'American Idol': Rascal Flatts, Shakira, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas and...Lady Gaga? (On the scene for Top 6 results)
Image Credit: Michael Becker/Fox/PictureGroupThis is gonna be kinda weird, dear readers. Not Rascal Flatt’s Gary LaVox trying to dance with Shakira weird, or Shakira trying to quote Roosevelt and/or Casey Kasem weird. But, well, there’s not all that much to tell you about the on-the-scene action during last night’s live American Idol results show. As you may have gathered, a good half of the evening was pre-taped, and the judges and contestants were nowhere to be seen when the cameras weren’t broadcasting live.
However, after the show was over and the 19 Entertainment logo had chirped, none other than Lady Gaga invaded the Idoldome, and, shockingly, she decided to put on an insanely elaborate spectacle involving a 20 foot (or so) working fountain and a half-dozen (or so) half-naked male dancers. Of course, you at home won’t get to see her performance until it airs during an upcoming results show, so my descriptions of it may not exactly make a whole heap of sense — and Lady Gaga already enjoys tango dancing on the far edge of basic visual comprehension anyway. Some of you may not even want to know anything about what Lady Gaga unleashed upon the Idol stage at all, and I don’t blame you. So when we get to the that portion of the recap, those wishing to remain unspoiled can simply click on over to Slezak’s review of the show itself.
And like I said, we’re going to get there soon, ’cause there was barely anything going on during the live show itself. Before the evening began, Cory the Warm Up Comic — wearing a bright florescent wind-breakery jacket and tie that made him look like a light-cycle valet from Tron — announced that Lady Antebellum and Sons of Sylviwho? had pre-taped their performances, and a wave of malaise began creeping into the audience. When Rascal Flatts took to the stage in the minutes before we went to air, in fact, the crowd barely could muster more than a murmur of spontaneous excitement.
Nor, for that matter, could Lee Dewyze when the Flatts began performing — for the first minute or so, in fact, Lee looked rather thunderstruck with confusion. Big Mike, on the other hand, was in to it, man. Especially after he noticed that the Rascals’ drummer was African-American, Mike began rocking back and forth in his seat, clapping his hands, totally tickled by how the drummer was totally smashing it up. I mean, let’s be honest, it’s not every day one sees a black man playing drums for a country music act born in Columbus, Ohio.
After the break, the Flatts boys all scurried down to say hello to the judges, and wouldn’t you know it, out of all the music acts to ever grace the Idol stage, it was Rascal Flatts that got Simon Cowell to stick around and chew the fat for the entire bloody ad break. The Brit who famously does not get country music at all just plopped himself down on the rear catwalk behind the judges’ chairs and had himself a grand old time conversing with lead guitarist Joe Don Rooney (i.e. the hot one). Not even the appearance of Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, and DreamWorks Animation guru Jeffrey Katzenberg in the audience could tear Simon away from those countrified scalawags. (Too much? Too much.) An Idol PA basically had to physically move the band away from the judges in order to get them off stage before we came back from the ad break.
Diaz and Banderas didn’t stay in the audience, either — they just said hello to Katzenberg, Shrek Forever After director Mike Mitchell, and their assorted guests in the front row, and then were escorted back to the wings to await their appearance with Ryan. After the Shrek segment was over, the duo walked over to the opposite side of the studio, watched Ryan reposition the top six for about a minute, and then disappeared backstage. (At the next ad break, Katzenberg disappeared as well, but Mitchell and the rest of the Shrek entourage remained for the entire live show.) Ryan “faked out” Siobhan by “walking” her to the velvet bench of safety; Lee, Crystal, and High School Student Aaron Kelly were safe; and Lee began randomly gesturing to no in particular, mouthing “thank you, I love you guys” with a genuinely wide grin.
Then we went to the ad break. The bottom three walked off stage right; the top three walked off stage left; and the judges walked out of the giant studio elephant doors. And they wouldn’t all be back on the stage for a full 20 minutes.
