Archive => Joyful Noise Tour 2004 => Topic started by: Marilyn on September 06, 2010, 01:44:38 AM

Post by: Marilyn on September 06, 2010, 01:44:38 AM
Assistant Webmaster
« on: November 29, 2004, 08:50:11 AM » 


Aiken gets audience into the spirit
The pop vocalist seemed tired but didn't let illness affect his powerful pipes in his Christmas-tour opener.

The Orange County Register

There was an air of stately lethargy to pop vocal sensation Clay Aiken's Christmas show Friday at the Orange County Performing Arts Center - but it's hard to know if that was intentional or not.

Certainly some reverence was deliberate. Why else implore attending Claymaniacs (whose squeals and cries of "Will you marry me?" he routinely ignored) to keep their signs at home and dress up for the occasion?

Aiken, the self-described "skinny, redheaded, geeky" little guy from Raleigh, N.C. - who has parlayed his second-place finish on the sophomore season of "American Idol" into a staggeringly successful career - has never hidden his religious beliefs, often indicating that they spurred him to charitable efforts and his first vocation as a teacher for the mentally disabled.

So, it's no surprise that, like his new "Merry Christmas With Love" disc - the fast est-selling Christmas album of all time, its first-week haul of 270,000 besting the record held by Garth Brooks - Aiken's 90-minute performance would be evenly split between somber sacred songs ("O Holy Night," "Silent Night") and jollier chestnuts ("Sleigh Ride," "Winter Wonderland").

Indeed, the show itself was presented in halves, the first devoted to warm renditions of near-secular 20th century standards, the second - furthered along by children reading New Testament excerpts about Jesus' birth - coming across like something you'd see at the Crystal Cathedral.

Both parts had their pluses and minuses, which I'll get to. What was most glaringly evident, however, is that this Aiken kid appears wiped out.

We knew he wouldn't be bounding with energy. Only a week ago it was announced that the start of Aiken's Joyful Noise Tour, due to begin Nov. 21 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, had to be pushed back to this Center engagement because the 25-year-old had suffered vocal-cord damage resulting from ear and sinus infections. (The Civic date has been rescheduled for Dec. 28.)

Friday night, he remained under doctor's orders not to speak, a command he broke very briefly - once merely to explain that he shouldn't break said rule. Naturally, the lanky boy next door seemed tired, moving slowly, resting on a stool, busting out some endearingly awkward dance moves only toward the finale.

But I wonder if that's attributable strictly to sickness. After all, Aiken's professional attack has been relentless since spring 2003, when soul man Ruben Studdard edged him out for the "Idol" crown.

In less than a year and a half, Aiken has issued his triple-platinum debut, "Measure of a Man"; topped the charts with his platinum CD-single "The Way/Solitaire" and embarked on three tours, including an arena jaunt with "Idol" alumnus Kelly Clark son. He's also landed on the covers of Rolling Stone and Entertainment Weekly; made innumerable talk-show appearances; and published a brief memoir, "Learning to Sing: Hearing the Music in Your Life." Now comes this blockbuster seasonal album and 21-city theater tour, to be capped by the Dec. 8 airing of "A Clay Aiken Christmas" on NBC, featuring duets with Barry Manilow and Megan Mullally.

Plus, he hopes to have his next proper album in stores sometime next year. That's enough to wear out workaholic veterans, let alone a newcomer.

Granted, his ailment and crazed schedule didn't seem to greatly affect his powerful pipes. Looking not unlike a young Andy Williams in slacks and a purple sweater, he acquitted himself nicely on "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "The Christmas Song," the occasional phlegm-y rasp adding a welcome bit of grit to his otherwise Michael Crawford-esque approach to the material.

Later, re-emerging in a long coat and tie for the stronger second half, he ably nailed those dramatic "glory notes" that make female fans weak in the knees, tackling a string of them that ran through "The First Noel," the atmospheric "Mary, Did You Know?" and, most potent of all, the year- round spirit of "Don't Save It All for Christmas Day." If he was in any kind of pain, he didn't show it.

Still, I can't help but think that he didn't really intend to come off like a near-comatose Perry Como. Liveliness on the level of Harry Connick Jr. might not have fit, either, especially given the setting - jazz ensemble plus full orchestra plus an elementary-school choir from Sherman Oaks and a teen team from Costa Mesa High School.

That arrangement hardly lends itself to boppin' holiday fun. But as his final leg-lifting poses suggested, perhaps he would have brought a more vibrant spark to the proceedings if he could have. Maybe his lack of energy was merely a matter of his fading illness rearing its viral tail.

Or maybe he just needs a good long rest. Surely he's earned it.
Post by: Marilyn on September 06, 2010, 01:49:23 AM
Assistant Webmaster
« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2004, 08:40:05 AM » 


Aiken's stardom has drawbacks at concerts

by Pat Reavy

Being an American Idol star can be both a blessing and a curse.

Case in point: Clay Aiken's "The Joyful Noise Tour" at Abravanel Hall Monday night. Aiken sold out Abravanel with his legion of adoring fans of all ages who went to hear him sing Christmas favorites.

Aiken had said before the tour, "It's not meant to be a show where fans bring signs and scream." But the curse of a pop idol is that even Clay himself couldn't stop his enthusiastic young female fan base Monday from waving signs, wearing Aiken T-shirts and screaming "I love you" during the middle of a song.

Aiken started off with a lavish production of "The Music of Christmas" that included his own three-member band, three very talented backup singers, a 20-member orchestra, a local children's choir and the Bountiful High School Chamber Choir.

The first part of the show could have been called "American Idol Christmas." Even Utah native Carmen Rasmusen made a guest appearance to sing a duet with Aiken on "Silver Bells."

The shrieks from the female fans was deafening as Aiken crooned through "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" and made his way down into the audience to serenade and dance with a few awe-struck fans.

After a 20-minute intermission, Aiken returned to the stage for what was easily the highlight of the show. Dressed in an outfit that included a long dark suit coat, dark blue shirt and red tie, Aiken simply stood in the middle of the stage with a microphone stand and let the music speak for itself.

Aiken belted out a string of Christmas classics beginning with a powerful version of "O Holy Night" that received a well-deserved standing ovation and made one remember Aiken wasn't just a pop star fabrication. The man can sing. In between classics such as "Silent Night," "Hark the Herald Angels Sing/O Come All Ye Faithful" and "The First Noel," children came onstage and read the first Christmas out of the Bible.

Aiken was back to the role of heart throb while singing "I'll Be Home For Christmas" and receiving numerous screams every time he mentioned the word "mistletoe." For the encore, Aiken left with a memorable version of "I Leave You With Good News" that put his full vocal power on display.


Concert proves Clay Aiken worthy of 'Idol'-izing

Monday December 6, 2004

What do you mean Clay didn't win "American Idol: Season 2"?! Who did? Ruben who?

I and many other adoring fans were thinking the same thing at Clay Aiken's recent Christmas concert at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City.

I must say that for a 26-year-old with not very much experience, Aiken is incredible! This new world of fame must be a dream come true for a special-education teacher from North Carolina.

The singer had recently been sick and had to cancel his first three concerts on "The Joyful Noise Tour." But I was fortunate enough to see him perform.

