By Tanner Stransky
Updated March 04, 2011 at 02:00 PM EST
Frank Micelotta/Fox/PictureGroup

Image Credit: Frank Micelotta/Fox/PictureGroupNothing can probably prepare one for the overwhelming nature of entering the Idoldome for the first time: It’s colossal, run by what seems like the Kremlin guard, and there’s a distinct crackle in the air. After years of watching on TV, last night was my first visit to the venue and live show, and I quickly realized that the atmosphere’s usual electricity was no doubt bolstered by the fact that what I had stepped into the first live results show of a rather energized season. Actually, to be even more specific, last night was the first live show of the season period, since both the Top 12 boys and Top 12 girls episodes were pretaped last Friday and Monday. Things felt heady and bubbly from the get-go.

The night’s already-auspicious vibe was compounded by the fact that, walking in, everyone in that audience — as well as the contestants, judges, and Ryan Seacrest — understood what had to happen by the end of the two-hour taping: Nine Idol hopefuls were going to be sent home. (Well, at the beginning, no one knew exactly how many would go home, but everyone knew several were going to be sent packing.) Considering that looming bloodbath, though, the activities of the evening managed to be buoyant and amped up, Idol-style. That is, until the heads started to roll just minutes into the taping.

You likely saw it all go down on television. But what happened in the studio? During commercials? On the sidelines? I’m here to share. Rather than a tick-tock of what happened during every commercial break — believe me, it ain’t that interesting — and since my EW colleagues John Young and Adam B. Vary so thoroughly laid out the new bells and whistles of the revamped Idoldome in the first two on-the-scene posts of the season, I thought I’d share with you six important observations that maybe, just maybe, could only be gleaned by someone who was sitting in the audience. Here goes:

• Good Boys vs. Bad Girls: It was interesting, watching the difference in the boys and the girls on stage, especially during moments where the cameras weren’t rolling. From the get-go, the boys were a cohesive unit. As they were announced, the boys headed to their stools and stood, sometimes greeting the just-announced member of their posse in a very friendly manner, while the girls immediately sat down on their stools and didn’t interact with each other much. Nerves no doubt plagued the girls, but the difference was more than telling of the vibe within the sexes on this year’s American Idol. The boys frequently gave hugs or stood up and bantered during commercial breaks, and while the girls did that to some level, it almost seemed — dare I say it? — icy between them. I heard someone next to me comment that it seemed like the difference between a fun frat party (the boys) and a stuck-up sorority meeting (the girls). A very apt assessment.

• Fan Favorite: Scotty McCreery: I knew that future country-star — and Top 13 shoo-in — Scotty McCreery had a fan base, but the size of said fan base was startling inside the Idoldome: No one got more cheers, applause, and screams than when he was announced at the beginning of the episode and when Seacrest revealed him as making it through for the week. The difference between the love for him versus the other contestants, based on just crowd-o-meter polling, was startling. Which is to say that the other contestants should watch out for McCreery, if the rest of the country reflects that sentiment and starts voting. Even though it was overwhelmingly clear that Scotty was the favorite, he seemed unfazed by all the attention, quietly sitting on the finalists’ couch until he was joined by Pia. As a final note on this subject, you know who may potentially be Scotty’s biggest fan? Jennifer Lopez’s husband, Marc Anthony. After the show, I spied him giving specific and pointed thumbs-up signs to McCreery from across the Idoldome as he was headed out.

• Everyone’s Friend: Lauren Turner: You know who hugged every single contestant, whether they were going home or staying on for next week? Well, yes, Brett Loewenstern, of course. You no doubt saw that whole mess play out on TV. But the other hugger of the night was none other than Lauren Turner. She herself was sent home (a travesty, in my opinion!), yet she found the time to stop every person and embrace them. It was refreshing to see that she, unlike so many of the other gals on stage, wasn’t so icy and robotic. Too bad she won’t be with us in the future for more hugs.

• J.Lo Grooves “On the Floor”: In a genius, super-synergized move that you all saw, the Idol Gods graced the viewers with the premiere of judge Jennifer Lopez’s music video for her new single, “On the Floor.” While you watched on TV, the video blasted on high in the Idoldome. At first, J.Lo tried to stick to her story — she and the other judges were “very busy” trying to decide their Wild Card picks. (Yeah, right.) But it wasn’t but maybe a minute into the dance track that J.Lo was bobbing her head, giggling, and generally reveling in the fact that the crowd was enthusiastically clapping along to her song. That must have felt good. It was hard to tell, but the other judges didn’t seem to be as into it as I thought they might have been.

• Steven Tyler Eats Twizzlers During Commercials: Or the red, licorice candies he slurps down between segments could well be Red Vines. Regardless, it was entertaining to see the master of all randomness house string after string of the stuff while poring over his notes during breaks, all while wearing a ridiculously ruffled pink shirt and bedazzled jeans and sneakers. It was also amusing to watch Tyler wipe/blot his face on the scarf of his makeup artist during touch-up sessions. Like, who does that?

• Visible Reaction: J.Lo Loves Stefano: There’s no way to sugarcoat this: Jennifer Lopez is really into Stefano. I mean, of course, I think we all knew this. But it was even more pronounced in the Idoldome. J.Lo managed to be rather stoic during most of the other situations when contestants were on stage or somehow being presented to the audience. But starting with the video package at the beginning that featured Stefano and ending when she announced him as one of the judges’ Wild Card picks, you could just see Jenny’s face light up for him. There’s not much more to that, but it’s just interesting. There’s a definite connection between these two, so we should all keep an eye on it.

So that was that. Did any of these in-studio observations illuminate anything you noticed on the television screen? Did any revelations come to light? Can you believe the newsflash about Steven Tyler eating licorice during breaks? Are you generally happy — or unhappy — with the results of the evening? Sound off below!

Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky

Read more:

‘American Idol’: Discuss the first results show, who went home too early, and the judges’ Wild Card picks

‘American Idol’: Karen Rodriguez and Jacob Lush get bilingual, on the scene for the Top 12 girls

‘American Idol’ recap: Pageant of the Misses

‘American Idol’: Steven Tyler’s ‘F’ bombs, and why Jordan Dorsey sang Usher’s ‘OMG,’ on the scene for the Top 12 guys

‘American Idol’: Casey Abrams’ ‘I Put a Spell On You’ sexiest performance ever?

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