What happened in the meantime? The crew set the stage for Shakira’s performance. Cameron Diaz came back into the audience for a hot second to wave hello once more to her Shrek-y friends. The sway pit applauded with their hands in the at the end of Sons of Whovia even though they weren’t on camera. (Also, not that you need me to tell you this, but Carrie Underwood’s introduction wasn’t live last night, nor was it delivered when Sons of Sylvia pre-taped their performance back in March. It was a pre-taped intro for a pre-taped performance.) Before Ryan introduced Lady Antebellum, Debbie admonished the audience to “smile like you’re having a good time!” Then she placed the bottom three up on the catwalk; Casey and Siobhan partook of some idle chat, while Mike studiously watched Lady Antebellum’s performance. Finally, Shakira’s band took to the stage. The judges reappeared, Debbie counted us back from the break, and we were suddenly thrust back into the realm of live television once more.
Shakira did indeed step onto the stage pretty much the second Ryan began talking to the camera, and the crowd’s enthusiasm was loud enough that I had no idea that Ryan was talking about Sinatra week again until I watched it back later on my DVR. By the way, if Gary LaVox looked rather lost during his “duet” with Shakira, that could be in part due to the fact he was reading the lyrics from the jumbo Idol prompter that sits between the audience.
At some point, the bottom and top threes walked back on the stage. Mike was safe, and Lee started pacing nervously. At the break, Crystal looked like was Aaron’s official babysitter, Siobhan and Casey stood stoically center stage, Mike did a little jig, and Lee kept pacing nervously. Cory announced Lady Gaga would be taping a performance after the show, and the crowd suddenly sprang to vibrant life for the first time that night. When it came time for Ryan to deliver the bad news, Crystal placed her arm on Lee’s shoulder, Aaron placed his hand on Crystal’s knee, and Crystal placed her hand on Aaron’s hand. No one touched Big Mike.
Siobhan got sent home, and everyone was kinda sad, until Siobhan launched into “Think,” and the audience was immediately on its feet. Crystal lip synced along to the words Ellen broke into a massive grin after Siobhan hit her triple-axle/triple-salchow combo final glory note for the last time. With the show running (unusually) short, Ryan stalled for time with some awkward forced interaction with the judges, before sending Siobhan on her merry way back to blowing glass.
And that is all he wrote about last night’s live Idol. Lady Gaga-related spoilers are nigh, so if you wanna be surprised, now would be a good time to check out EW’s other Idol coverage, or watch a fantastic video of an old man dancing. SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER. OK? OK.
At 7 p.m. pacific time, the Idol crew began the process of transforming the Idoldome into a location befitting a pop star of Lady Gaga’s sui generis stature. The entire stage left swaypit had to be bunched up into the stage right swaypit’s turf to clear room between the studio’s main elephant doors and the stage. The swaybots remained packed together like the chattel they are for almost a half hour, as the crew methodically loaded out the velvet bench of safety and cases holding Rascal Flatt’s and Shakira’s band equipment, and then loaded in Lady Gaga’s band equipment (i.e. a drumset, a few guitars, and three full-size keyboards tilted back to the point they were practically facing the audience), and multiple set pieces. I’d seen some of what Gaga had in store for us when I was walking up to the Idoldome before Tuesday’s performance show, but that did not quite prepare me for just how deliciously florid it all turned out to be.
To wit: The first object to get wheeled into the Idoldome on a forklift was a giant silver winged angel, mounted on a mirrored, two-tiered pedestal and rigged with unwieldy piping on its back. It rose all the way to the railing on the second level of the Idol stage, and took a good eight to ten minutes to get into place. Next, the crew wheeled all the equipment I’d noticed on Tuesday: A pair of bloody-razor-blade backed park benches, followed by two giant, cragged, black metal trees, placed on the far left and right ends of the stage. (The second tree cleared the stage doors by mere inches.) At one point, Debbie warned the audience that they were about to do some kind of fire test, and before I could really makes sense of what she meant, two six-foot spurts of flame shot out of the back of the silver angel. I could feel the heat on my face.
After a grand piano topped with a bramble of black branches and twigs was parked underneath the stage right metal tree, Cory asked the audience for a round of applause for the Idol crew, and we all happily oblidged. The stage left sway pit was corralled back into its position (although, without proper brands, who’s to say some stage right folks didn’t defect to the other side, and vice versa?). At 7:30, it looked like all systems were go. Debbie informed us that they would do one run through with an assistant choreographer standing in for Lady Gaga so the camera operators could see the whole number; then one practice run through with Lady Gaga that would be captured on steadicam; and then one actual run through that would somehow involve blood. Oh jeebus, I thought, that flaming angel is going to start weeping tears, I just know it.
Then Gaga’s dancers took to the stage. Now, some of you may know that once upon a time I wrote the TV Watch for So You Think You Can Dance; I’ll stack my SYTYCD geekery up against pretty much anyone. So even though a few fellow Idol reporters told me they’d heard some SYTYCD alums were among Lady Gaga’s dancers, I simply didn’t see it. For one thing, all these dudes were built — they all sported high-waisted black hot pants that looked like fancy girdles, and nothing else — and there just haven’t been that many SYTYCD male dancers who’re all with the beefy. But apparently, season four alum Mark Kanemura and season two alum Ben Susak were, in fact, among Gaga’s dance troupe. Mark must have especially been hitting the protein shakes these last two years, ’cause he’s always been one of my absolute favorites, and he was utterly unrecognizable last night — I mean, he danced a tango with Lady Gaga at one point during the number, and I completely didn’t realize it was him.
I’m totally going on too much about this, huh? OK, OK. Back to the main event. The number started with Gaga sitting at the piano, singing a slow tempo version of “Bad Romance,” the dancers rising and spinning from a bank of dry-ice fog rolling across the stage floor. Then she segued into a full-bodied version of her newest single, the latin-flavored dance track “Alejandro.” There wasn’t much of a story to the number, really — just a lot of synchronized dancing and pyrotechnics, with that silver angel shooting flames from its back every time the Gaga sang “Alejandro” in the song’s chorus. (And, oh yeah, turns out that the angel was also a working water fountain. I mean, obviously.) Gaga started out the song covered in a billowing lace cape and veil, which she stripped off halfway through to reveal a full-body lace peekaboo onesie overtop a black thong and bra. Like I geeked out about earlier, Gaga tangoed with SYTYCD alum Mark while the rest of the male dancers tangoed with each other, before ending up perched underneath the silver angel fountain, her dancers pawing at her body in a sweaty final tableau. Fun for the whole family.
Gaga and company ended up performing their “Bad Romance”/”Alejandro” number three separate times for the Idol cameras. After the first, Gaga-less run-through, the audience waited patiently as the crew taped down the stage to protect the dancers’ feet, and as Gaga re-rehearsed the most intricate dance moves in a lethal-looking pair of black stilettos. When Gaga performed her first take of the number, which was captured on steadicam, the audience was left so silently agog by the spectacle that afterwards Cory and the PAs had to remind everyone that they were on camera too, and should, you know, appear excited to be there. And between each take, the dancers got so sweaty that they had to towel down, and Gaga’s monster blonde bouffant had to be mended and re-shaped.
By the end of the second take, it was well past 8:30 pm. Debbie told the audience that anyone who wanted to leave could head out, and about half the crowd headed for home. (The PAs concentrated everyone else into the center of the seats to make the place still feel packed.) Before she started the third and final take, Gaga asked Debbie if her mic could be piped into the studio speakers (which, actually, it already was). “Hello?” Gaga asked, to a wave of cheers. “I just want to say thank you. You’re my little monsters, and you’re the reason we all work so hard for our dreams.” It would be a great kicker to note that the foreshadowed blood finally made its appearance, but for whatever reason, it never materialized. Could it be that Lady Gaga had a change of heart and showed some restraint? Is that even possible? Would we ever want that to be possible?
Nope, instead, Gaga, her dancers, and backing band simply took a much deserved bow. And I shall leave you for now as well, dear readers — next week, your Aunt Whittlz is back on the Idol on-the-scene beat. What did you make of last night’s jam-packed-with-guest-performances-both-live-and-not-so-live results show? Do you think all this pre-taping takes some of the energy away from the broadcasts, or are you glad it allows for Gaga-level production values that otherwise wouldn’t be possible on live TV?