During the first half of the show, Aiken did sound like he had been sick. He wasn't able to belt out the songs like he usually does. His voice sounded very strained. It almost seemed like he was forcing out the notes with everything he had, hoping they would come out right.

Aiken sang a few of the traditional Christmas songs, as well as some from his new album, "Merry Christmas With Love." He didn't really talk to the audience very much, which surprised me. He seemed like he would be a lot friendlier, although that's not to say he didn't charm his fans.

Aiken was dressed so classy in his black suit and red tie, and his hair really is pretty wild. He invited one of the former "American Idol" contestants, Carmen Rasmussen, to join him in a duet of "Silver Bells." Later, he came out into the audience during the classic song, "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" He kissed a few lucky girls' hands and waltzed with some others. One girl, though, refused to dance with him. Why she would refuse to dance with Clay Aiken is beyond me!

There was a 20-minute intermission, and when Clay came back, he wowed the audience with his absolutely amazing rendition of "O Holy Night." He belted out those notes like they were nothing. He no longer sounded like he had been ill. The Clay I knew and loved was back.

Aiken devoted the second half of his show to the real Christmas story. (No, not the Red Ryder BB gun.) He told the story of the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ, through beautiful words of music.

All in all, Aiken did not leave the crowd of various ages -- from old women to younger girls to guys taking their Clay-loving girlfriends on a date -- feeling like they wasted their money. The audio did have a few minor technical difficulties, but those things happen.

Aiken is on top of the world. He has a new book out, "Learning to Sing: Hearing the Music in Your Life," and he also has a foundation, The Bubel/Aiken Foundation, that is totally dedicated to children.

At 7 p.m. Wednesday, he has his own special on NBC, locally KSL Channel 5. "A Clay Aiken Christmas" features Clay singing traditional carols with guests Barry Manilow, gospel singer Yolanda Adams and actress Megan Mullally.

Whether you love Clay or hate him, you have to admit that he is talented. He totally blew me away with his powerful voice. He may not have won "American Idol: Season 2," but he is my American idol!

No link - transcribed by LadyC from the Ogden Standard Examiner.
Post by: Marilyn on September 06, 2010, 01:52:08 AM
Assistant Webmaster
« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2004, 03:17:54 AM » 


When you throw an adult chorus, a teen chorus and a children's choir into the first song, you're going for the Christmas jugular. Fortunately, Clay Aiken backed off a little as his show continued last night at the Providence Performing Arts Center. As it turned out, maybe he shouldn't have.

His Joyful Noise Tour ran through roughly two hours of Christmas favorites last night, including virtually all of his latest CD, Merry Christmas With Love.

In an interview in July, Aiken said that he envisioned the album as "very traditional. We want to do a perennial-type album that can be sold year after year. . . . Classic Christmas songs, classic arrangements."

Sure enough, that's exactly what he delivered last night. And as a singer, he once again showed himself to be a master craftsman, with impressive range and power on difficult songs such as "O Holy Night."

But we all knew he could do that. The problem with his Christmas material is that it's so buttoned-up, so grown-up, so "classic," that not much of Aiken's personality shone through.

Aiken sang in front of his regular backup singers, a piano-guitar-drums trio and a large string section. The overall volume level was easy on the ears, but the strings dominated, and it was hard to hear the trio -- even the drums. And the lack of a bass player deprived the whole thing of swing.

Aiken often sounded encased in amber, or a Guy Lombardo record. Backup singer Jacob Luttrell's piano-and-vocal number, "Sending You a Little Christmas," was a lot more relaxed, and breathed a lot more than most of the star's turns.

He's hardly a wild man -- his fresh-faced quality is part of his appeal. But so are his sense of humor (sometimes self-deprecating, sometimes ever-so-slightly naughty) and the enjoyment he takes in performing. Last night, there were flashes of this, but not many -- particularly in the second half, when he gave more religious material such as "Hark the Herald Angel Sing" and an especially impressive "The First Noel" the requisite dignity but not much (there's that word again) personality.

It's refreshing to hear a pop singer take the religious aspects of Christmas seriously, and let them show in his song selection.

But after hearing the first half of last night's show, it was easy to assume that you'd heard the "serious" portion, and that the second half would loosen up. Unfortunately, it turned out that the first part was in fact the "fun" half.

Post by: Marilyn on September 06, 2010, 01:56:21 AM
Assistant Webmaster
« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2004, 12:39:28 AM » 


Aiken fulfills promise of 'Joyful Noise'

LOWELL Whoever came up with the name the "Joyful Noise Tour" for Clay Aiken's latest musical sojourn hit the nail on the head. Wednesday night's sold-out show at Lowell Memorial Auditorium before a crowd of 2,800 was filled with them.

First, there were the requisite screams of delight from the crowd when the curtain opened shortly after 8 p.m., and the 26-year-old American Idol runner-up emerged wearing a lime-green sweater and blue jeans, opening with a medley of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and "The Music of Christmas."

And then, there was the voice.

Apart from some early sound-system glitches too much reverb when Aiken was trying to joke with the crowd, and occasional speaker feedback the sound flowing into the sea of adoring "Claymates," dressed largely in holiday red, was as smooth as the silk in some of their blouses. 

Joyful Noise, his fourth U.S. concert tour in the last 18 months, was quite different than Aiken's previous engagements on many levels. First, instead of teenage girls comprising the biggest segment of the audience, the vast majority was middle-aged and elderly women. Second, there were no Top 40 hits, no Idol moments, if you will to be found.

Backed by a stellar, 30-piece orchestra, Aiken brought his fans through an 18-song, one-hour-and-45-minute concert, singing every selection from his just-released holiday CD, Merry Christmas With Love, plus a few other songs of the season for good measure. It was true family entertainment, with the singer using dozens of children from school choirs in Westfield and Belchertown sporadically throughout.

Early on, Aiken engaged his audience, smiling the crooked, elfish grin he has become famous for (think Barry Manilow without a piano) while strolling about the stage for the up-tempo "Sleigh Ride." That number, and "Winter Wonderland," had the crowd clapping happily along. He wandered into the audience on "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" playfully singing the romantic ballad to some young and not-so-young girls. A couple of them even got hugs.

But where Aiken impressed most were the tunes in which he stretched the vocal register beyond comprehension. His rendition of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" was as solid, smooth and strong as the finest single-malt scotch. Another chestnut in the show, appropriately enough, was "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)."

After intermission, Aiken, dressed in a black tux and red tie, set the tone for a very religious second half, opening with a unique and powerful version of "O Holy Night." Between most songs, young choir members would read brief passages from the Bible about the birth of Jesus Christ.

And why not? The Southern Baptist-raised Aiken has never been shy about sharing his faith. From "Silent Night," to "The First Noel" and the almost haunting "Mary, Did You Know," Aiken bared his musical as well as spiritual soul for all of Lowell to hear.

What they heard was a singer passionate about his God, and passionate about his craft a joyful noise.


