Sure, living in Los Angeles probably sounds pretty glamorous to anyone who hasn’t had the experience before. However, having been here for a couple of decades now, I can say there are definitely a few drawbacks. For instance, it rains so seldom that my children have grown up in fear of what one newscaster (I swear this is true) once referred to as “small droplets of moisture that have descended upon us from the skies.” Also, I now know that whenever I do not enjoy someone’s company and prefer never to dine with him/her again, I will say, “Let’s do lunch.” And I’m emotionally incapable of going to even a close friend’s house for a dinner party and not asking where the gift bag is when the evening’s over.
At least there’s one benefit to being here, however. I get to watch “The Voice” live and in person every week. I say that not to boast – well, not too much anyway – but because I feel a bit guilty. I get to go and see what it’s like at the show and you don’t. That’s why I feel the need to do some public service work here. I want to share my experience with you, highlighting the differences between what you saw on TV and what I saw in the building during tonight’s live show featuring Cee Lo Green’s and Adam Levine’s teams. Let us begin:
What You Saw: Blake Shelton’s and Christina Aguilera’s teams sitting in the audience, cheering on the other singers.
What I Saw: Blake standing off-camera, grinning as he exhorted his group to seem more enthusiastic. “I’m trying to get them to act more,” he said to whoever happened to be nearby.
What You Saw: Cee Lo’s odd outfit for the week, a bright red zoot suit.
What I Saw: Well, the same thing, actually. But it was so strange yet suited him so perfectly that I figured I’d mention it.
What You Saw: Katrina Parker doing a fine, if somewhat grandiose, version of the Smashing Pumpkins song, “Tonight Tonight.”
What I Saw: A fine but not overwhelming performance that worked very hard to not be mistaken for anything that Adele has done, since her style and Katrina’s are similar. Which wasn’t easy. As Katrina said after the show, “I try to stay in the moment, but you get very aware of the audience. You’re very aware that it’s live. But staying present in that moment, you are able to enjoy it more.” It didn’t hurt that she has been managing to find extra rehearsal time in a public restroom inside the hotel where she and the rest of the singers are staying. “So if somebody comes into the restroom and here’s seeing, it’s me. But most people aren’t bold enough to make requests in a public bathroom, so I figure I’m safe there.”
What You Saw: Cheesa during the show, swaggering and swaying as she growling out her spin on “Don’t Leave Me This Way” and proving she’s a stronger competitor than most people think.
What I Saw: Cheesa after the show, her eyebrows painted with enough bright and shiny glitter to cover entire teams of Las Vegas showgirls for a three-day weekend. Not that there’s any connection but she also proudly pointed out that she shares a room with teammate Juliet Simms and has made the worrywart singer “a little bit crazier now that she’s spent time with me.”
What You Saw: Tony Lucca channeling his memories of the movie Say Anything with “In Your Eyes,” a performance that featured the simplest, barest stage of the night that was good but not mind-boggling. At least according to his former Mouseketeer mate Christina, who called it one-dimensional (he shouldn’t be too down, though, seeing as how she was Ms. Crankypants all night, raking pretty much everyone over the coals).
What I Saw: A very tired-looking Tony afterward, happy that he “gave the performance I wanted to give” but very eager to find both a beer and his family. (Even though he lives in Los Angeles, he’s “on lockdown” with the other singers and doesn’t see much of his wife and kids during the week.) And what was his secret to preparing for his first live show? His own secret rehearsal space, “at the top of a stairwell in a parking garage near the hotel. The sound has a nice little ring to it there, plus it’s a nice little walk to get to it so I do a little mediation on the way over. If you’re looking for your car, you might be able to come by and hear me practice.”
What You Saw: Kim Yarbrough deliver a powerhouse “Rolling In the Deep” that even her own coach – Adam – picked apart, cryptically explaining that “there were some problems” with the performance.
