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Monday, August 20, 2007

Orlando Sentinel: "the class clown got to be the star"

The Orlando Sentinel has published their review of Clay's concert at the Hard Rock Orlando last night. Another good review... (again, the version posted below is a snippet)

Clay Aiken performs Sunday at Hard Rock Live.

Clay Aiken performed "Baby's Got Back," accompanied by an orchestra Sunday night at Orlando's Hard Rock Live. Oh, he performed a spirited rendition of the theme to Welcome Back Kotter, too.

Got your attention?

The show, the final stop of Aiken's current tour, was full of surprises -- most of them surreal. I really never thought I would see hip-hoppy "O.P.P" mixed with Kenny Chesney's "She Thinks my Tractor's Sexy" in a medley backed by violins and cellos. Strangely enough, the more goofy things got, the more the show clicked.

His nonsensical banter with powerhouse backing singers Angela Fisher and Quiana Parlor -- as well as a steady flow of conversation with audience members -- can make it seem to newbies that they've crashed a private party.

"There aren't many faces in the front row I don't recognize," Aiken teased, "because they're the crazy ones."

And indeed he did know many of the audience members by name, giving them shoutouts or just calling into the crowd to find out where some of the regulars were sitting. Bob and Linda got special recognition for seeing 121 concerts in four years. These fans, called Claymates, mean business.

The night was well-stocked with cover songs, which make up the bulk of Aiken's latest album, A Thousand Different Ways. Some suited him better than others -- the soaring "Without You" (most recently a hit for Mariah Carey) showcased his tremendous upper range. But he owes Dolly Parton an apology for his slowed-down "Here You Come Again" that sucked the bouncy life out of the song. "Measure of a Man" and "These Open Arms" were other strong numbers that let his vocal ability shine.

What with the TV songs, the singalongs, the teasing chitchat, the overall effect was of a middle-school sleepover -- a really big sleepover where the class clown got to be the star.


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