By Adam B. Vary
Updated August 03, 2020 at 08:29 PM EDT

I’m having a hard time typing, Popwatchers, as my hands are all a-quiver after the most exhilarating Idol live performance night I’ve ever seen. Granted, I haven’t seen many, but I don’t really know how this season can top it.

For one, Gina Glocksen was our warm-up comic! Sorta! After the regular shtick from Bill the Other Warm-Up Comic, he pulled up Glocksen from the audience to deliver a pretty hot groove on “Rapper’s Delight,” and she stayed there to introduce Randy, Ryan, Simon and the Idols. “I don’t know what to do,” Gina said after she announced Simon’s name only to have him not appear at the entrance. “This is so weird right now!” But only the right kind of weird, Gina, trust me.

Actually, I worried it was a bittersweet night for the rocker, what from the Bon Jovi theme night to the loudly warm applause she received when she first entered the studio. Me, I’d be all “oh yeah, where was all this love when I needed your votes?! I could’ve so rocked it tonight!” But Gina just seemed thrilled to be there. As did Little Miss Sunshine‘s Abigail Breslin up in the front row, by the way. (I’m just going to skip over Antonella Barba except to say she shot Gina quite the dirty look after Ryan told the Top 12 finalist on camera how thrilled he was to see her.)

The real show, of course, began once the cameras went live. Because,Popwatchers, if you were playing close enough attention and happened tobe stalking me, you’d realize that for a brief moment, I was on TV. Mylittle faraway section of the audience temporarily became stage centerwhen Phil launched into a “Blaze of Glory” right along my row (pictured). Duringhis taped bit with Jon Bon Jovi, Debbie the Stage Manager had the rowsbehind me along the stairwell move to form a human wall and forced thefront row of that wall to replace their “Blake U Make Me Ache” signwith that ginormous “Phil!” sign. (Not that they minded — they got to beon TV! And, we later learned, one from that group counts StevenSpielberg as a neighbor. So they’ve got that going for them too.) Justto give you new stalkers a leg up on things, I was the dork off to theleft of the screen with the scruff and glasses trying his best not tolook too dorky. (Success!)

I’ve now watched the show back on TV, and while it still comes over asa darn strong episode, I do think my twitterpation has as much to dowith seeing it all live as anything else. Well, maybe save for Jordin,although I’m actually of two minds about her, um, version of “Living ona Prayer.” I’ll put it to you: Is it better to have at times screechy,off-key singing come through clearly, or not be heard at all oversquawking guitars and thumping drums? I’m leaning to the latter,because even though I seriously could not hear Jordin for a good halfof her song, at least I was spared the actual singing.

Really, though, that was for my ears the only truly off performance ofthe night. Phil was strong, LaKisha was fierce — her posse this week wereon their feet testifying long before the rest of us were — and even Chrismanaged to belt (belt!) long stretches of “Dead or Alive” withoutsounding like Justin Timberlake with a cold. And regular readers know Ithink Melinda can do no wrong, and, based on the audience’s rabidenthusiasm for her growly “Have a Nice Day,” I’d say I’m not alone.

The night, though, belonged to Blake. As if in anticipation of thisfact, Blake had the most signs in the audience last night—two-to-one,easy. A sampling: “Blake is the Cake” (atop those hot pink pop-artportraits of Blake); the aforementioned “Blake U Make Me Ache”;”Beatboxers can sing too!” held by Papa Lewis; “Shake It Blake”; “BlakeYou Make My Heart Beatbox”; “Get on the Blake Train”; and aplaying-card portrait of Blake with him as the Ace of Hearts. Myfavorite non-Blake sign — “I Want To Squeeze Ya LaKisha” — was actually oneof six signs created for all of the Idols by a Fox affiliate reporter,so it really doesn’t count.

And if you’re wondering, per Simon’s comment, which half of theaudience hated on Blake’s beat-boxing remix of “You Give Love a BadName,” well, there wasn’t one. We were all pretty much electrified fromthe get go, so much so I’ve already started an intra-EW e-mailthrowdown over whether it belongs in the pantheon of Greatest Idol Performances Ever. (My vote, clearly: Oh, heck yes!)

I do feel I should point out that I think my fervor was in no smallpart stoked by the super-mega-ultra Blake fan in the seat next to me, ayoung man named Dane whose full-bodied enthusiasm for the beat-boxernearly toppled the risers. I kid — though Dane really was jumping withenough force to bend the floor beneath him (and me) — but only gently,because, you see, Dane is a fan. Of mine. Or, really, of our Idolcoverage. (Yes, that tooting you hear is our own horn.) Dane explainedto me that he’s all about Blake because he so clearly isn’t your papa’sIdol contestant. My snark impulse almost had me answering, “Yeah,well, neither was Taylor Hicks,” but, really, Dane has a point. Blake’sbound to be the lead watercolor convo subject for the next week, and hepulled it off by embracing his truest instincts as a musician,instincts never before seen on the Idol stage. And isn’t that what we’ve all been craving from this show, authentic wow moments, pony-hawks notwithstanding?