Sunday, May 23, 2010

Tales From A True Gleek: The "Live In Concert" Tour...

Glee has officially left the west least for a little while. The Los Angeles stop on the Glee: Live in Concert Tour wrapped up last night at the Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal City. I didn't get to attend the closing night performance, but I did catch the matinee earlier yesterday afternoon. I laughed; I cried (well, I teared up); I danced in place; I sang along...I had a grand ole time!!

Meeting up with friends before the concert, we were excited to stand across from the Jurassic Parking entrance to Citywalk and hear Jane Lynch's voice boom out over a loudspeaker. Was the fictional city playing some of her glee greatest hits in preparation for the back-to-back performances that day? No, but even better: Lynch herself-- decked out in white and black work-out gear, though not a full-on tracksuit-- stood on a small stage, showing off the newest Nike fashions and moderating a panel of strong female athletes. Naturally this led me to hope she'd stick around and make a surprise appearance on-stage in just a few minutes!

Admittedly I had read a previous account-- including a full set list-- of the glee concert so I went in knowing exactly what tracks and costumes to expect. But there is a clear difference between reading second-hand and seeing with one's own eyes, especially in this situation. For as overworked as these kids seem to be-- between rehearsing lines and rehearsing choreography, recording tracks, shooting a show, and appearing at parties and network events-- their energy level was so high and enthusiastic the audience could tell they were having a ton of fun enjoying their moment with (and for) the fans. It was as if they had all downed those pseudoephedrine "vitamins" from the aptly titled "Vitamin D" episode!

But don't let me get too far ahead of myself! We walked into the Gibson to find the screens had been taken over by Sue Sylvester and Co (making me wish even harder that she herself would just rip through the curtain and start yelling at the audience to do jumping jacks or something. Quotes and still photos from the episodes rolled by as the sound system played tracks from the show that we would not be hearing live that afternoon.

Then the dance troupe LXD (Legion of Extraordinary Dancers)-- starring glee's own Harry Shum Jr and a kid who looks like a mini Misha Collins-- opened the show, performing vignettes that showcased each dancer's strong suits, from break-dancing to gymnastics style mid-air flips. They announced they would be meeting and greeting fans in the lobby during intermission, and the lights came back on for a little while as the band got set up on stage.

The lights dimmed and Cheer-ios flanked by security guards started walking up and down the aisles, handing out white bags to anyone who would take them. Most had caught on to what they were and were screaming and waving to try to get the Cheerios to head over in their direction, eager for a free souvenir. Sue Sylvester showed up (sadly only on-screen, though) to explain what we were being given were barf bags because surely this show was about to make us sick. Oh, and also, we were idiots for paying to see such a spectacle.

And spectacle it was! The entire show-- from the merchandise vendors walking up and down yelling out "Programs! Posters!"-- to the flashing lights, pyrotechnics, and full-size SUV (buy Chevy!) being rolled out on-stage screamed "circus." It was a lot of flash and gimmick for a bunch of kids who could sing the alphabet and move people to tears and goosebumps. And I loved every over-produced minute of it!

Perhaps surprisingly, "Don't Stop Believing" was actually the intro track, rather than the encore everyone assumed it would be. It set the tone perfectly for the afternoon of pitch and performance. Lea Michele and Kevin McHale's microphones seemed to be turned up the loudest during group numbers, relying on the two most "trained" voices. As they sang and danced even just the opening number, it was evident they were going above and beyond the characters they played and were having fun with each other and the show. Mark Salling, especially, bounded across the stage gleefully (no pun intended), grinning at the girls and slapping hands with the guys.

The choreography of each number stayed pretty true to what has previously aired, right down to Kurt (Chris Colfer) kissing Mercedes (Amber Riley) on the cheek right before her solo moment in "Like A Prayer."

