I achieved a dream last night. Yes, I attended a taping of American Idol! (I have strange dreams.)
The afternoon began with hours of waiting in line, followed by waiting in line, more waiting in line, and then waiting in some different lines. However, we were then led into the promised land of the Idol studios.
As far as the actual performances went, I had a conflicted night, as my favorites didn't do as well as I would hope for, and the ones I've previously disliked were, unfortunately, good.
My personal favorite, Siobahn, opened the show with "Through The Fire" by Chaka Khan. She's got a weird, quirky personality that makes her feel real and likeable, and she showed a little of that off camera before her performance. She did a brief impersonation of Molly Shannon's Mary Katherine Gallagher bit from Saturday Night Live. However, she went off-key and never found her way back on.
I brought two friends who had never seen the show before. They're a bit too indie for Idol, but they're also game for an adventure and getting out of their element.
We were worried about getting placed in the back, as we were near the back of the line, but we were instead lead into the Idol mosh pit. (Well, not so much of a mosh pit, more a swaying-out-of-rhythm pit, but, close enough.)
Before the show, a hype man came out to get the crowd psyched up. He called on a guy in the crowd to come up onstage and dance, choosing someone who looked particularly unprepared to do so, but while I initially wanted to hate Hype Guy Corey, he eventually won me over. Hype Guy Corey threw out CafePress t-shirts to the crowd (CafePress? Seriously?), such as "Cougars For Casey," along with free bags, phones, and even a couple iPod Touches. (Well, that's one way to keep the crowd excited.)
I'm not a huge Crystal Bowersox fan, but she certainly had a great vocal on "Midnight Train to Georgia." However, Simon Cowell hit it on the head when he pointed out that she seemed to be changing who she was and losing who she is as an artist. Wearing a dress with no back, high heels, and playing piano seemed to be out of character for the type of artist she's shown herself to be so far.
The highlight of the night was Lee DeWyze with "Treat Her Like A Lady." He always comes off as shy and awkward, but he finally managed to get far enough out of his shell to deliver a hell of a performance.
The other highlight was Andrew Garcia with "Forever" by Chris Brown, his first great performance since the auditions. I'd been expecting this to be the week where he got kicked off the show, but he saved himself with a memorable performance (even though it always makes me think of that overplayed YouTube video, the Office followup, and the gum commercial).
Another of my personal favorites, Katie Stevens, tried to do Aretha, which is always going to be trouble. It was fine, but she also seems to not be particularly interested in advice from the judges, which I think is an attitude that's going to cause issues long term with her career.
There were some surreal moments during the taping; I was standing a few feet in front of Usher, with about two people between me and Simon to my right. One of my friends also managed to get on TV when the Jonas Brother-esque Tim Urban did a bit in the pit.
Of course, you also see behind the scenes moments like Usher leaving about a third of the way through the show and the judges leaving whenever the cameras were off. We also saw Chris Rock doing some pre-tapes for the Idol Gives Back charity show.
My prediction for who's going to get kicked off has to go to Didi, who gave the world's most boring performance of a fantastic Motown classic, "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted." Here's the original Jimmy Ruffin, showing how it's done:
Check out more highlights, including the judges' reactions.
(Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)