was about to strike the Idoldome, and these young girls’ fixation on Bieber wouldn’t have wavered. They’d stare at Bieber and then shriek and then point at him and shriek again because, oh my God, we’re breathing the same air molecules as him! I can’t prove that the reason Usher had to sing “OMG” twice was because of the audience’s misplaced focus, but Corey did scold us for our lack of energy. “Now, this time, I want you on your feet right at the get-go,” he said.

As far as I could tell, Idol‘s producers opted for Usher’s second performance. There were two main differences between the first and second take. On the first take, the cigar-smoking backup dancers were actually smoking cigars — they blew out puffs of smoke while dancing. But on the second take (as well as on TV), the cigars were no longer lit.  The other difference was that, at the end of the first take, Usher tossed his hat into the audience. When it became apparent that a second take was in store, Corey had to retrieve the hat from the young girl who caught it. (But don’t feel bad for her, as Corey gave her an iPod Touch in exchange for the hat) So, for the second take, Usher simply held on to his hat at the end. “Had I known this hat was worth the price of an iPod, I would have never thrown it into the audience in the first place,” the singer thought to himself.

And now, this is when things got really interesting. Bieber went onstage to shoot an Idol Gives Back promo. Like Chris Rock from the prior night, Bieber filmed a bit about his mother. “The last thing my mom gave me was a hug,” he said, to which the audience responded with a collective “awww.” Then, once Justin finished the promo, he pointed to a teenage girl in the pit. The girl interpreted this to mean that Bieber wanted her to rush onto the stage, and as soon as she attempted to dash toward Bieber, Mike the Security Guy quickly grabbed the girl. Bieber then rushed over to the girl and gave her a hug, and she was able to stay in the pit for the rest of the show. But, whoa, the speed with which Mike the Security Guy stopped that fan was nothing short of superhuman. “I never felt more safe than I do right now,” Corey joked. I’ll have to check with The Beav and Whittlz to see if they’ve ever seen anyone restrained while attempting to charge the Idol stage.

The show began on cue at 6:00. As you’ve heard before, the best part about results night is that the contestants are on stage for nearly the whole show, and it’s intriguing to see how they react. For instance, when Corey introduced the judges into the building, all of the contestants clapped except for Big Mike and Lee. Read into that what you will — it could mean nothing or it could mean everything. Ruben Studdard took the stage to enrich our lives with “Don’t Make ‘Em Like U No More,” or as it’s also called, “Every Grammar Teacher’s Worst Nightmare.” Big Mike and Andrew were grooving to the song, and when Ruben finished, Mike was the first one to stand up and applaud the former Idol champion. The rest of the Top 10 begrudgingly rose to clap, with Lee being the last one to get out of his seat.

During the break, all of the judges went onstage to greet Ruben. Lee and Casey, who were sitting next to each other, started the first of many extended conversations. In fact, everyone seemed chatty save for Siobhan and Aaron, who stared silently out into the distance for the majority of the show. As for the guys’ Star Wars nickname for Aaron, yes, it’s Yoda. “Aaron’s like the guy who doesn’t say anything, but when he says something, everybody listens,” Lee explained backstage Tuesday night.

Some of you may shout “blasphemy” now, but nothing too illuminating happened until Katie was banished to the Bottom 3 stools, so I’m going to skip ahead to that. On TV, as Katie walked over, you could hear Kara repeatedly say to Simon, “That’s not right.” What you couldn’t see was that Kara appeared to be forcefully pointing her fingers into Simon’s chest, as she also did two weeks ago. Kara was visibly upset with Simon, and although I couldn’t tell what Simon had actually said to Kara, it was later implied by Ryan that Simon seemed to be gloating when Katie was selected to the Bottom 3. After telling Ryan to back away from the judges’ panel, Simon explained he was simply disappointed that Katie hadn’t taken his prior advice. As soon as went to the commercial break, Ryan walked up to Simon and playfully patted him on the shoulder; clearly, any tension that exists between the two instantly vanishes once they’re off camera.