Clay's fans left achin' for joy
By Amy Amatangelo
Friday, December 10, 2004

You should be having a pretty good night when you are competing against yourself. Clay Aiken brought his ``Joyful Noise'' tour to the Lowell Memorial Auditorium Wednesday night. At the same time, NBC was airing his first TV special, ``Clay Aiken Christmas.''
     ``When you have a TV special, you're supposed to be home watching it,'' he told the near-capacity crowd. The fusion of Aiken's showy, heartfelt charm with yuletide ditties certainly seems like a match dreamed up by elves at the North Pole.
     Alas, the ``American Idol'' prodigy did not consistently provide a holly jolly good time.
     Backed by a full orchestra and three singers, Aiken sang through the holiday classics on his ``Merry Christmas with Love'' CD, including ``Sleigh Ride,'' ``Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas'' and ``Winter Wonderland.'' Decked out in a too-big lime green sweater and too-long pants, he seemed sloppy next to his nattily dressed cohorts.
     And he did not heed the No. 1 ``American Idol'' rule. He did not make the songs his own. Although his smooth vocals remained pure and strong, the songs didn't sound any different than what a harried shopper might hear playing at the mall.
      The surprisingly low-energy Aiken appeared to be merely going through the motions and failed to make an emotional connection with any of the carols. Aiken's true strength as a performer is that he typically brings a jubilant stage presence that is downright contagious. This time there was a distinct disconnect with the audience and the material.
      A couple of other problems plagued the show - which could stand to be much, much tighter.
     The quality of the audio was inconsistent. Aiken was inaudible on the opener ``Music of Christmas Love'' and his between-song banter was a mumbled, jumbled mess.
     He used two local children's choirs to back him throughout the evening and to read passages from the Bible during the second act. It's probably not their fault, but the children appeared unrehearsed and uncoordinated. This gave the show a school Christmas pageant feel.
     Aiken returned for the second act smartly dressed in a black suit and switched from secular to religious songs. This finally showed the classic Clay audiences know and love. He clearly felt a powerful bond with such hymns as ``O Holy Night,'' ``The First Noel'' and ``O Come All Ye Faithful.'' He closed with an excellent rendition of ``Don't Save It All for Christmas Day'' but encored with ``Good News,'' which ended the lackluster concert on a downbeat note.
Post by: Marilyn on September 06, 2010, 02:02:01 AM
Assistant Webmaster

« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2004, 08:58:22 AM » 


The Big Voice of 'Idol' Gets Christmas Spirit

Published: December 11, 2004

Clay Aiken glided into the Theater at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night to give voice to a Christmas wish that we can all relate to: a world without flash photography.

"Gimme a camera and I'll flash it at you," Mr. Aiken purred, smiling wide so no one could mistake his offer for a petulant threat. This was a night when theater ushers, too often hidden behind a drab facade of jacketed professionalism, got a chance to perform backup vocals for the guy onstage. As Mr. Aiken crooned "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," the ushers contributed a gruff basso ostinato. "No flashes, please," they barked. "No flashes."

Mr. Aiken, beloved by distinctly prepubescent and exceedingly postpubescent listeners across the country, earned his fame in 2003, when viewers declined to vote him America's Idol. (Like Senator John Kerry, the St. Louis Cardinals and, while we're at it, the Confederate Army, he finished a strong second - to the singer Ruben Studdard.) Since then, he has emerged as a brazenly anachronistic pop star, a titillation-averse singer with a warm vibrato and an affinity for big, mushy ballads.

Of course, he's not so old fashioned that he can't interrupt a Christmas concert to plug a television special. "Who watched 'Lost' on ABC last night?" he asked, and those who applauded got a snack-size helping of scorn: they should have been watching NBC's "Clay Aiken Christmas," instead. Soon, Mr. Aiken drifted back to a favorite topic. "I imagine the people who watched 'Lost' last night are the same people who can't find the off button to the flashes on their cameras," he said, but the flashers bravely pressed on.

"American Idol" fans usually love their notes long, loud and high; that's how you can tell a singer is really good. Yet the concert's brief first half didn't give fans much to cheer about: Mr. Aiken waltzed through a nimble "Sleigh Ride," and a woozy, post-eggnog-ish version of "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)," one of the few Christmas songs that sound a bit sheepish about their own Christmasiness: "Although it's been said many times, many ways/ Merry Christmas to you."

Mr. Aiken had been onstage for about 40 minutes when it came time for a 25-minute intermission. When he returned, the show became a lot more energetic and more interesting. The preamble was over, and now it was time for everyone to discover the True Meaning of Christmas.

Don't worry: this second act wasn't some vague celebration of friends and family and fun. Since Thursday was the third night of Hanukkah, Mr. Aiken turned his second act into a celebration of Jews. Well, one Jew: Jesus. Whereas other seasonal gatherings evoked a secular or multifaith "holiday spirit," Mr. Aiken's concert was one party where the birthday boy got all the attention.

This spirit of evangelism made the music more exciting: the gospel-inflected second act used two youth choirs (one from a high school, one from an elementary school) more effectively, and there were more long, loud, high notes for the Idol-aters.

The songs grew more intriguing, too. Mr. Aiken sang "Mary, Did You Know" as if he were a kind but ruthless police investigator, asking for information he already had. "Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?/ When you kiss your little baby, you kissed the face of God." His voice was low and spooky, evoking not just a true believer's shivery faith but also a new mother's bewilderment.

By the time the show was over, Mr. Aiken had held forth on the importance of "keeping the Christmas spirit throughout the year" (does that mean we have to stick to the Christmas playlist, too?), sung a tender "I'll Be Home for Christmas" (de-emphasizing the unsettling last line: "If only in my dreams") and reappeared for a lovely encore, "Good News." As he sang the incantatory lyrics, a choir joined him, half-hidden by a gauze scrim and illuminated by bright, pulsating lights.

And so Mr. Aiken had his revenge at last: it was just like staring at a giant flash camera.



December 10, 2004 --

CLAY AIKEN is right. At the singer's gig last night at The Theater in Madison Square Garden, he showed what he meant when he said in his autobiography: "I like to talk. I'm a terrible dancer. I have oversized ears. I'm a geek."

The singer, who performed for a sold-out house of mostly grannies 'n' groupies, was loved for those foibles. They also adored him because he was polite, charming, and more than just a pretty good entertainer. Aiken has learned how to totally work an audience.

The sophisticated New York ladies — young and old alike — couldn't get enough of this skinny crooner who has suddenly shed the underdog suit that he's worn since he came in second place in the "American Idol" talent contest two years ago.

Aiken's been on the road for most of that time paying his dues. At the Garden for his New York City debut, the singer unwrapped his "Joyful Noise" holiday concert tour. He isn't slick, but the gangly singer has honed what was a dull aw-shucks persona to an edge sharp enough to keep yawns at bay.

In this show, he finally distanced himself from the hit Fox TV contest, which makes its fourth season bow next month. Aiken did it first by never mentioning his roots as a contestant.

He's also finally found the trick to turn Idol worship into more durable fame. He did that by finally doing a program of challenging music — even though it was all holiday material.

Despite his debut album "Measure of a Man" going multi-platinum, those songs hardly stressed his pipes and were nixed from this concert.

