'American Idol' finale: Nokia becomes the House of Phillip
But it was clear almost from the start that inside L.A. Live's Nokia Theatre it was the House of Phillip.
The first glimpse of the eventual winner, Phillip Phillips, brought an explosion of piercing screams that filled the massive venue -- one that easily surpassed the reception for Sanchez. And while Phillips was given a marquee spot at the top of the show for his duet with John Fogerty, his 16-year-old rival was missing for almost the entire first hour.
Through most of the show, the atmosphere was less than electric, falling far short of the tension and excitement that marked previous "Idol" finales. The end seemed to be a foregone conclusion.
Still, Sanchez fans made their presence known throughout the night, holding up signs saying "Dream On, Jessica" and "We Love You, J!" A sizable Filipino contingent was in the audience as a tribute to Sanchez's Filipino heritage -- her mother was born in the Philippines, and the show was carried live in that country.
Sanchez' solo rendition of "I Will Always Love You" demonstrated her power and potential; it was the one performance without frills, effects or bombast, and the audience gave her a rousing ovation.
But it was the guest performances that were the biggest hits of the evening -- with Aerosmith and Rihanna drawing the loudest response.
When it came time to crown the winner, there was a brief whiff of suspense, as if Sanchez might pull off an upset. But it was not to be. A roar greeted the announcement that Phillips had won, but not everybody was excited by America's choice.
"I'm not disappointed -- both are good," Olive Reyes, a medical assistant, said as she exited the theater. "But I voted for Jessica. She's still too young, she's going to have to grow up. But there's no doubt that these two were the best."
-- Greg Braxton
Photo: Jessica Sanchez and Phillip Phillips perform during the "American Idol" finale. Credit: Mark Davis / Getty Images