Idol pushed 9th place Pia, the zadorable one, who has a record deal with Idol mentor Jimmy Iovine's label

Star Tribune photo by Renee Jones Schneider


Maybe all the cheerleading from J. Lo and Steven Tyler paid off. Or maybe it was the coaching of Jimmy Iovine. Or perhaps it was just the luck of the draw.

Whatever it was, in concert but not necessarily on TV, this was a better batch of "American Idol" finalists. As I said in my review, there were no train wrecks Wednesday at Target Center, though Thia Megia was weak and invisible. Overall, this group was in better physical shape than any previous pack of finalists. (Jacob Lusk looked to be the only one who hasn’t been in the gym lately.)

Casey Abrams, a lovably quirky character, distinguished himself as the most talented of the crew but not necessarily the most likely to succeed. Champ Scotty McCreery clearly has the It factor but not necessarily the ability to command an arena stage yet. James Durbin had the best instincts on how to work a big room but not necessarily the vocal chops to follow in the footsteps of Adam Lambert.

The set list featured a reasonable balance of contemporary and classic tunes, including the requisite Journey numbers. Here is who sang what:

Set 1

Born This Way (Lady Gaga) by Naima, Thia, Haley, Lauren and Pia/ Empire State of Mind (Jay-Z/Alicia Keys) by Pia/ California King Bed (Rihanna) by Pia and Stefano/ Maggie May (Rod Stewart) by Paul/ Who Says (Selena Gomez) by Thia/ Tightrope (Janelle Monae) by Thia, Haley, Naima and Pia/ Grenade (Bruno Mars) by Stefano/ DJ Got Us Fallin in Love (Usher) by Stefano with Naima, Thia, Haley and Pia on backup vocals/ Animal (Neon Trees) by Paul, James, Casey, Stefano and Jacob/ On the Floor (Jennifer Lopez) by Naima/ This Time (new single) by Pia/ Firework (Katy Perry) by Lauren, Pia and Thia/ Smooth (Rob Thomas/Santana) by Casey/ Moanin (Charles Mingus) by Casey and Haley/ Harder to Breathe (Maroon 5) by Casey/ Forget You (Cee-Lo Green) by everyone but Scotty

Set 2

Flat on the Floor (carrie Underwood) by Lauren/ Like My Mother Does (new single) by Lauren/ If I Die Young (Band Perry) by Lauren with Stefano, Haley and Thia on backing vocals/ Sweet Child o’ Mine (Guns N Roses) by James/ Uprising (Muse) by James/ Never Too Much (Luther Vandross) by Jacob/ You’re All I Need to Get By (Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell) by Jacob with Naima, Stefano and Pia on backing vocals/ House of the Rising Sun (standard) by Haley/ Bennie and the Jets (Elton John) by Haley/ Your Man (Josh Turner) by Scotty/ Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not (Thompson Square) by Scotty/ I Love You This Big (new single) by Scotty/ When You Say Nothing at All (Keith Whitley) by Scotty and Lauren/ Gone (Montgomery Gentry) by Scotty with Lauren, Thia, Haley and Pia on backing vocals/ Here I Go Again (Whitesnake) by James and Lauren > Faithfully (Journey) by Casey, Paul and Haley> Walk This Way (Aerosmith) by Naima, Stefano, Jacob and Thia > Any Way You Want It and Lovin Touchin Squeezin (Journey) by everyone