After Usher’s taped performance, we learned that Didi was in the Bottom 3 and that Big Mike was safe. At this point, only Tim and Andrew were left waiting to hear their fate, and Tim leaned over to whisper something into Andrew’s ear. “When Ryan tells us to stand up, let’s hold hands” is my best guess (and is, in fact, what they did), although Tim could have easily said, “Watch me destroy the Idol dreams of yet another young woman.” As expected, Tim was named to the Bottom 3, and shortly thereafter, Ryan revealed that Katie could return to the couch. As Katie walked back, Kara turned toward Simon and flashed an expression of complete and utter relief. During the break, Tim and Didi had a heart-to-heart chat while sitting on the stools, although I couldn’t fully see Tim thanks to a camera that was blocking my view. Ryan hung out with the contestants on the couch, while Katie and Crystal hugged it out. Casey and Lee engaged in yet another lengthy conversation, this one ending with a firm handshake. What agreement could they have reached? Were they betting on who could appear the least excited during Diddy Dirty Money’s performance? If that were the case, Lee won hands down. Throughout the duration of Diddy’s number, Lee sat in the classic Thinker pose with his chin resting on his hand.

The other development during Diddy’s “Hello, Good Morning” performance occurred between Crystal and Andrew. Early into the song, Crystal sat down while all of the other contestants remained standing. Andrew was swinging his arms around while dancing, and I guess his arms got close to hitting Crystal’s face. Suddenly, Crystal turned toward Andrew and clearly said, “Stop it! Stop it!” During the break, Crystal and Andrew appeared to be discussing what had transpired. Crystal kept pointing to the ground where there had previously been a thick layer of stage fog. Maybe the smoke and the strobe-lighting effects were making Crystal feel queasy, and when Andrew started swaying his arms, it was the last straw? Who knows? Regardless, the two seemed to have cleared up the situation.

Back from the commercial break, Ryan announced that Tim was safe and Didi was in danger of heading home. Randy applauded as Tim headed back to the couches, but Simon, Kara, and Ellen sat completely (and almost frightfully) still. Those three did not appear pleased by America’s decision in the least. While Didi sang a very pleasant rendition of “Rhiannon,” all four judges gathered in a huddle to supposedly discuss whether to use the Judges’ Save on her, and they continued chatting throughout the whole song. In other words, it appeared as if the judges, under the surprising leadership of Kara, were seriously considering the Judges’ Save. But it wasn’t meant to be. As Didi’s farewell video played on the JumboTron, the other nine contestants consoled her onstage. Ryan looked at the judges and suggested that they should also come up onstage, which they did at the end of the show. As the Top 9 exited the stage, Kara gave Didi the longest hug of the night (it lasted 10 seconds or so).

But the audience wasn’t nearly done yet. Corey quickly informed us that Justin Bieber was going to tape a performance (cue female shrieking), and that the singer’s band just needed to set up their equipment, complete a quick sound check, and then we’d be ready to go. But as Corey often remarks, people lie in Hollywood, and it ultimately took an hour before Mr. Bieber stepped onstage. Before the performance started, Corey also discussed proper Bieber etiquette with the pits. “If Justin puts his hand out, it’s okay to touch it,” said Corey. “But don’t grab him, and no hugs.”

For someone who considered himself immune to the Bieber Fever, I actually found myself bobbing my head along as Bieber sang “U Smile” and “Baby.” The girls in the audience particularly melted when Bieber finished “Baby” by running over to the drum set, kicking off his professional drummer (who’s at least twice his age), and finishing the drumming all by himself. I have a few pointers, though, for Bieber’s future shows. First, it’s always embarrassing for a pop star if his microphone stand is taller than he is, so lower that mic before the Bieber arrives, okay? Second, the Bieber attempted jumping during “Baby,” and I believe he got enough air that a baby chipmunk could have passed beneath his feet. I know, I know, I seem to be picking on Bieber’s height, but the singer had four male dancers behind him who also jumped in the air, albeit significantly higher than Justin’s vertical leap. Either don’t have Justin jump, or instruct his dancers to take it down a notch.

PopWatchers, do any of you have the Bieber Fever? Who thinks the judges should have saved Didi? And how many more weeks can Tim survive on the strength of his pearly whites?

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