The once-wooden "Idol" castoff has developed the moves and commands of a rock star.
There was another I-can't-believe-this "American Idol" moment on Wednesday. Not when Casey James got booted off the TV show. No, it involved Chris Daughtry, who got famously voted off in "Idol's" most surprising moment ever, in 2006.
Chris Daughtry's performance Wednesday at Target Center proved that, after only two albums and less than three years working with his new band, he is indeed arena-ready.
There was never any doubt about the shaved-dome Daughtry's voice. It's as arena-resonating as it is radio-friendly. The questions were about his stage presence (Simon Cowell used to call him "wooden"), the range of his repertoire (too many medium-tempo tunes) and the identity of his band (is it merely an "Idol" god and his sidemen, including a drummer who has been on duty for one month?).
Although probably few of the 8,000 people at Target Center could tell you the names of any of the other members of Daughtry (that's the band's name, too), the quintet was forceful if anonymous. New drummer Robin Diaz, who signed on four weeks ago after Joey Barnes quit, was an aggressive, hair-flying, arms-flailing madman at the back of the stage. His manic-as-Keith-Moon presence surprisingly enhanced the performance even if he often seemed overly enthusiastic. He gave the group a propulsive drive that wasn't apparent in August at the Cabooze bar.
Plus, Diaz performed with a personality that was lacking in the other musicians, especially statute-like lead guitar Josh Steely, who took very few solos. At least, the frontman has loosened up.
At the Cabooze and as an arena opener for Bon Jovi and Nickelback, Daughtry didn't know how to work the stage. On Wednesday, the muscular 30-year-old marched around the stage, leaned into the microphone stand like a ferocious rocker and strutted down a runway to unleash a roof-rattling wail. No one will mistake Daughtry and his purposeful prowling for, say, Aerosmith's Steven Tyler. But Simon would be surprised and proud how the once-wooden Daughtry has developed the moves and command of a true rock star.
As for Daughtry's repertoire, it's still not likely to win any Grammys or critical acclaim. Such rockers as "You Don't Belong" and "Supernatural" connected with arena thud, but they were too generic to remember once you left the concert. Their anonymity was underscored when Daughtry encored with a rip-roaring "Rebel Yell," the Billy Idol hit from the 1980s that thrilled the Target Center throng..
Of course, Daughtry's slower-tempo hits, including the back to back "No Surprise" and "Life After You," invigorated the female-dominated crowd. But they still came across as meat-and-potatoes melodic radio crunch begging for seasoning.
Daughtry showed a much-needed new flavor by covering Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight," which he recast as a moody, acoustic number that recalled Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive." With the singer bathed in red lights and green lasers darting around the arena, it was truly a Daughtry moment, one of those things that the "Idol" judges are always searching for.
For a set list, go to www.startribune.com/artcetera
Jon Bream • 612-673-1719