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'American Idol': On the scene for Top 3 performance night

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Casey-James-Bowersox

Image Credit: Michael Becker/PictureGroupSo we’re approaching the finish line of Lost American Idol, and it’s time to speculate, theorize, and create projections for the approaching finale. From my seat in the Idoldome, one thing was clear: Women adore Lee DeWyze. Whenever Lee sang or walked by, the middle-aged women in my row melted — Amelie style — into a puddle of schoolgirlish infatuation. I heard words such as “awesome” and “incredible” being tossed around the audience at a frequency rivaling a Steve Jobs keynote speech, and a pack of girls in the pit once again got their voices on national television by shouting, “We love you, Lee!” Last week’s results show was when I first noticed the Idoldome’s escalating adoration for the (in case Idol hadn’t reminded you enough) former paint salesman, and last night felt like an official coronation. (I say this from the point-of-view of someone who’s firmly in the Crystal camp). Again, it’s impossible to know whether the Idoldome’s preferences reflect those of the voting public, but if I could only base my finale prediction on what I witnessed last night, I’d say this race is all sewn up.

Before the show started, the audience was especially energetic. On most nights, it takes Cory the Warm-Up Comic a couple of tries to get the crowd to fully participate in stimulating vocal games such as this one:

Cory: When I say Randy, you say Jackson. Randy…

Audience: Jackson!

Cory: Randy!

Audience: Jackson!

But last night’s audience members were giving 110 percent, which is the most anyone can ever give in the Idoldome. Cory, as usual, asked everyone if their favorite Idol was either Casey (polite cheering), Crystal (louder shouting), or Lee (cue pandemonium). After the judges were introduced, the Top 3 Idols walked onstage and took their positions on the main staircase, which sources tell me consumes approximately 1.21 gigawatts of power per night. With 15 seconds to airtime, Cory was still blabbering to the audience, which resulted in Debbie the Stage Manager shushing him to be quiet. And we’re off!

Casey’s the first to perform, and while Ryan Seacrest was talking to the camera about the upcoming Idol tour, stagehands rushed onstage with Casey’s guitar and microphone stand. And then before Casey was even able to get in front of his mic and mentally prepare himself, Seacrest announced that Casey was ready to perform, and the singer could do nothing but rush into his lackluster rendition of “OK, It’s Alright with Me.” It sort of felt like Casey was being brushed under the table — couldn’t the show have given the guy a few extra seconds to get ready? And did Simon and Kara really need to talk throughout most of the song? Still, Casey didn’t help himself much by selecting a song by an artist whose biggest supporter is Perez Hilton.

During the break, a huddle of six stagehands surrounded Crystal as she strapped on her guitar and harmonica holder. Seacrest waited around as a guy pressed one of those lint-removal rollers across the host’s shoulder. (Those rollers, by the way, make for excellent cat-brushing devices). Crystal sang Melissa Etheridge’s “Come to My Window,” which received a standing ovation from about 80 percent of the audience. Etheridge was in the audience (Cory pointed her out during a subsequent break), so it was odd that the show never mentioned her presence. As the judges critiqued Crystal’s performance, Lee emerged on the floor level below the stage. The women next to me waved to Lee, who reciprocated with a thumbs up. Lee then entered the pit to prepare for a cut-to-commercial shot, and the surrounding pit girls focused their attention on getting their hair camera-ready.

Lee’s “Simple Man” garnered a full standing ovation. While Seacrest listed Lee’s phone numbers, Casey ducked under a camera crane, greeted his family in the front row, and ended up at his spot behind Kara’s chair for the upcoming fade-out to commercial. Kara and Casey chatted for awhile as they waited for Seacrest to finish, and then Casey spent much of the break casually strumming on his electric guitar. After introducing Casey’s next song (John Mayer’s “Daughters”), Seacrest hung out at the judges’ table for the first third or so of the performance before he eventually retreated backstage to his makeup chair.

Seacrest returned to announce Casey’s phone numbers, during which Crystal snuck her way to the judges’ table. Simon stood up and hugged Crystal, and the rest of the judges surrounded the contestant as well. After the break, Ellen, Randy, and Simon stood around the table and conversed. That’s right, Simon actually stayed inside the Idoldome during a commercial break. Perhaps he’s using the patch? Or maybe he knew that this was going to be the commercial break during which the JumboTron would display this headline attributed to the Daily Mail newspaper: “Simon Cowell to be Awarded Knighthood.” However, as far as I could tell, nobody really reacted to the news. Cory continued giving away t-shirts to screaming fans, and that was that.

Back from the break, Seacrest pointed out actors Colin Hanks and Bradley Whitford — stars of the new Fox comedy The Good Guys, which premieres on Fox before Wednesday’s Idol results show on Fox, which is the channel you’re currently watching Idol on at this precise moment. Kara and Randy, noticing that their celebrity-radar had been triggered, turned around and greeted Hanks and Whitford. (Kara waved while Randy blew air kisses in their direction). Crystal’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” received a no-doubt-about-it standing ovation, during which Kara turned her head toward Simon and nodded her head in approval. While Seacrest gave out Crystal’s numbers, Lee appeared on the floor and started heading to his position at the judges’ table. But before he reached his final spot behind Simon’s chair, Lee finished buttoning his shirt and pulled up his pants, much to the dismay of the girls sitting behind him.

During the break, Simon put his left arm around Lee’s back while the two chatted. Then, after patting Lee on the shoulder, Simon started a conversation with Randy and Seacrest. Wait, is Simon actually going to stay around for a second consecutive commercial break? Has such a feat ever been witnessed by human eyes? Nope, there goes Simon. False alarm.

When Simon revealed that he selected Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” for Lee, the audience let out a collective “oooooh!” I simply rolled my eyes and tried to stop my brain from flashing back to that Watchmen sex scene set to the same song. Of course, simply typing that previous sentence has resulted in me thinking about that dreaded scene yet again. Must…think…of…something…else… Oh! During the clip in which Lee received his song choice via text message, the contestant said that he had just landed in Chicago. However, did anyone notice that behind Lee’s head was a monitor that listed the aircraft’s distance from its destination (27 miles), its speed (286 mph), and its altitude (some 6,000 feet)?

I scanned the Idoldome while Lee sang, and had a shirtless Ryan Reynolds suddenly materialized onstage, I don’t think any of the women in the audience would have noticed. Ellen and Simon smiled at one another, as if to validate the latter’s song selection, and the audience serenaded Lee with a standing ovation that lasted around 30 seconds. As the phone numbers aired for the final time, Crystal and Casey joined Lee onstage. Crystal congratulated Lee with a hearty hug, while Casey put his arm around Lee’s shoulder. Lee was so intrigued by watching the clip of his own performance that Crystal had to physically turn him around when the clip finished. After the show ended, Seacrest stayed onstage to shoot a quick promo. A young woman in the pit caught Seacrest’s attention. “I love you more than love itself,” he jokingly exclaimed to the girl. “Will you text me?”

PopWatchers, what do you make of Idol positioning Lee as the front-runner? Does he deserve the praise the judges showered upon him? And does Crystal still have a shot? (That is, assuming Casey is eliminated tonight, which he will be, right?).

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