By Emily Rome
May 24, 2012 at 04:56 PM EDT

In many ways, watching an American Idol finale in the flesh can end up being a lot like watching it at home: just like the previous night’s show, if you have a seat closer to the ZZ row than the A row, your eyes are going to be fixed mostly on the big screens instead of on the tiny people occupying the stage far away.

But there are still parts of the taping at Los Angeles’ Nokia Theatre that you probably didn’t catch on TV, like some fun off-camera moments from the judges and the truly loud and dominant crowd of Phillip Phillips fans. Yes, even 20 minutes before the show started, love for the Georgia guitar man was in the air, as one eager audience member shouted, “There’s Phillip!” – and that was just for one of his many appearances on-screen as moments from past episodes played. Here are a few other things you may have missed as you watched this year’s American Idol finale:

•    Right after the video segment that revealed just how often Jimmy Iovine slipped up on Jennifer Lopez’s name in interviews, the TV audience got a glimpse of the pop star taking it in stride and letting Iovine kiss her hand. But while the segment was screening, she made sure to give him a hard time, throwing her hands in the air in mock exasperation. She then turned around to give the mentor a fierce stare as he slowly backed away.

•    It’s hard to forget you’re in the middle of a live TV taping when you’re at the American Idol finale. But Rihanna’s performance of “Where Have You Been” was the first time the event started to feel like a concert. The whole audience stood up, there were no steady-cam operators criss-crossing in front of the performers, and the number pulled out all the effects and eye-candy Fox had in its arsenal: lasers, a pyramid set piece, fog machines, background dancers, the works.

•    All those lasers, flashing lights and bursts of fire do appear way brighter in person than they do on screen. And all that confetti? Man, doest that stuff get everywhere. After the first bunch shot out at the audience during the opening number, Cory – Idol’s commercial breaks and pre-show warm-up guy –  encouraged the audience to “keep it, put it in your hair.” At the end of the show, Steven Tyler was draping the stuff around his and JLo’s necks. And Phillips’ heartfelt non-singing of “Home” produced not only a few “Aww, he’s crying!” comments from the crowd, but also some giggles as he continually brushed pieces of confetti out of his mouth and nose.

•    Jennifer Holliday and Jessica Sanchez’s duet of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” played very well in the Nokia Theatre. The audience was loud and genuinely moved for these two big-voiced divas. The crowd stood up and was screaming as soon as Holliday belted out her first long note – including Lopez and Randy Jackson. The Dreamgirls star even got a deep bow from JLo.

•    One thing you should be prepared for if you’re planning to pop the question in front of 7,000 people: Running audience commentary. When Ace Young proposed to Diana DeGarmo, there were plenty of calls of “Get on your knees!” Once he did get on his knees, before he had finally said, “Will You. Marry. Me,” fans yelled at the bride-to-be, “Say yes! Say yes!”

•    Anyone who noticed Lopez’s long absence from the judges’ table could see how long she had to take care of wardrobe and hair changes before and after her on-stage performance. But Steven Tyler didn’t have much time between Aerosmith’s number and his return to judging duties because next on the schedule was one the announcement of the winner. So after he had exited the stage – dragging his mic stand behind him, its trademark scarves slung over his shoulder – no fewer than five hair and makeup artists surrounded him, fluffing his hair and adjusting his shiny clothes.

•    Randy Jackson, though, doesn’t get points for getting back to his seat in a speedy manner. Just before the Bee Gees tribute, the stage manager – who doesn’t use her microphone for much aside from countdowns – yelled, “Where’d Randy go? WHERE’S RANDY?” He made it back to his chair at the end of the tribute.

•    It’s hard to consider the finale’s outcome much of a shock, if the way Nokia’s audience swayed throughout the show was any indication. Phillip fandom ruled that place. Whenever Seacrest or Cory asked the crowd, “Who are you rooting/voting for?” a clear chorus of “Phillip!” drowned out any Jessica-devotees.

•    But surprise or not, the crowd went wild when Seacrest declared Phillips the winner. That’s when Nokia Theatre felt like neither a TV taping nor a concert, but a baseball game – the audience immediately leap to its feet with a collective “Yeah!!”

•    Jessica fans, rest assured that your favorite, 16-year-old contestant got her moment and her cheers. After the taping ended, before the audience could get too far out the door, Cory said, “Everyone stop where you are and give some love to Jessica Sanchez.” And give love they did.


‘American Idol’ season finale recap: I Know You’re Weary

‘American Idol’: Phillip Phillips talks health issues, and why he’s different from past winners — VIDEO

‘American Idol’: Jessica Sanchez on Phillip Phillips, and THAT DUET with Jennifer Holliday — VIDEO