Sunday, May 29, 2011

Can Glee Live! Just Air on FOX Every Tuesday?...

It's no secret that I no longer watch glee. But that doesn't mean I don't still enjoy the music or think those kids are enormously talented. So when a friend asked me if I wanted to go to their second year tour at the Staples Center, I jumped at the chance. Last year we hit the Gibson Amphitheatre stop, and though this was bound to be way less intimate and much more show-stopper-y, I still felt like it couldn't be missed. And I was right on all accounts.
If you, too, have a chance to see glee Live!, you need to do it. The concert not only takes the best (and most consistent) part of the show and highlights it on stage in a brand new way but it also showcases amazing talent that unfortunately the show glosses over time and again. I'm talking most notably about Ms. Amber Riley, the young diva like no other. Not only does her amazing ability to hit the high notes get featured at the end of "Somebody to Love"-- which prompted co-star Cory Monteith to be in so much awe on stage he bowed down to her-- but she also gets a few solo and spotlight duet moments to shine this year, too, most notably when she took the small stage on the other side of the stadium and belted out an emotional ballad dedicated to her mother and late grandfather. But "River Deep - Mountain High" with diva in her own right, Naya Rivera was incredibly powerful, too.

It's hard to tell if the much bigger venue or the fact that the show is now in its second year of breaking records was the key culprit, but this glee Live! was exceptionally visual. Almost to the point of hair band theatrics. From the pyrotechnics and smoke puffs that went off around as they danced around the stage, almost shrouding them from view to the fluorescent flooring that lit up as the performers danced on each piece of the grid, and most distractedly the giant projection screen behind them that would sometimes project words, colors, or fireworks (for Katy Perry's "Firework," naturally) but would sometimes use the camera close-up on the soloist...with an echo trail behind them, nothing about New Directions felt trapped in the William McKinley budget or show choir confinements. Sure, the music was as pure and crisp and as perfect as the tracks you might download from iTunes as ever (Chris Colfer's "I Want To Hold Your Hand" never sounded more haunting and Lea Michele was flawless performing "Don't Rain on My Parade" once again), but for some reason the director felt it necessary to distract from the vocals with over-the-top imagery. The thing is, for many performers, that is necessary. Britney Spears puts on a show because she has trouble singing live. Janet Jackson is a dancer first, so she would rather showcase some killer moves that worry about vocal perfection. But that is not what glee is nor should be about. The sold-out Staples center was filled with kids of all ages who would have been happy to just see these performers stand on stage with a microphone on a stand and sing. No theatrics necessary.

Of course, seeing Morris rip off her dress to reveal the "Slave 4 U" bikini underneath kind of negates my point because that was one true showstopper that couldn't have been done any other way. Not only did she pay perfect homage to the original artist but she actually did it better. She's a cleaner dancer and genuinely seemed to be having a blast on stage doing it. I've seen Britney Spears live, and she has nothing on HeMo! In fact, had you just wandered into Staples at that moment, you might have marveled to yourself that Ms. Spears has really been working on her craft. If Morris decides to pursue a pop career post-glee, there will be absolutely no need for Spears anymore.

The Warblers featuring Darren Criss (but sadly no Telly Leung) came the closest to giving us the more intimate, "it's just about the vocals" feel by performing three of their boy band-esque numbers, including leading their mini set off with the sensational "Teenage Dream." Criss, who got the loudest screams out of anyone, also got to do a little skit on the main stage that was a take off last year's surprisingly declaration from Brittany that she loved Kurt, and then he came back out for an acoustic performance of "Friday" with just the guys. My sources tell me this is not a feature on every tour stop but that the original, uh, artist was in the audience so they surprised her. Regardless of the number, listening to the range from Criss, Mark Salling, Kevin McHale, Chord Overstreet (who looked damn fine with his new haircut), and Harry Shum Jr. was inspiring and gave me chills. I would pay a LOT of money to sit in on some sort of jam session they may hold in the future.

And speaking of McHale, I was kind of bummed to see him wheeled out once again. I get that they are supposed to be performing in character, and this tour certainly has more of a them of practicing all your big glee club numbers to crush the competition, but for him performing in character goes to a whole other level. He isn't allowed to show off one of his greatest assets. McHale proved he can really move from the top up with "P.Y.T." and of course the backing dance story of Shum Jr. and Morris was beautiful to watch, too. But you couldn't watch both sides of the stage at once, and you just knew that McHale was itching to get up and show what he could do, too, so when he sat alone in his chair in the middle of the stage and said that "everybody has a dream," I may have squealed. "Safety Dance" may not be the most contemporary song, but it was a chance for McHale to shine, just another opportunity the concert took to prove that all of these kids have star quality.

Naturally as a life-long Puck fan, I would have liked Salling to get more of a spotlight than the one short song he walked through the crowd to sing ("Fat Bottomed Girls") but it was a fantastic performance, nonetheless with Monteith never looking happier, drumming is little heart out, and Overstreet on backing guitar. What works best about the music of glee is when everyone is working together and firing on all cylinders to craft a creative performance. That is the point of a glee club in general, in my opinion: to act as a cohesive group that shows off each member in a rotation, not a solo act with a handful of back-up singers!

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