Written by Samuel Barker
Nov 25, 2007 at 08:00 PM
ImageWhen you’re in a rock band, you’re supposed to make fun of poppy singers like Kelly Clarkson. I mean, she got her start on American Idol after all. You’re supposed to spew venom, make fun of her young female fan base, joke about how sugary sweet every song is and just give her hell for not being a mess like most rock musicians are.

Well, I’m not going to do that. In fact, I’m going to tell it like it is, Kelly Clarkson is a fine individual and has overcome more than most people in the music world will every have to deal with. She started on American Idol. That show has accomplished nothing for 99.9% of the people who have participated, including the winners. If anything, it’s hindered their ability to excel, because they’re just a TV personality to most viewers and not really someone they want on their stereo.

Clarkson is way past that. Plus, with her new album, which she is touring behind now, My December, she brought Mike Watt (Minutemen, Firehose, Stooges) into the studio to lay down some bass lines. Sure, neither knew who the other was, but it was a show that experimentation was welcome in the Clarkson camp. It’s rare in a landscape ruled by money that someone enjoying success would take the chance of trying to come into their own rather than cashing in by making expected moves.

How can you go wrong with such an ability to overcome obstacles and create a following that has expanded past teeny girls and enveloped all sorts of people? From when I first covered Ms. Clarkson on her first post-Idol tour to this night, in support of her third, the environment has totally changed. The catalog is deeper, Clarkson is more comfortable on the stage and her demographic spans all walks of life.

The one thing that has remained from her early shows is the lack of annoying behavior. Ms. Clarkson doesn’t put her band behind her, she doesn’t have choreographed dance sequences, she doesn’t have 10 outfit changes, she shows up, interacts with her band and puts on a hell of a concert. Notice the use of the word concert, not a show. She’s not trying to entertain you with lights and dances, she’s there to play music.

The night covered her hits, Behind These Hazel Eyes and a rocked out medley version of Miss Independent, but the moments that made the set was when Clarkson went into her favorite songs. Rather than stick specifically to the hits, she took the time to play the songs she loved the most out of her songs, which not overly surprising to me, were not the most popular of her songs.

The best of these moments was an “intimate set” she did where a curtain came down and she joined by only a pianist for a wonderful version of Because of You.

Be Still, the final song of the “intimate set” saw Clarkson channel the vibe of Johnette Napolitano from Concrete Blonde. The mellow charm and deeper register made this song pull the audience together into a nice sway. A moment to close your eyes and just forget the world around you. For me, this was the pinnacle of the night.

Clarkson has grown a lot from a small town Texas girl trying to find a break into the music world. She’s persevered through everything and become a musician about a pop singer, definitely not something easy to do in the current music world.