Lewis Jacobs/NBC
June 30, 2011 at 04:56 AM EDT

Minutes after I arrived at Wednesday’s finale of The Voice, it was clear the experience would contain something Tuesday’s penultimate episode lacked— a whole lot of heart.

“We love each other a lot!” Vicci Martinez shouted a minute before the cameras rolled to The Voice’s big reveal, as the final four contestants stood in huddle formation while awaiting their collective fates. Carson Daly then shoved his much-louder mic in her face to allow her to proclaim”We love the f— out of each other!” to the very excited crowd gathered at  Stage 16 on Warner Bros.’s Burbank lot.

But it wasn’t just the contestants who were feeling warm and fuzzy. From Adam Levine’s tears during Javier Colon’s duet with Stevie Nicks to Christina Aguilera’s proclamation that the coaches were her new brothers, it was an emotionally charged evening. Those of us in the press/NBC section were occasionally chastised for being the lamest and tamest members of the crowd, but everybody else was 100 percent on for the occasion.

The coaches didn’t come out an hour early and ham it up with their fans like they did on Tuesday. Instead, they stayed backstage until 20 minutes before showtime (10 for Aguilera) and stuck to each other in both solidarity and collective nervousness, clearly anxious to see who would win. Cee-Lo Green was still pretty silly, but I’m beginning to suspect that it’s his permanent nature. Good for him.

Blake Shelton came out clutching a red Solo Cup, gave a few high fives, and sat down in his chair. Green gave us a flash of his blinged out chest, Aguilera smiled and waved, and Levine gave a big hug to Daly, but all four coaches seemed eager to sit down and chat, and exchange hugs and well wishes, before the show began. It was clear that the coaches and their pupils have formed close bonds throughout the process, and deeply cared about the outcome of the show. Of couse, the majority of the crowd adored the emotion they were seeing on stage. It was the stuff finale dreams are made of. But as always, there was plenty of excitement that you couldn’t see on TV.

For example, about twenty minutes before we went live, the cameras came out to record promotions for the Dutch version of The Voice, using Green, Levine, and Shelton as spokesmen. Levine ad-libbed, ending his bit with “do not miss it…unless you’re stupid!” At that point, the crowd went wild. Green flubbed his little bit about eight times, while Shelton was a smooth talkin’ natural. Why Aguilera missed out I do not know; maybe they filmed hers earlier or she needed more time in hair and makeup.

As the show went on, Bill the warm-up comedian spoke with fans of all four coaches during the commercial breaks, but none struck a chord like the guy who proclaimed his watch was a “Team Cee-Lo” time piece due to its red hue. Green then stole the watch from the fan, and gave it back when he decided it wasn’t good enough to add to his crimson collection. Ouch.

Aguilera’s fans were much more sincere, wearing homemade T-shirts and offering anecdotes that proved their love for the singer. One fan admitted to using Aguilera’s songs in “cycles of therapy.” Luckily, Aguilera was in higher spirits tonight, and stood up several times to blow kisses to her crowd. She clapped and cheered for all of the contestants, and even rose first to cheer at the end of Colon’s duet. Green was in an enthusiastic mood too, offering fistbumps to his fellow coaches after their contestants’ performances.

Shelton and Levine were both pretty quiet throughout the night —  probably due to the anxiety of their unique situation. Shelton did do a little gag where he feigned anger when Levine ran to Daly for a hug and not him, but he still seemed to be the most outwardly nervous coach.

Daly didn’t have to deal with the same stakes as the rest of the celebrities, so he was his typically professional and focused self. He has never been very interactive with the audience off camera (I went to many a TRL taping back in the day), but his live job isn’t as fun so he gets a pass. I did note that Daly took a break from going over lines to sing and dance a bit to Martinez’  Train duet backstage, but didn’t pay much attention to the rest of the performances.

When Colon was eventually announced as the winner and the room was showered by confetti machines, all four coaches and contestants remained locked in constant hug mode, as their first season as a little TV family came to a close. Whether they’ll stick together for years like their nemeses on Idol or quickly move on to other projects, it was a blast seeing this unique concept for a show play out.

A rotating chair-full of judges search for the next great superstar singer on this NBC reality show.
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