During this 90-minute program that mixed secular and religious Christmas music, Aiken repeatedly sent shiver down the audience's spine as he grappled with difficult, time-tested material from "Silver Bells"' to "Silent Night."

For this show, Aiken was backed by a 30-piece string orchestra. Although with the kind of vocal purity he achieved during this performance, that kind of string power wasn't necessary.

Those violins were used nicely in a version of "O Holy Night" that had Aiken singing the standard lyrics while the ensemble supported his vocals with strains of Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring." It was a brainy musical move that sounded totally natural.

There were a few duds in the set, such as "Mary Did You Know?" but the singer kept the show mostly on track with classic material. His three song medley of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," "Come All Ye Faithful" and "The First Noel" were the evening's highlight.

Post by: Marilyn on September 06, 2010, 02:06:32 AM
Assistant Webmaster
« Reply #5 on: December 14, 2004, 06:54:07 PM » 


Fans see Clay on Broadway
Christmas show puts Aiken's ease on display

By ORLA SWIFT, Staff Writer

RALEIGH -- Ever since Clay Aiken caught the national spotlight on "American Idol," people have imagined him on the Broadway stage. Sunday night, as he offered hometown fans his program of Christmas hits in Meymandi Concert Hall, only a few walls separated him from a venue where dozens of Broadway-style musicals have played: Memorial Auditorium.

"He is definitely stage material," said Lynda Collier, a Raleigh native who now lives in Florida and ventures occasionally to New York for shows.

She may be right. In the first of two sold-out concerts in Meymandi, Aiken showed a well-developed voice, a relaxed stage presence and the ability to go from lilt to hilt. Most of all, he communicates well with his audience. That's not a given. It's a gift.

Growing up, Aiken performed with N.C. Theatre's Kids on Broadway and Raleigh Little Theatre, among other troupes. Now that he's a professional singer, fans who packed Meymandi's 1,700 seats had plenty of ideas for Raleigh's own Raggedy Andy pop star.

"Peter Pan," suggested Collier. Look at how he loves children, she pointed out, noting his inclusion of two student choirs on stage, one from Southeast Raleigh High School and one from Stough Elementary School, Aiken's alma mater.

Collier even liked Aiken's rendition of "Grease" on "Idol," in which fans discovered why he didn't dance much (because, admittedly, he can't). She wouldn't mind seeing him in that '50s-style musical.

Raleigh musical theater actress Jackie Townsend, 25, pooh-poohs all modern musicals for Clay. He's a classics guy, she says. He'd be well advised to stick to Rodgers and Hammerstein.

Still, she says, she's all for seeing him do any sort of musical theater, if that's what he chooses.

"He just has this wonderful richness to his voice that I think would be wonderful on a Broadway stage," she says.

Elizabeth Brown, a fan of Disney's stage musicals, has seen Aiken four times in concert. She says she'd buy him as a Beast or Gaston in "Beauty and the Beast," or even as the witty Lumiere. But nothing smaller, says the 18-year-old N.C. State University student. "He needs to have a lead role."

Kim Lee of Raleigh wouldn't mind seeing Aiken as Cinderella's prince, or as Scrooge's sweet nephew, Fred.

"He's clean-cut, very upbeat, very polished," she said "Just a good old boy, a nice guy, a guy you'd like to bring home."

All the theater fans agreed on one thing: no villain roles. Sunday's concert illustrated why, in sweet and geeky ways.

First: argyle sweater (one of several outfits; the others were more formal). Second: He danced with Mom during a mushy New Year's song. Third: He let each of his three backup singers have a full solo song, even at the risk of being upstaged. Very generous. Goodbye, Phantom. Hello, Pippin.

Aiken's voice was strong, even when backed by his traveling band and a small local orchestra, plus the roughly 60 young singers from the schools.

He had an ease onstage, too, moving around a good deal and also capable of being still without looking stiff. That will help should he opt for drama.

He shifted effortlessly from lilting passages to belted climaxes, though he's far more ingratiating in his softer moments. And his phrasing and enunciation are awkwardly affected at times, which detracts from the sincerity of his delivery. Pop producers may love that. In theater, it'd have to go.

Still, it was a sweet evening. A hometown hero, home for the holidays, singing songs about cherishing the people we love and so forth -- even Scrooge would have shed a little tear, as many fans did.

Broadway's hunger for television and pop stars to lure mainstream audiences may make Aiken's path to New York far less grueling than for most performers, should he choose to pursue it. He'd certainly have an enthusiastic audience, at least initially, since his his fans swear they'd see him in anything he might dare to do.

Well ... almost anything, notes Collier's sister, Joan Vaughn of Raleigh.

" 'The King and I' is out," she said flatly. Aiken could never replicate Yul Brynner -- not with Aiken's trademark bed-head 'do. No, says Collier. "He cannot be without hair."

Post by: Marilyn on September 06, 2010, 02:10:29 AM
Assistant Webmaster

« Reply #6 on: December 18, 2004, 12:37:49 PM » 


Only sugarplums from Aiken

It would be Grinch-like to call the show bland. Let's say some of the ho-ho-ho was ho-hum.

By Matthew J. Palm | Sentinel Staff Writer
Posted December 18, 2004

Have yourself a pleasant little Christmas.

Everything about Clay Aiken says pleasant. His gee-shucks persona. His folksy stories of Grandma. His smooth, soothing singing voice.

Granted, Christmas isn't an edgy holiday, but Aiken's sold-out holiday concert Thursday at Melbourne's King Center at times pushed pleasant to the edge of blandness.

Aiken got his big break as a contestant on TV's American Idol and narrowly missed winning the competition. On TV, his self-deprecating (the less-kind might say dorky) style won him legions of fans, apparently of all ages. Pockets of giggly preteen and teen girls were scattered among a contingent of women old enough to be Aiken's mother. Also present: a sizable group old enough to be the 26-year-old singer's grandparents.

For the most part, Aiken stuck to traditional renditions of songs familiar to all ages. "Winter Wonderland," "Silver Bells," "The Christmas Song." The crowd cheered anything and everything, including shrieks of delight when he hung a "shining star upon the highest bough" in "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."

Ably backed by a couple dozen musicians playing everything from piano to French horn to harp, the songs were note perfect. It was quite possible to close your eyes and enjoy the holiday spirit. After all, for those not ogling Aiken, there wasn't much to look at. Some minor lighting effects and curtain movements were the only typical concert trappings. Occasionally, choirs of local youths singing backup would traipse onto the stage. (Only the most cynical Scrooge would suggest that a good way to sell concert tickets is to feature local children.)

The children also read the biblical Christmas story, taking breaks for Aiken to perform appropriate carols. It's a familiar format, used everywhere from Christmas Eve church concerts to Epcot's annual Candlelight Processional programs. But it was hampered here by a difficulty in understanding the children. (What they lacked in presentation skills, they made up for in cuteness.)

During this segment, however, Aiken finally unleashed his voice and brought a new energy to the proceedings. On "O Holy Night," his voice had a husky quality in the lower register, which added to the drama when he soared to the familiar high notes ("O night divine") in a glittering, clear tenor.

He took quick control of a medley of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and "O Come All Ye Faithful" with an urgency in his voice that built momentum to a truly joyous finale. He also used his three backup singers to great effect as they harmonized around his increasingly vibrant tones.

