How do you follow up the smashing success of NBC's The Voice? With an equally fantastic concert tour that proves the show's talented artists are here to stay.
Almost exactly a month after the finale, the top eight contestants - winner Javier Colon, finalists Dia Frampton, Vicci Martinez, and Beverly McClellan, and semifinalists Casey Weston, Xenia, Nakia and Frenchie Davis - have joined together for a six-city tour that opened last night at the Gibson Ampitheatre in Los Angeles. Make no mistake about it, this is not a quick attempt to cash in on the show's popularity, nor is it recycling what you've been watching on TV. The Voice Live on Tour stands on its own as an entertaining night that's the most fun I've had at a concert in a long time.
It's not surprising that the set list is composed near entirely of songs that you'll recognize from the show. It's a good selection of them, though, spanning from ones that the artists sung in their blind auditions (Xenia sings The Script's "Breakeven" and Vicci performs a roaring version of Adele's "Rolling In The Deep") to those from the final performance show (Dia's beautiful "Inventing Shadows" and Javier's soulful "Stitch by Stitch," for example). It's clear that the people behind the tour know the audience wants to hear the hits, and they deliver.
Yet you're not just seeing the same thing on a different day. At Wednesday night's show, Javier's last song was selected by the audience via text message, treating us to a performance of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" that had the crowd enraptured. Also, in the absence of Christina Aguilera, Beverly chose Nakia as her duet partner for "Beautiful," which gave the song a fresh sound. Fans were also treated to a surprise appearance by coach Blake Shelton, who joined Dia for their version of Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down." Presumably, that was because he's in the area; Shelton has his own concert at the OC Fair on July 29.
As talented as the top eight are, though, what shines through in The Voice Live on Tour is the love - that which they have for their music and for one another. Here are artists refreshingly devoid of ego, who all took the time Wednesday to profusely thank the fans for their votes and support. They made the crowd feel like part of the group. As a fan, I have to admit that I was chuffed when Vicci pointed me out, having caught me singing along with her. Beverly threw a set of drumsticks, and later her sunglasses, into the audience. Frenchie appeared nearly moved to tears as she was given prolonged applause for both of her performances. Javier dedicated his version of Coldplay's "Fix You" to the room, admitting that he still feels as if he's living someone else's life and that person is going to want it back.
The stars also functioned as a team, not just as eight solo artists sharing the stage. There was the requisite group number, but they also pitched in to help one another throughout the show. Nakia and Beverly's duet was a pleasant surprise. Beverly and Vicci performed percussion for Casey's rendition of "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree." And the entire group lent their backup vocals to Frenchie's jaw-droppingly amazing version of "Like A Prayer," which outdid the Madonna original in this reviewer's opinion. It's just another example of how genuine all these people truly are.
If there's one flaw with The Voice Live on Tour, it's that the concert doesn't need a host. In the absence of Carson Daly, the show's audience warm-up man has been tasked with emceeing the evening. I didn't find him interesting during the live shows, and I still didn't last night. Not only was he not funny, he mixed up his facts (saying that Casey Weston had performed "Leather and Lace" during the live shows, when that duet occurred during the battle rounds). That would all be forgiveable if he wasn't also interrupting the show repeatedly to introduce the next artist or segment. The stops served only to take the audience out of the flow of a perfectly fantastic concert. The artists showed they were capable of introducing each other at points during the set, and the night would be better off if they did just that from here on out.
They've put together a wonderful evening. No matter who your favorite was, you'll be leaving The Voice Live on Tour with a smile on your face and a song stuck in your head. It's everything that a great concert should be: without pretenses or flashy effects, but with sincerity and real passion. Like the show, it's got such a good heart that it's impossible not to love.
With a show this great, the only real shame is that there are only five of them left. The Voice Live on Tour next stops in Las Vegas on July 30, before coming to Chicago, Boston, Wallingford, and New York. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit NBC's official site.