What I Saw: First, I saw the crowd give Kim one of the biggest responses of the night, including the guy directly behind me who was “whoohoo-ing” her like this was a hockey game or something. And second, I got the real story behind the song choice directly from Kim, who explained that she and Adam went through four different choices because nothing was working right and only settled on “Rolling In the Deep” a week before her performance. Which left her little time to practice in her favorite private rehearsal spot, the hotel gym. Said Kim, “It’s great. I go late, like 10 or 11 at night. It’s just me there and I can belt out whatever I want. And you can see what you’re doing in the mirrors. I go on the treadmill and sing while I’m on there. But if somebody comes in, I’ll stop singing and continue to mentally practice.”
What You Saw: No longer new kid on the block James Massone surprise everyone, including himself apparently, with a sweet and subtle take on Norah Jones’ “Don’t Know Why.” This departure from his usual R&B-isms did nothing to stop his female fans from screaming endlessly. If by some chance Dick Clark was watching, seeing James work the teen girls into a frenzy surely has him considering a reboot of “American Bandstand.” Even Blake said he nearly through his panties onstage, and he doesn’t just toss his panties around for anyone.
What I Saw: The woman sitting next to me yell, “I’ll throw him my panties.” I doubt James hear her above the other screamers. Besides, he was still trying to recover from an awkward moment at the end of his performance. “I was looking at all the girls,” he admitted, “but when I was finishing, I went down on my knees and there was a guy in front of me. I was, like, ‘Oh man!’ I was going to grab a girl’s hand but he was there so I kind of turned away.”
What You Saw: Juliet turn in one of the most praised performances, applying her Rod-dette Stewart vocal stylings to “Roxanne.” It seemed to start a bit rocky, with her looking a bit lost for words in the first few seconds, but she recovered to the point where her intensity and grit had rival coach Adam gushing, “It’s the best performance we’ve seen so far.”
What I Saw: Juliet an hour after her turn on stage, still looking slightly more stressed than I do before a dental appointment. “I felt good,” she said of the performance, barely missing a beat before adding, “but obviously I’m an artist so I like to torture myself and I know there’s things I wish I could go back in change when I was up there.” Maybe it would help her to change her daily routine a bit. “I have the same schedule,” she says with a laugh. “I wake up. I have a panic attack. I feel like it’s good to do that earlier in the day to make sure I get it in.”
What You Saw: The most understated performance of the night, from Mathai. She just stood there quietly and delivered a gentle version of John Legend’s “Ordinary People” that was actually kind of powerful in its simplicity. Unless you’re Christina. Who continued her Simon Cowell impression by saying the song felt “a little lounge-y.” Which led me to wonder, is she going to be like this every week when her team isn’t singing and she can’ just relax?
What I Saw: The usually mild-mannered Mathai high-fiving fans on the way off the stage. Everyone has to stroll along a small catwalk surrounded by audience members in order to get backstage, and it’s 50-50 whether or not singers will acknowledge the palms being waved in their direction. I never expected to see Mathai slapping skin like a designated hitter who has just slammed a walk-off homer, but watching her greet the faithful now has me re-thinking my opinions about her being the most mild-mannered singer left in the competition.
What You Saw: Tony Vincent singing “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” on a platform high above a bunch of scary-looking dancers with red lights for eyes and militaristic suits. The whole thing looked like a scene from a sci fi movie where a crazed dictator has just taken over the world. Only this is a world of red-eyed zombies. It’s not that Tony’s singing wasn’t good but he whole vibe of the production had me too worried about a Communist walking dead takeover to pay much attention to it.
What I Saw: A surprisingly zen Tony after the show, eager to do nothing but get back to his week-old daughter. Knowing full well that means he’ll once again be getting no sleep despite the exhausting production he had just put on. Which, oddly, took less time to do than the production he went through at home last week. “Our actual rehearsal time is incredibly limited,” he said. “We get maybe an hour and a half to do a run-through with the band and Cee Lo. After that, maybe we’ll have 30 minutes to make sure the arrangement is as tight as possible. Then we run through it on stage twice and you go live. Meanwhile, my wife did an at-home birth with our daughter last week so I was there for 18 hours of labor. I spent more time in labor with my wife and child than I did working on this performance.”