In fact, anytime the backup singers -- Angela Fisher, Jacob Luttrell and Quiana Parler -- were given a chance to shine, the show's energy level quickened. Parler was especially vibrant during her solo, "Grown-Up Christmas List."

The quieter selections during the show's second half were also strong musical choices. Aiken found the drama in the haunting "Mary, Did You Know?" and sailed through "I'll Be Home for Christmas" in his sweet-sounding upper register.

The highlight of the evening was the closing number, "Don't Save it All for Christmas Day," a modern-day song popularized by Celine Dion. Aiken tore through it, strutting around the stage, waving his arms, trading phrases with the backing trio. It was a peek at the charisma he can display when singing a song that lets him show off that powerful voice.

After that soul-lifting number, it was back to earth for the encore, a more sedate hymn titled "Good News."

It was . . . well, perfectly pleasant.


Aiken fans jam King Center
'American Idol' favorite performs


MELBOURNE -- More than 2,000 screaming fans cried out their unanimous vote for their favorite "American Idol" Thursday night when singer Clay Aiken performed at the King Center for the Performing Arts.

Although only a runner-up in the second "American Idol" season, Aiken, 24, has become arguably the best known and hottest property spawned by the three-season old hit Fox-TV program that pits wannabe singers against a panel of tough judges, Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson.

"They love him, and so does their mother," said Nancy Callinan, referring to Aiken and, of course, her daughters, 10-year old Tracy and Kate, 8.

"And so does their grandmother," Marie Castagnaro, 67 of Melbourne. "You can understand what he says. He sings beautifully."

Tracy and Kate came to the concert wearing T-shirts with ironed-on images of Aiken, a "hottie," said their mom.

Those comments well represent the full-on fury of love and infatuation felt by the audience when Aiken came to the stage to present his 90-minute Christmas concert.

Wearing black slacks, an untucked shirt beneath a V-neck sweater and tennis shoes, Aiken stepped onto the stage, smiling broadly.

His first song "Listen," met with the audience's hearty, if well-behaved, approval.

Shortly after, Aiken stopped to talk to the folks, saying he was glad to be in "wintry Florida," which drew laughter.

Beth Terranova, who moved to Washington D.C. recently after years on the Brevard County theater scene, said she has seen 15 of Aiken's performances over the last few months. One, in New York City on Dec. 9, was especially memorable when Aiken pulled her from the crowd to dance, she said. "That was a lot of fun," she said. "It was like being on stage again."

The "American Idol" series has produced other big singing draws, including Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard and Fantasia Barino. According to the American Idol web site,, Aiken's "Merry Christmas With Love" is Soundscan's best selling Christmas album ever, while Barino's "Free Yourself" comes in as Billboard's Top Ten and Studdard's "I Need an Angel" debuted in Billboards Top 20.

When Aiken, who speaks with a strong North Carolina drawl, first appeared on auditions for the show, he looked gawky, awkward and like someone not destined to become a hot ticket item. However, when he began singing, he surprised the judges with his talent. Recognizing his potential, the judges asked him to be a contestant.

Tickets to his King Center concert sold out in less than 30 minutes, a record for the 14-year-old King Center. That is typical for venues throughout his 23-city American tour, said King Center marking director Nance Burroughs.
Post by: Marilyn on September 06, 2010, 02:14:25 AM
« Reply #7 on: December 20, 2004, 07:37:13 PM » 

Clay Aiken's Joyful Noise Tour
An Angel Brings Good News

Concert Review By Bonnie Lini Markowski
December 20, 2004

That angel, albeit with an admittedly "crooked halo" is Clay Aiken. The good news: he's on the road again, this time performing a Christmas concert replete with a 30-piece orchestra and youth choirs.   
Aiken's "Joyful Noise Tour" an elegant, classy, traditional Christmas show has, so far, showcased many of the country's most celebrated orchestras such as the Baltimore Symphony, the Hartford Symphony, and the Atlanta Symphony. Perhaps as homage to his own choir days, the show also features some of the best youth choirs in the country. In his traditional fashion, Aiken opens his show in grand fashion. There are no elaborate opening stairs for the "Joyful Noise Tour"; this time, it's all about anticipation-Aiken style. A young, male soprano opens the concert singing a snippet of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" against the backdrop of the velvet outer curtain. The music revs up and the curtain then rises with Aiken singing, "The Music of Christmas" while still off stage. Soon, Aiken comes bursting through a barely parted sheer white curtain still hiding the backdrop. Eventually, the second curtain opens to reveal a simple, stark stage, beautifully lit with jewel tones with only Aiken's backup singers sitting on stools and Jesse Vargas conducting a still unseen. Soon, a group of jubilant children join Aiken on stage just as he sings, "Listen, listen with your heart. And you will hear the laughter in the song of child." A third curtain opens to reveal the orchestra. As Aiken walks amidst the singing, swaying children, a fourth and final curtain opens to reveal yet another choir. 
The first half of the concert includes a set list of snappy secular standards which Aiken makes uniquely his own such as "Sleigh Ride," and "Winter Wonderland," then slows down a little with the classic, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and the "Christmas Song." Aiken not only does these songs justice, he does them beautifully, making even the most overplayed Christmas song sound as if we are hearing it for the first time.

Nothing if not a consummate showman, Aiken includes an unusual bit of audience participation as he seduces the women while singing the romantic classic, "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" In what many fans consider one of the highlights of the show, Aiken slowly and seductively traverses the stage, all the while keeping eye contact with the women in the front row, only to shock the audience as he starts to gradually makes his way down the stairs toward them. Still crooning, he meanders into the delighted crowd stopping and dropping to one knee to serenade and tenderly kiss the hands and cheeks of a few lucky ladies, undoubtedly leaving the rest of them wishing they mortgaged their homes for those front row tickets on EBay. He then disappears into the side doors leaving them wanting more.   
After a 20-minute intermission, the second-half opens with an unusual and moving arrangement of the sacred standard, "O, Holy Night." During the extended ending, Aiken's voice reaches the rafters as the orchestra softly plays Bach's, "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" while a child reads a corresponding Bible passage. Aiken soulfully sings such sacred favorites as "The First Noel" and "Silent Night," with a different child setting up each sacred song by reading a brief passage from The Bible.

During the second half, Aiken also sings a soft, sweet version of "I'll be Home For Christmas" with musical director and keyboard player, Savon, at the piano. Savon shows off his talent with a delightful riff of Vince Giraldi's "Christmas Time is Here" at the end of the song.

As in previous tours, Aiken graciously shares the stage with his astonishing backup singers Jacob Luttrell, Angela Fisher and Quiana Parler who each get a solo. A little charming banter with the audience and his band put the finishing touches on this holiday show.

The show closes with a stirring rendition of Celin Dion's little known, "Don't Save It All For Christmas Day," which highlights the awesome range of Aiken's vocals with a few of his now famous "glory notes."