Matthew Morrison came on-screen to tell the kids they were doing great and that it was time to show off their solos. Naturally, he knew that "Rachel" would want to go first. Cut to Michele's uber-loud rendition of "Don't Rain on My Parade," which she sang while walking through the audience, holding tight to the mic and the security guard in front of her. When she got to the second verse including "I'll march my band out," the rest of the glee club marched down the aisles to join her on stage and stand behind her, seemingly unworthy.

Say what you will about Michele and her "diva" antics of late, but the girl can sing. Thankfully, though, she didn't seem to mind sharing the stage and the spotlight with Riley, who she, from time to time, would literally grab onto in the excited "I can't believe we're here/we're doing this" sort of way that is common among teenage girls. And Riley herself proved that her pipes are just as strong in person as on television, as she performed "Beautiful," "The Boy Is Mine" with Naya Rivera, and "Bust Your Windows" (for which the aforementioned Chevy was rolled out on stage).

Riley and McHale also served as "hype men," getting the crowd excited and yelling back "PUSH IT" as loud as they could in the competition of sides for the title of Most Exuberant. (Yes, they performed that controversial track as well, toning down the choreography for the under-age crowd in the audience). McHale was relegated to his chair for the duration of the show, seeing as how he was performing not as McHale, former boyband member, but as Artie. He did a remix of "Dancing with Myself" that allowed some of the featured dancers on the show to come out and perform with him.

Heather Morris, one of those dancers, also got her own version of a solo in a conversation with a taped message from Morrison and another with a very live and very costumed Colfer, where she got to deliver some more of her infamous "blonde" one-liners. The dancers from Vocal Adrenaline also performed lip-synced routines to both "Rehab" and "Mercy" as the glee kids changed costumes for their big "Jump" number, which featured trampolines dressed to look like beds.
We were also treated to a medley of "Faithfully" and "Anyway You Want It" that will be featured in the season finale episode, and of course an encore of "Somebody to Love." Jonathan Groff, who was in the audience during the first show in L.A., also came out to perform "Hello" with Michele as a "surprise." It is assumed that he just fed off the energy so much the first night that he said 'Hey, I want to be a part of this, too!' and threw something together last minute. He and Michele have the Mariah Carey/Trey Lorenz brother-sister chemistry on-stage where they're smiling and giggling their way through the song. It was super cute to see him pick her up and spin her around after they were done, as well. They may be crazy co-dependent, but their bond is real and deep and adorable nonetheless. So much so that the tween-mindset girls behind me yelled out "Kiss! Kiss!" when their duet had ended.

The biggest hit of the day was undoubtedly a cover of "Bad Romance." The episode featuring this Lady Gaga track hasn't aired yet, so fans in the audience were treated for the first time to a look at the crazy costumes, and theatricality of it all. Personally I was most excited to see Jenna Ushkowitz have a chance to be front and center-- and that she was, covered in plastic bubbles. But Colfer's eight inch silver heels were a spotlight-stealer, as well!

Would I have liked to hear a solo from Cory Monteith? Of course! Especially one like "Jessie's Girl" that really shows off how far his vocal ability has come since his early days in the pilot. Sadly we never got one, though. Instead he had his rock star moment playing the drums to back Salling's "Sweet Caroline." Salling strummed his guitar as he sang, and there is nothing greater than boys playing with their instruments! Bah-duh-bum!

I do wish there had been a bit more diversity with the track choices, though. As much as I was personally thrilled to see Salling perform both "Sweet Caroline" and "Lady is a Tramp," Colfer deserved a proper solo (though his duet with Michele on "Defying Gravity" was, as always, heartbreakingly beautiful) and poor Dianna Agron-- finally allowed to perform without a pillow shoved under her clothes-- was relegated to a background singer! She got less stage time than either relative newbs Brittany (Morris) or Santana (Rivera).

But I left the show with ringing ears, a scratchy throat, and a tapping toe, all things that add up to a time extremely well had!! I only wish I had been able to score tickets to more than one performance because listening to the songs on full volume on my laptop just isn't the same!!

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