What You Saw: The coaches doing their usual picking on each other, whether it was Adam taking Blake to task for his wardrobe choice (which, truth be told, did make him look like he was on his way to dinner at a Black Angus than judging a top-rated music competition series) or Blake chiding Cee Lo for his team’s wild production numbers.
What I Saw: Blake coming over to Cee Lo’s chair during a few commercial breaks, along with Adam, to laugh quite loudly at something. I don’t know what they were talking about, but I do know that at one point, Adam stood there in his standard hand-on-heart pose so Blake began doing the same thing just to mock him. This plan must have worked, seeing as how Adam then attempted to place Blake in a very brief headlock.
What You Saw: Karla Davis ditch her country sound in favor of a pop song, “Airplanes,” with mixed results. She looked amazing, and her bold strut around the stage and into the crowd made it possible to forgot how shy and quiet she’d been up to know. It was definitely the evening’s biggest surprise. So you’d think coach Adam could have been a bit more gentle on her than saying, “You could have been better.”
What I Saw: The usually sedate Karla leaning over the crowd while the pre-taped piece about her played on a big-screen above her, waving her arms to try and get the crowd pumped up for her performance. This rare moment of confidence had apparently faded by the time she made it backstage after the show. “I feel relief and at the same time, I’m a nervous wreck,” she confessed. “I’m going into tomorrow thinking I’m going to have to sing. Not going to go into it thinking, ‘Oh yeah, I’m going to win.’ I know I do have to work on my confidence a bit.”
What You Saw: Erin Martin, who has certainly been the quirkiest person on any team, go very mainstream with the Bangles’ “Walk Like An Egyptian.” The whole production seemed like something out of a mid-1980s variety special, with hunky shirtless dancers strutting around with their Egyptian dance while a surprisingly tame Erin tried her best to enjoy the whole thing.
What I Saw: A rather irked Erin after the show, telling me very bluntly that “I feel like I’m ready to go home tomorrow. I’m over it all. I don’t feel like I’m going in the right direction.” Not that she was blaming her coach but at the same time, even two minutes with Erin makes it very clear that Cee Lo certainly has his work cut out for him if she does survive tomorrow’s voting. Especially if he happens to have read this news first. Awkward….
What You Saw: More commercials.
What I Saw: Constant screaming for Adam during the commercial breaks. Which was all well and good right up to the point where the warm-up comic asked an 11-year-old fan who said the singer’s looks “were to die for” what kind of date she’d like to go on with Adam.
What You Saw: Plucky young Pip, still sporting his trademark bowtie, try for some serious rock cred by eschewing his usual pop leanings to do the Killers’ “When You Were Young.” Not the best idea, it turned out, since he sounded a bit flat several times and his awkward attempts to step into the crowd and whip them into a frenzy made him look more like a musical theater version of rock star than the real thing.
What I Saw: A guy who clearly isn’t happy with how thing went out on stage, but who also is too nice and even-keeled to admit it. The best I could get from him was an “I don’t think it was my best performance but it was fun.”
What You Saw: Hot women with guitars on stilts. Sure, there was also Jamar Rogers attacking “Are You Gonna Go My Way” like this was The Hunger Games and he was fighting for his life. Nobody got the crowd moving more than he did, with energy that would make a can of Red Bull curl up for a nape. But when there are hot women with guitars on stilts, really, he could have been Elvis Presley being resurrected on stage and still not be the first thing you noticed.
What I Saw: The most amusing moment of the evening: the warm-up guy telling the crowd near the stage not to grab the women walking on stilts just before anyone actually saw them come out. To his credit, Jamar was under no illusions after the show about what people wanted to talk about. “How hot were those women?” he asked enthusiastically. “They were a lot of fun! They gave me a sense of confidence out there. I’ve never had that experience before.” Because nobody has. Although that could change soon enough. Added Jamar, laughing heartily, “Maybe this will start something and everyone will want hot women with guitars on stilts in their shows from now on.”