Aiken is bound to create a few new Christmas classics with his versions of some little heard songs like the opening number, Steven Curtis Chapman's, "The Music Of Christmas; Celine Dion's powerful, "Don't Save It All For Christmas Day"; Sandi Patty's, sentimental, "Merry Christmas With Love"; and a soul wrenching rendition of Mark Lowry's haunting, "Mary Did You Know" which Aiken has been performing on recent TV appearances.

For his encore, Aiken stands alone on a deserted stage with a veiled choir in the background performing Avalon's "Good News." This segment I can only call an intimate and reverent moment between Aiken and his maker on which he lets us eavesdrop. The beautifully arranged, unusual song wells up from somewhere deep within this gentle man's soul and usually leaves more than a few audience members in tears, including myself.

If you didn't believe it before, seeing this show will convince you Aiken was born to sing! He was born to perform live and with only a few dates left on the tour, I urge anyone who has not experienced "Joyful Noise" to give yourself and/or your family a treat they will not soon regret. Run, don't walk to a concert near you - if you can find a ticket!

Post by: Marilyn on September 06, 2010, 02:17:31 AM
Assistant Webmaster
« Reply #8 on: December 21, 2004, 12:58:04 PM » 


Clay Aiken  Live at Madison Square Garden 
December 9, 2004 
 The Big Apple,or at leaset a small part of it was lavished in Southern Hospitality as crooner, Clay Aiken, welcomed his fans to his first concert in New York City. The sold out house at Madsion Square Garden was enthralled with Aiken's flawless performance of Christmas classics from his recently released album, "Merry Christmas With Love." 
 According to fans, young, old and in between, his wardrobe has been different every night, but his powerful tenor voice has been consistent and awe-inspiring. The first half of the show was relaxed with chatty Aiken, chastising those in the audience who missed his NBC special , "A Clay Aiken Christmas," and those who continually "flashed," him with their cameras. The audience was all smiles as they enjoyed Aiken's impressive renditions of "Sleigh Ride," "Winter Wonderland," and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."

 Early in the show Aiken is joined on stage by choirs from local schools. The choirs continue to provide back up vocals, but at times are hidden from view by a gauze-like curtain.
A highlight of the first half of the show was Clay teasing ladies in the front few rows as he sang, "What Are You Doing New Years Eve?" One fan rose to her feet for a brief dance, while another was awestruck when Aiken dropped to his knees to serenade her.

 The second half opened on a more serious note with Aiken singing Christian favorites such as, "O Holy Night," "Silent Night," and "Mary Did You Know," while children read passages from the Bible between songs. Some fans wept while others beamed.

 Following some banter with his back-up singers about New Years Resolutions, each of them had their own time in the spotlight for a solo performance. Aiken was pleased to tell the audience, "I'll Be Home For Christmas," and gave a heartfelt performance of the song. His show stopping performance of "Don't Save It All For Christmas Day," brought the crowd to their feet.

 Clay Aiken does not just sing a song, he seems to feel each note and word with every fiber of his being. This emotion is not lost on the audience and is aptly conveyed in his encore performance of "Good News."

 The other good news is that Aiken is more than up for challenges that lie ahead. The man can sing and entertain. This collection of holiday music allows him to demonstarte his vocal power and love for singing. His "Joyful Noise Tour is topping off a stellar year for this performer who seems to hold the hearts of his fans in his hands. He leaves each and everyone wanting more.

Post by: Marilyn on September 06, 2010, 02:20:58 AM
Assistant Webmaster
« Reply #9 on: December 23, 2004, 11:23:56 AM » 


Clay Aiken spreads spirit of the season in solemn Christmas show
Thursday, December 23, 2004
John Benson
Special to The Plain Dealer

Clay Aiken fanatics, dressed in holiday style, lined the city sidewalks to enter his sold-out show Tuesday at Playhouse Square's Palace Theatre.

It's been more than a year and a half since his second-place finish to Ruben Studdard in the second season of "American Idol," and this North Carolina native shows no signs of slowing down. The affable Aiken, whose geeky-chic style and down-home charm have created quite a pop-star following, scored a yuletide trifecta this year with his recently released debut holiday album, "Merry Christmas With Love"; his NBC-TV special, "A Clay Aiken Christmas"; and the "Joyful Noise Tour."

Unlike the nonstop swooning screams and homemade heart-shaped signs that dominated Aiken's Northeast Ohio visit this past summer, his Christmas show was a subdued affair more in line with a Harry Connick Jr. performance, replete with a full orchestra, backing singers and the vocal support of the Cleveland Municipal School District's All-City Elementary, Middle School and High School choirs. The two-plus hour show began with a traditional set filled with holiday classics such as "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)" and "Silver Bells."

You could sense the gregarious audience was on its best behavior when, near the end of the first half, Aiken cautiously tested the fans' self-control by taking a step down the stairs into the first row. When he wasn't rushed from all sides, the tentative singer proceeded to the aisle, giving those fans lucky enough with orchestra seats a moment to remember. The once-in-a-lifetime experience, however, belonged to a woman who was personally serenaded by Aiken during his rendition of "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?"

The second half began with a dapper and solemn Aiken in a full tux leading his congregation through a handful of spiritual and sacred songs that offered the feel of a midnight Christmas service. On "O Holy Night," the 26-year-old solitary figure let loose proving to the audience - and thus preaching to the proverbial choir - his vocal abilities are much more than that of a second-place finisher.

Throughout the evening, a Christian contemporary music atmosphere was palatable, but Aiken was careful to steer away from preachy territory.

The show ended with Aiken asking his audience to forget about usual New Year's resolutions, which was met with a great response. Instead, he asked the 2,700 fans to remember yearlong fellowship with a version of "Don't Save it All for Christmas Day."

American idol to many, this pop star did his best to eschew any worldly titles and provided a Christmas show filled with lasting memories for the whole family.


Clay Aiken delights 'Claymates' in Cleveland

Thursday, December 23, 2004
Repository Living section writer

CLEVELAND — On Tuesday, Julie Morelli had a full day of Clay. And yet, more would have been even better, she said.

In the morning, the 31-year-old married mother of two from North Canton traveled with a girlfriend to Joseph Beth Booksellers at Legacy Village in Lyndhurst and waited in line for hours to meet “American Idol” star Clay Aiken.

Tuesday evening, Morelli attended the singer’s holiday concert, The Joyful Noise Tour, at the Palace Theatre in Playhouse Square Center.

“The entire time at the book signing he smiled, and there were probably 400 people there,” said Morelli, who works in the finance department of Stark County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.

“He wished every single person ‘Merry Christmas’ and asked everybody’s name. He just makes me smile. He could be singing about mud, and I’d be smiling. I just want to give him a big hug.”

There’s a name for Morelli and the throngs of enthusiastic fans like her who have propelled Aiken to superstardom after his American Idol second-place win last year — they are affectionately called “Claymates.“

Like most of his other concerts across the country, Aiken’s Cleveland version was a quick sell-out. And contrary to what one might think, the fans at Tuesday’s show were not teeny boppers. Most were middle-aged and senior women, along with a good amount of adult men.

Aiken’s concert was all about music of the Christmas season. He sang strictly holiday songs, and opted for spiritual ballads and more mellow classics such as “Silent Night,” Mel Torme‘s “The Christmas Song” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”

A full orchestra accompanied Aiken, including several violins and a harp. For several songs, he was joined by three back-up singers, as well as several dozen white-robed members of Cleveland’s All City Elementary and High School Choir.

Most moving was Aiken’s interpretation of “Oh Holy Night. ” In famous Clay-style, the singer frequently hit and held the high notes, at one time for what seemed like a full 10 seconds.

For the first half of the show, Aiken wore gray dress slacks and a comfy wine-colored sweater, but spruced things up after the intermission with a long-coated black suit and red silk tie.

Between songs, Aiken comfortably talked and joked with the audience about a variety of topics, including Christmas shopping, his own family traditions and his doting “Claymates.”

Inge Morse, a 40-something substitute teacher from Canton, has been a huge fan since watching Aiken transform from a sweet geek to a sweet star during the American Idol show. To her, Aiken’s classy, clean singing style reminds her of another personal favorite — Barry Manilow.

“He’s genuine and humble,” Morse said from her coveted seat in the 11th row. “It’s not all this sex and lights and pyrotechnics. It’s about the music.”

CANTON REPOSITORY (registration required)
Post by: Marilyn on September 06, 2010, 02:23:43 AM
Assistant Webmaster
« Reply #10 on: December 24, 2004, 02:21:52 AM » 


Clay Aiken keeps his 'Idol' fans happy
John Young - freelance music critic
Pittsburgh Post Gazette

"American Idol" demands that contestants demonstrate vocal prowess in a variety of genres. The talent contest's top performers have ultimately proven, though, that it's far more important to develop a distinct voice.

Performing his Christmas show at Heinz Hall last night, "Idol's" second season runner-up Clay Aiken showed that he's well on his way to establishing his own singing style. And his mostly female fans, dubbed "Claymates" by the singer, are vocal about how much they love him.

Aiken sang most powerfully during the second of his two sets. Exploring the Christmas story through traditional carols, Aiken put churchy ferver into "O Holy Night", "Hark the Herald Angels Sing", "O Come All Ye Faithful" and "The First Noel." While never flashy vocally, the former teacher and choirboy invested the songs with meaning through clear, mellifluous readings.

The opening set found the young crooner on slightly shakier ground. Always competent musically, Aiken still sounded tepid and less distinctive on well-worn pop holiday fare like "Sleigh Ride", "The Christmas Song," "Winter Wonderland" and "Silver Bells."

He seemed to be at a bit of a loss for a visual center to his show, too. After his grand opening featuring his band, two choirs, and members of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Aiken mostly wandered the stage and gestured earnestly with his long hands.

Aiken made up for it by connecting with people in the crowd. His folksy
between-song patter was winning, particularly when joking self-effacingly that his "Merry Christmas With Love" CD is "what every husband wants" for a gift this season. He also scored points by venturing into the Heinz Hall aisles to select two dance partners for a brief box step during "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve."

Considering that he's well on his way to becoming a more singular entertainer, Aiken can be forgiven for not fully comanding a stage or singing every song with distinction. Only a Scrooge, or "Idol" judge Simon Cowell, could have failed to be warmed by the good cheer and glad tidings of Aiken's Christmas show.

No link yet.  Transcribed from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.
Post by: Marilyn on September 06, 2010, 02:25:38 AM
Assistant Webmaster

« Reply #11 on: December 31, 2004, 10:02:23 AM » 


Live Review: Clay Aiken in Phoenix

by Christina Fuoco
liveDaily Contributor

Published: December 30, 2004 03:48 PM
In a November interview, Clay Aiken (bio | CDs - DVDs - books) made it clear that his "Joyful Noise" Christmas tour was going to be a "classy" affair. He asked his fan-base, known in those circles as "Claymates," not to scream, hold signs or dress shabbily.

He mostly got his wish as he performed Wednesday (12/29) at Phoenix's Dodge Theatre, a make-up show for one that he postponed in November due to illness. Fans wearing formal attire such as evening gowns and sequined jackets mingled with those donning more casual outfits like running pants and sweatshirts. Except for a few scattered offenders, fans were respectful of Aiken's wish to eschew signs and screaming.
In return for their compliance, Aiken at one point told the crowd, "I'll try not to burp, or scratch myself. I'll try not to spit on any of you in the front rows anymore."

The show kicked off with a young child coming to the front of the stage to sing "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing." Aiken then slid out from behind a sheer white curtain, after which a series of other curtains opened to reveal a band, an orchestra and a choir.

One choir of casually dressed teens sang from the back of the stage, while children wearing black pants and white shirts took to the front of the stage. Aiken strolled among the latter group as he sang.

Aiken's performance was solely filled with holiday music. Although Christmas had passed, he was determined to continue the feeling. He encouraged fans to cuddle up with the person next to them to share the warmth of the season.

"If you came with six or seven 'Claymates,' that's your call," he said with a laugh.
Fans wrapped their arms around each other as he took a seat and sang "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."
"Sleighride" was an especially perky number, with Aiken snapping his fingers a la Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin. He waved his arms like a music conductor as the orchestral music came to an end.

When Aiken sauntered into the audience at one point to sing a song to a woman--on bended knee, no less--it seemed to give the crowd license to let loose. Ditto when he slow danced with a back-up singer as they duetted on "Winter Wonderland."

Aiken made many attempts to push his album "Merry Christmas with Love" and his NBC-TV special, now on DVD, "A Clay Aiken Christmas." When he asked the crowd if anyone had watched his TV special, the vast majority applauded.

"Anybody watch 'Lost' instead? Yes sir, that usher's coming to get you. He's going to escort you right out of here," Aiken said, laughing.

During the two-hour show, with a 20-minute intermission, Aiken incorporated more performances by children. The kids who served as choir members during the show's first half read the story of Mary and Joseph during the second half. When one read about the birth of Jesus, some audience members quietly said, "Yes!" as if they were attending a tempered revival.

It is clear that Christmas music is perfectly suited for the "American Idol" sect. The soaring notes, vocal gymnastics and overdone solos that go over so well on the Fox-TV talent show go hand-in-hand with holiday music. In that regard, Aiken did not disappoint his core fans.

Post by: Marilyn on September 06, 2010, 02:31:19 AM
Assistant Webmaster
« Reply #12 on: January 08, 2005, 12:12:45 PM » 


Joyful Noise--The Beginning (Costa Mesa, CA) and The Beginning of The End (Pasadena, CA)--A Clay Aiken Christmas Tour

by Diane Austin
First of all, I must comment that it was fitting and oh-so-satisfying to have Clay Aiken's Christmas tour begin and end in California. Granted, he and his team may not have originally planned it that way, but because of illness and bruised vocal chords, the first three scheduled concerts were postponed until the end of the tour.

So, the fourth became the first (in Costa Mesa, CA) and the first became one of the last, which took place last week in Pasadena, CA.

Why is it fitting and satisfying? Because I had the opportunity to see both and it was satisfying to watch a performer grow and develop with a show, knowing that he is not only instrumental in his own growth as a vocalist, but also in the production and orchestration of the entire event.Now that he has been?able to add the title 'Executive Producer' to his entertainment resume (A Clay Aiken Christmas, NBC), it?s certain that he is becoming more involved with the staging and production of his live concerts as well. Much satisfaction can be gleaned from seeing the evolution take place from beginning to end, which comes, I'm sure, not only to the spectator, but?to the people who produce it as well.

