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'Glee' tour a love letter to fans who never stopped believin'

May 21, 2010 | 10:29 pm

Anyone uncertain about the pop culture phenomenon status of Fox’s hit “Glee” should just take a trip to see the kids perform live.

Well, that is of course if you were lucky enough to snatch up tickets to the four-city engagement that sold out quicker than you could say Sue Sylvester.

4Before Thursday’s live show -- the first of four at Gibson Amphitheatre -- began, pandemonium ensued in the audience. Inside the packed theater, Jesse St. James (excuse me, Jonathan Groff), Rachel’s dreamy yet suspicious love interest, was spotted amongst the fans who tune in each week.

The piercing screams of “Jesse” from a mix of prepubescent and teenage girls, and some very grown men seated behind me, filled the air and only grew when the lights dimmed for the big show.

As the opening, “Dah, dah, dah,” melodies of “Don’t Stop Believin’” rung out in the arena from the kids of New Directions, the crowd was in a virtual Gleek coma. Looking at the captivated audience, who collectively had a set of lungs that never died down, cemented the power, and magic, of this show. It was literally a year ago, almost to the day, that the pilot episode premiered with that now legendary closing scene of the rag-tag team of high schoolers taking on Journey’s college and karaoke anthem. The rest has literally been history.

As the title of the song instructs, Gleeks have never stopped believing in the show, turning virtually everything it touches into gold. They snatch up the soundtracks (the first season alone will have yielded five), the DVDs, T-shirts and any other merchandise the show cooks up. No surprise that tickets for the show went hotter than a day in July. As a fan and critic of the series, there was an undeniable euphoric feeling of watching these kids who for so long had been a staple of my television schedule stand there live on stage and belt out the song that really started it all.

A year, a handful of high-profile guest stars, dozens of magazine covers, an appearance on "Oprah," a gig at the White House and an all-Madonna episode later, the kids are undeniable superstars. But the brilliance of the live show that creator Ryan Murphy pulled together for the fans is unlike "American Idol's" annual live tour, which gives the stars a chance to break free from the themed weeks and do other music. The stars are presented in character, and remain that way for the entire show.

Apologies to fans of Lea Michelle (Rachel) who hoped to hear her belt out tracks from “Spring Awakening,” or fans of Kevin McHale (Artie) who thought he'd rise from his character's wheelchair to take on last week's incredible "Safety Dance" routine. The show wasn’t about the actors behind the characters one bit. And it worked.

The concert was a 70-minute love letter to its fans. The stars not only provided nonstop hits from the vast catalog of songs from the first season, they turned the Gibson into a giant choir room and gave the audience the home experience of the television show -- on steroids.

The set was a virtual re-telling of highlights from Season One: Rachel’s show-stopping sectionals performance of “Don’t Rain on My Parade” featured the same diva entrance through the audience, though unlike in the episode, this audience was there to bask in her glory. The same goes for an early episode that featured Mercedes launching into "Bust Your Windows," though she didn’t actually bust the windows of the black SUV that appeared on stage. She still was backed by a bevy of scantily-clad Cheerios who dropped it like it was hot on top of the car while Mercedes rocked the same cut-up red leather jacket she pulled off in the memorable TV number.

Everything from the bump and grind of "Push It" to the mattress hopping of “Jump” (yes there were mattresses and PJ's) translated from screen to stage.

Though if you’re not a fan -- or even remotely familiar -- with the show, the genre- bending set list may have confused you. The highlight of the evening, as expected, was seeing the kids' highly anticipated take on Lady Gaga’s hit, “Bad Romance,” which will be featured on next Tuesday’s episode. The costumes alone were enough to send camera phones up in the air. But be warned, those hoping to see a set heavy on the much-lauded Madonna episode will be sorely disappointed; the kids settle for one track.

5While the show was completely about the kids of New Directions, the audience ate up the rousing mini-set from the other stiff competition in Ohio that is Vocal Adrenaline and shrieked each time Sue and Will appeared in the pre-taped segments that narrated the show.

The show is a true thank you to the fans who have stuck by the show and made it the mega-hit that it is today.

Here are my top five personal highlights from the show:

Santana can really sing. Admittedly, I had some doubts that was really her during “The Boy Is Mine,” but oh sweet Lady Gaga, can Naya Rivera sing. Rivera blew me away multiple times in the evening. Not only did she fare well alongside Mercedes' incredible vocals during the now classic (at least in my opinion) diva showoff of the Brandy and Monica duet, her vocal chops were showcased during “The Lady is a Tramp” and “Bad Romance.” As for her Gaga-inspired costume? Yowza!!!

No one moves like Brittany. Our favorite dim-witted Cheerio (played by Heather Morris) not only made her sexy-yet-challenged personality the star of Thursday’s show, her dancing made her my focus every time she was on stage. Recently a fan sent me a pre-“Glee” performance of Morris alongside Beyonce and just wow, wow, wow. The girl can move! Also her on-stage banter is too die for. “The people moving the stuff are called stagehands. ... I’ve made out with every single one of them.” Classic.

Seeing Kurt live is nothing short of heavenly. We all know Chris Colfer can sing, like really, really sing. No doubt about it at all. But the second the spotlight centered on him for "Defying Gravity," I think I heard the audience collectively die.

8 Puck in person will melt your heart. Need I really say more? Though Puck’s Mark Salling and Finn’s Cory Monteith didn’t get as much shine as they should have during the show, I felt when Salling took the stage (and audience) for his takes on “Sweet Caroline” and “The Lady Is a Tramp,” he showed how he’s easily able to wheel in the, err, cougar crowd. I spotted one older gal with her claws out in the front row, full in heat, using the banister of the front of the stage to prop herself up as she swung her hair around and screamed for Puck while he came through the audience with his guitar. Yikes, easy goes it cougar!

Rachel and Mercedes are true divas in waiting. As the saying goes, the girls “showed up and showed out!” Each time they took the microphone, it was perfection. But unlike other show-stopping divas, they never overshadowed one another -- or anyone else for that matter. As the undeniable voices of the hit show, they shined as equally solo as with the group numbers. I would so love for the two to release albums while the show is on hiatus. Hint, hint.

"Glee Live! In Concert!" will play at the Gibson through Saturday, though I'm hopeful the concert will make it to DVD. You can read Mikael Wood's take on the show here.

-- Gerrick D. Kennedy

Photo credits: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times


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