Two and a half months ago, Kris Allen returned to Arkansas a star. We welcomed him with red carpets, widespread truancy, high-pitched screams, homemade signs, a town-sized parade and round-the-clock news coverage. And that was before he became the latest “American Idol.” So go ahead and count on pandemonium on Saturday, as the newly christened Verizon Arena welcomes Kris back to Arkansas for the first time since he became the state's biggest pop star since, well, ever?
It's the opening month of “American Idols Live,” the annual post-show tour that sends the top 10 finalists across North America to reprise songs they sang in the competition. This year's top 10 includes, in addition to Kris, Adam Lambert, Allison Iraheta, Anoop Desai, Danny Gokey, Lil Rounds, Matt Giraud, Megan Joy (who's apparently serious about the no last name thing), Michael Sarver and Scott MacIntyre.
So far the reviews have been good. The LA Times called it “very current” as opposed to the “classic rock revival feel” of years past. The Seattle Times praised Kris for “musical creativity and versatility unique” among his tour mates.
But as you can see from the tour set list on the right, it's going to be a long wait before Kris takes the stage. Once he's there, lucky for us, his set will be exponentially less tedious than it was when the tour started. “No Boundaries,” the so-called “coronation song” that he sang at the show's end (written in part by “Idol” judge Kara DioGuardi, with lyrics of “climbing mountains” and “weathering hurricanes” and other treacle-y nonsense), has been removed from his set. This after tepid audience response and reviews that branded it things like “a set killer.” It's been replaced by “All These Things I've Done” by the Killers, a great anthem of inner conflict, with at least one fitting lyric: “I need direction to perfection / No, no, no!”
Speaking of direction, Allen's young career appears to be taking shape. Amidst prepping for the tour, singing the national anthem at the NBA Finals, dealing with questions about his “bromance” with Adam Lambert and Tweeting about eating 14 plums, the Conway native's been working, steadily, on his fall debut on 19 Recordings/Jive Records. So far, he's collaborated with Joe King of the Fray (at Timbaland's Virgina Beach studio) and, according to Billboard, received material from David Hodges (Kelly Clarkson, Daughtry), Salaam Remi (Nas, Amy Winehouse, Al Green) and Claude Kelly (Akon, Leona Lewis). Kris told the magazine he expects the end product to compare to the sounds of Jason Mraz and John Mayer, with a possible trace of an urban sound.
But that's months away. Now, let's just concentrate on Saturday night and not hyperventilating or accidentally punching the person sitting next to you in all the hysteria.