And fitting. Why? Well, perhaps it?s because I still have a slight chip on my shoulder that isn't healing well due to Clay Aiken's last tour wherein no venues in the vast state of California were scheduled.?That's right--not a one. Therefore, whether it was planned that way or not, it still has something to do with a kind of sweet destiny that this tour should begin and end in?the?great state of California, don't you think?

It was exciting to attend the first concert of the Christmas tour right after Thanksgiving at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa. I couldn?t think of a better way to kick off the Christmas season than to hear Clay singing the songs we love most. Besides that, the venue is particularly beautiful because of its unusual interior design, modern architecture and yuletide decorations.

The crowd looked festive as they streamed in dressed in their holiday best, and this set the tone for a very classy evening. I got there later than expected, so there was no time to mingle in the lobby beforehand. After I took my seat I noticed there was a little time to spare. After meeting and talking with friends behind me I saw Ms. Parker there just a few rows ahead waiting to see her son perform on this premiere night of the JNT. It made sense, since she had traveled from Raleigh to spend Thanksgiving with Clay, accompanied by her younger son Brett, who had been on leave from his own ?tour? at the time. Faye was glowing that night and looked the picture of happiness sitting beside Brett. I had the pleasure of speaking with her before the concert and she told me about their Thanksgiving. Must have been 'fun' cooking for thirty, but if anyone could handle it, I?m sure it would be this little lady?the southern belle from Raleigh, NC.

Although the achingly beautiful voice was there, Clay showed a bit of strain in a couple of spots during the first half of the show. It was apparent that the effects of the illness had not disappeared completely. He also showed a little hesitation with the verbal part of his program, and it was not evident if this was due to it being first time jitters, or perhaps that he was not quite at the top of his game due to recovering from the ?bug?. But that aside, it didn?t interfere much with our enjoyment of his performance because despite just a few inconsistencies, he pulled it off in his inimitable way.

Being the perfectionist he is, it seemed that Clay wanted to make up for the aforementioned discrepancies that came up during the early part of the show. The second half contained the more difficult, serious and intense songs, and this is where Clay took off and blew his audience away.

We were mesmerized with ?Oh Holy Night?, ?Mary Did You Know?? and ?Don?t? Save it All For Christmas Day?. Clay didn?t miss a beat or a note, and he poured himself into his vocals for the entire set. I know I?m not the first to notice that something happens to Clay when he sings a religious song. There?s a kind of reverie that goes on which enraptures those who are watching. He seems to separate from the audience and engage elsewhere for the time he?s singing. Usually, this kind of separation would lose an audience for any other performer, but with Aiken, it's kind of strange--as he goes somewhere else, he pulls us in even more. It?s an other-worldly experience that he allows us to be witness to.

The use of the local choirs and young children reading passages from the bible brought us back down to our earthly parameters however, and it was the right touch for an Aiken family Christmas concert. Clay always stresses his desire to employ and support 'every' kid--from all ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, and that rang true when we got to watch the children on stage perform with him. It was also perfect since Christmas is about kids--who else could bring out more joy with the season?

I actually would have liked to see him engage more with the kids. Clay's gift in that area has not yet been tapped into when it comes to his performances. Why not have him combine his ability to talk, teach and elicit, even off the cuff, in one of his shows? I expected to see him sit in a big, comfy chair with kids all around on pillows, listening to a story/song he tells and sings while they join in. Hope he takes that idea and runs with it for the next Christmas tour.

Sadly, I was really taken by surprise by the encore of the evening, 'Good News'. I didn't like it at all. It seemed overly staged (or perhaps just the opposite, I couldn't tell which) stilted and uninspired. Of course, I had no familiarity with the song, and perhaps that had something to do with it. But it just seemed to be tacked on at the end, when what we really needed was a rousing rendition of something that would leave the audience with an exhilarated but satisfied feeling. I was a bit disappointed. But read on, because as it turns out, there's good news about 'Good News' for Pasadena.

Long before we ever made it to the encore in Pasadena, however, there was the rush into the Civic Auditorium in a downpour of rain. I'm here to tell you, it was raining cats and dogs that night. We had just enjoyed a wonderful dinner at PF Changs, and then had to high-tail it across the street to the concert venue. I had left my umbrella in the car (what was I thinking?) and had to share one on either side of me with friends, inching our way across the flooded boulevard. Needless to say, I got soaked from head to toe anyway. As we strode in to one side of the theater, with wind, rain and disgruntled women in tow, Jerome, Clay's bodyguard, was there to welcome us and make us feel safe and warm (if not to giggle a little to himself at the state of our presentation). Aside from how we knew we looked, it was nice to be greeted with a smile from the large, charming man.

We primped in the lounge, mingled, and went to find our seats. The star's voice was heard well before we ever saw the lanky body or spikey head. Then he appeared, and proceeded to take us on a Clay Aiken sleigh ride we won't soon forget.

The first act was memorable. Clay was in great voice--no strains, cracks or breaks, and with beautiful form. He was relaxed, remembering the right lines but sometimes winging it and making that work, moving fluidly--waltzing, bouncing, striding with hand in pocket, and a lovely surprise--an adorable little tap dance at the end of (wouldn't you know it?) 'Sleigh Ride'.

He was bursting at the seams, wanting to break out of the Christmas format and rip it up, I?m thinking--and the audience was egging him on. By the end of this act, which was marking a proximity to the end of this tour, it is my belief that Clay was done with Christmas (after all, it WAS December 28th, for gosh sakes) and this young man seemed ready to move on.

But that didn?t affect his ability to continue to sell the message he was there to bring--the message of Christmas. He soared in the second act with ?Mary Did You Know??, ?Oh Holy Night? and ?Merry Christmas With Love?. His delivery of the most traditional carol of all--?Silent Night? was the sweetest rendition one could ever hope to hear. We were yelling, standing and applauding every step of the way and our hearts and souls were full by the end of ?Don?t Save It All?. If it had ended with that, we could have gone home quite spent.

But it didn?t end with that, because there was ?Good News?.

And it was just that sort of news the encore turned out to be this time. What happened? I'm not quite sure, but it was world?s apart from the first one. This time he delivered it and he had something to say. It was full of soul, hope and prophetic expression. The staging hadn't changed much--he just stood still at stage right and sang. The spotlight came on and off each time he sang the title words. The difference this time might have been his hand and arm movements--he seemed to be ministering to us. His face was full of expression. At the end of the song his head tilted back , and his eyes looked up to heaven. Although he wore an austere black suit, he still reminded me of the little drummer boy because the tips of his ears peeked through his hair. Clay stood there and looked like a waif at the side of the manger on that strange, beautiful and holy night--a messenger of God proclaiming that man now had something to be truly joyful about.

And we were.

Then the spotlight went out, but there was a light that would not be extinguished. The Joyful Noise Tour may have been drawing to a close, but there was a feeling that would linger.

Aiken had done it again.

Dianne Austin is a free lance entertainment writer.