KELLY CLARKSON @ 1STBANK CENTER | 3.18.12
When Kelly Clarkson opened the night with "Darkside" singing alone behind a stage spanning screen covered in slanderous headlines describing the American Idol's looks, mistakes and "make-up mis-haps," it became very apparent that the pop star would not be catering to the media: Her fans are what put her here, and her talent is what keeps her here.
Over the course of her career, Clarkson has grown from the girl next door with a mean set of pipes into a woman willing to admit and accept her faults, while still holding onto the true-to-herself integrity that won fans over in 2002. Once the screen bearing the scolding headlines lifted, the venue erupted in contagious excitement and Clarkson opened into "Behind These Hazel Eyes" from her second album, Breakaway, which debuted at number three on the Billboard Top 200 charts in 2005, and won two Grammy awards for "Best Pop Vocal Album" and "Best Female Pop Vocal Performance."
The mesmerized crowd was every bit as awe struck for the entire performance as you'd expect, and she plays like she's playing for each and everyone of them. Clarkson is well aware that if it weren't for the fans who voted her as the winner in the inaugural season of American Idol, she might never have found her way up the ladder of pop icons. During her set, she vigorously paces the stage and makes eye contact with every glowing face. And the fans respond in kind by joining in on massive sing-a-longs to songs like "Miss Independent," which preceded the four song encore. There was no mistaking how much Clarkson's fans adore her, and the feeling is clearly mutual.
For each stop on the tour, Clarkson let's the fans pick one song for her and her band mates to perform. For the Colorado stop, that song was Patty Griffin's "Top of the World," chosen by a girl whom happened to be sitting in the front row and received a nod from the star herself, who thankfully proclaimed her love for the song and stated that "I'll be serenading you tonight."Clarkson cautioned that she might mess up -- and has in the past in the instances of fan-picked tracks -- but also let us know that this sort of thing is bound happen, particularly since she typically learns each pick either the day before or the day of the performance. Regardless, she cruised through the tune here, as if it were one of her own, and immediately after performing the track acoustically, alone with her guitarist on stage, Clarkson admitted that her favorite concert would include Patty Griffin, Bonnie Rate and Janis Joplin -- if she was still alive.
While the poster-wielding, camera-phone taking crowd clearly came for Clarkson, she made sure to share her spotlight with each band member (there were eight on stage with her) by introducing them, thanking them and even requesting that the entire venue sing "Happy Birthday" to Jill Pickering, a budding singer/songwriter who has been touring as vocal support with Clarkson for nearly five years. Following this, the band rolled right into "Einstein" and "Walkaway."Between songs, while stage hands prepped for different set-ups, Clarkson would make small talk offering history on songs, reflecting on recent experiences and talking about what it's been like growing up in the spotlight. The light humor was eclipsed by each song, though, and even when she admitted that she could never write a song bearing the title "I Forgive You," she belted the lyrics as if they were taken directly from her heart. Her dedication to each song was noticeable in her delivery. Earlier in the evening, opener Matt Nathanson lit the fire that would help burn for the remainder of the night. As he took the stage, fans applauded and gave their attention to the handsome, denim-clad performer who graciously thanked everyone for coming. While touring with Clarkson, Nathanson is also pushing his most recent album, Modern Love, which, in the words the guitarist himself, "is not easy."
The namesake track came after some light-hearted banter comparing the idea of having mind-blowing sex to a three-day Scrabble battle (this metaphor was presumably used so the younger fans would not be so privy to the idea of mind blowing sex yet) and utilized one of Clarkson's bandmate's wife as the female vocalist.
Page down for setlist and Critic's Notebook