The pride and joy of Barron, Wis., singer Chris Kroeze came up just one place short of the top spot in the season finale of NBC’s “The Voice” on Tuesday night, but he still became the most successful contestant with Twin Cities ties in the show’s 15 seasons.
A 27-year-old father of two, Kroeze was given the second-place slot as the total votes were revealed at the end of the two-hour live finale. He came in behind Chevel Shepherd, a pint-sized 16-year-old with a large voice from New Mexico.
Well before votes were announced at show's end, Kroeze already earned what seemed like a winning treat when he dusted off the 1973 Doobie Brothers anthem "Long Train Runnin'" for the second time on air Tuesday -- this time with the actual Doobie Bros beside him as guest performers.
As the final tally neared, Kroeze joked about what he'll remember most about his rather affectionate work with his celebrity "Voice" coach Blake Shelton: "I don't think I've ever been kissed more by one man," he quipped.
A night earlier, the bluesy-voiced, twang-rocking singer and guitarist delivered a rousing version of Lynyrd Skynyrd's “Sweet Home Alabama” and a gospel-flavored new song during the final performance round. Both tunes earned raves from judges but maybe didn’t register well with the “Voice’s” large bloc of young, mobile-phone-glued voters.
The next closest regional finalist on "The Voice" was St. Paul’s Nicholas David, who came in third place in the show’s third season in 2012 (the series has typically run two seasons per year). But Kroeze still goes home a top contender in and around Barron, about 90 miles northeast of the Twin Cities, where viewing parties were held in town Tuesday after various rallies at schools and libraries Monday.
In a Star Tribune interview last month, Kroeze said he hoped his ascent on the show "at least raises somes spirits in a little way" back home in Barron, where the tragic disappearance of 13-year-old Jayme Closs and murder of her parents shocked the town in October. Those cases remain unsolved.
Before going on the show, Kroeze criss-crossed Wisconsin and Minnesota with his band for several years playing bars, fairs and weddings. He landed a "Voice" slot in a "blind audition" taping over the summer by delivering one of his live staples, Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Pride and Joy." His song selections after that included the Beatles' "Let It Be," which he dedicated to Barron residents, plus Garth Brooks' "Callin' Baton Rouge" and CCR's "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?"
"He's been performing these iconic songs," his coach Blake Shelton said in Monday's episode. "That's why people can relate to him."
Kreoze said he already had an album's worth of new recordings in the can before going on the show, which he plans to release soon. "We're going to start booking festivals and releasing music right out of the gate," he promised.