CLEARWATER — The “American Idol Live!” tour rolled into Ruth Eckerd Hall on Friday night, playing to a cheering crowd of all ages.
The nine finalists rocked their fans, with Bradenton teenager Sam Woolf drawing screams and squeals from young girls in the audience every time he appeared on stage. Missing from the show was seventh-place finisher Dexter Roberts who dropped out a couple of weeks ago, reportedly due to illness.
Caleb Johnson, winner of Season 13 of “American Idol,” appeared in the opening ensemble number, and the rocker ignited the announced crowd of 1,513 (about three quarters of the 2,180-seat auditorium). Johnson returned later in the first half of the show to perform a duet of “Gimme Shelter” with finalist Jena Irene.
Johnson, who comes off as a fearless, fun-loving rock performer, closed out the solo performances with a rousing four-number set that included “Family Tree” by Kings of Leon, Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed,” “Dazed and Confused” by Led Zeppelin and his own original ballad “As Long as You Love Me.”
Woolf, only 18, who finished fifth on “Idol” this season, got more cheers and pumped up the crowd when he performed back-to-back solos “Lego House” and “Sail Away.’’ He also performed “Let Her Go” with Alex Preston.
Someone from the audience shouted, “I love you.” The 18-year-old responded “I love you, too.” The crowd went wild and girls swooned.
There was no live band but many of the finalists performed playing their own instruments, including guitars, pianos and drums. A backdrop behind the Idols alternated between graphics and close-ups of the performers.
There wasn’t a weak performance in the group with punker MK Nobilette, perky Malaya Watson and smooth C.J. Harris winning over the crowd.
Among the high points was fan favorite Majesty Rose playing piano and singing “Tightrope.” The crowd, ranging in age from elementary students to seniors, roared its approval.
Another high energy point was Jena Irene’s trio of solos, including her own “We Are One” and Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” Alex Preston also proved to be a crowd favorite on several numbers including his “FairyTales.”
Among the many clips shown during the night was a plug for Johnson’s upcoming first “Idol” album to be released in August.
After a 20-minute intermission, Woolf returned at the beginning of the second act to join his “Idol” friends for two group numbers, “Best Day of My Life” by American Authors and “Story of My Life” by One Direction, and the group finale, “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons.