Adam Lambert took his turn, but the night belonged to Allison Iraheta, 17, who owned the stage.
The millions of people who watched "American Idol" this season, the thousands of people who are reading this review, and the 10,500 people who turned out at Target Center Tuesday night knew that American Idols Live was going to be the Glambert Show.
Wrong. Oh so wrong. No, Kris Allen, the "Idol" winner, wasn't the star of the show either. The youngest finalist, Allison Iraheta, all of 17, absolutely stole the evening.
Sounding like the love child of Janis Joplin and Steven Tyler, the flame-haired California girl showed a big voice, big presence and big emotion. To be sure, she can wail, but she was all about range, power and control. She made believers of concertgoers young and old with a pugnacious performance of Pink's "So What." She commanded the barren, too-large stage with a riveting, goose-bump inducing reading of Joplin's "Cry Baby," and then tore it up on Heart's "Barracuda." What a rock-star turn!
Not that Adam Lambert, who is going to be the biggest star that "Idol" has turned out, didn't have a rock-star turn. Looking like a young Elvis Presley with guyliner, dressed in a leather-and-studs outfit perhaps inspired by Tina Turner in "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome," Glambert unleashed his huge voice on Led Zeppelin's bodaciously rocking "Whole Lotta Love." But as that song went on, the 27-year-old veteran of many a stage musical got more and more theatrical. And he continued in that mode. Muse's "Starlight" was dreamy and dramatic, and Tears for Fears' "Mad World" was eerily moody.
Then Iraheta joined Lambert for Foghat's "Slow Ride" and showed who's bad. She sang with more fire in her belly, though he uncorked a more piercing scream. And she strutted with more rock 'n' roll panache as he looked a bit awkward trying to be a rock star. After that duet, Lambert returned to his comfort zone with a David Bowie medley that was, at turns, theatrical, campy and ultimately fun.
Then it was time for this year's "Idol." Kris Allen following Adam Lambert is like John David Booty replacing Brett Favre -- except Booty has a cooler name. Although Allen, 24, was warm and as likable as puppy dog, his performance was about as plain as his plaid shirt, especially after what had preceded him.
Performing in reverse order of their finish on "Idol," contestants 5 (Matt Giraud), 4 (Iraheta), 3 (Danny Gokey) and 2 (Lambert) were unquestionably the best consecutive run ever in the eight seasons of Idols Live. Giraud, who was in touch with his inner soul man on TV, unexpectedly cut loose on Otis Redding's "Too Hard to Handle" and the Fray's "You Found Me." While Gokey tried too hard to sell up-tempo tunes by Michael Jackson and Santana (with his Ricky Martin of Milwaukee shtick), this televangelist in waiting was terrific on the Rascal Flatts' power ballads "What Hurts the Most" and "My Wish."
As for the other five finalists, in honor of the nurturing, departing judge Paula Abdul, I'll say only Paula-annish things; that would be that Anoop Desai has an attractive voice for soul stylings, and Megan Joy looked fabulous all vamped up in a shiny, pink-lemonade-colored mini-dress.
For a set list and more, go to www.startribune.com/poplife. Jon Bream • 612-673-1719