We made it to the big league, which was made evident by the anonymous announcer that introduced the judges and Ryan. "Pleased to meet you; Hope you guess my name." The stage backdrop parted and the judges walked out, which is always a good way for me to check out their outfits from head to toe. Ellen is wearing a hybrid of an ascot, tie, and scarf. What would that be, an astarf? Simon Cowell must have borrowed his v-neck cardigan from his fellow male judge. The big stage also means that Ryan gets to tempt fate as he descends from the staircase from nowhere. No accidents tonight, nice job Ry!
The set holds a big audience, there are lights and cameras at every angle, and there's a bigger catwalk and judges' table. Now maybe Kara and Simon won't have to sit so close to one another. Then the Top 12 emerged from behind the stage doors and they all look like stars tonight!
Stick out your tongue; it's time for music from The Rolling Stones! Did you know that The Stones started as a Blues and R&B cover band? After watching The Rolling Stones introduction, I'm ready for a Stones trivia night. Bring it!
Michael Lynche was going to be a pro football player, which is one way to put those muscles to use. But after his mother got sick and died, he turned to music, which became his savior. Now he's enjoying life with his wife and baby girl. Big Mike sang "Miss You" and gave it an R&B vibe. He busted out some moves I've never seen before. Michael makes the stage seem a little less big, but not just because he's "Big Mike," it's because he's not afraid to move around. The judges could tell that Mike's confidence is up and that he's a performer, and Ellen said he's yet to disappoint her.
Didi Benami's mom is not in the audience because she gets too nervous and she doesn't like to hear her get judged. As "Mommy Benami" watched from Didi's L.A. apartment, the middle child sang "Play With Fire." She slowed the song down and made it dramatic. Didi stepped out of her chipper comfort zone this week and sang this song with an angsty look on her face. I knew Kara would love that Didi interpreted the song's tone, and indeedy Kara appreciated Didi's intensity. Ellen brought up that Didi made the word "fire" have two syllables, but I always thought the word had two syllables (fy-er). Thoughts?
Casey James is from Cool, Texas and that is awesome. His emotional mom talked about what a good kid Casey is as she wears a "Casey James" shirt. Casey's entire family plays instruments and sings, and for The Rolling Stones night, Casey brought his electric blue colored electric guitar and jammed to "It's All Over Now." He strummed the guitar without holding down any notes or chords at the start of the song. Casey gave the song a Southern rock vibe and Randy, Ellen, and Kara loved it. Simon thought it came across as an audition performance because he didn't use the stage. Simon encouraged him to be a star.
Lacey Brown was a shy girl who didn't start to sing until she was a teen. Her supportive parents said, "If you remain shy, you'll miss your destiny." Lacey didn't miss her destiny, as this week she stepped on to a stage and sang "Ruby Tuesday." She was accompanied by a string quartet and slowly worked her way around the stage. Randy thought she gave the most interesting performance of the night so far, but Simon thought she's almost too calculated and precise. Ellen noticed that Lacey likes to sit on the edge of things (like the stairs and stage), so she encouraged Lacey to stay away from the Grand Canyon.
Andrew Garcia's dad is a musician and singer, but said he never put it upon Andrew, who discovered it himself. Playing the guitar felt right, and he never looked back. However, this week Andrew didn't pick up the guitar, but he picked up the microphone stand to sing "Gimme Shelter." This seems to be the most challenging song he has performed. Randy thought it was pitchy, but Ellen thought it was Andrew's best performance yet. As a songwriter, Kara wanted to see Andrew connect with the song's meaning, and Simon joked that he should bring a tank out on stage. Andrew continued to be a good sport as he took in their comments.
We got to see a video of an 8 year old Katie Stevens singing, and she said she wished her mom told her to stay on pitch. The judges have been telling Katie that she needs to pick more age appropriate songs, but that's hard to do during The Rolling Stones week. Katie took on "Wild Horses" as she sat beneath a spotlight on a stool. She looks beautiful tonight in a flowy floral dress and long wavy hair. Despite being required to pick an old song, the judges thought this was Katie's wisest song choice yet, and Simon thought this was the first time she connected with the song.
Tim Urban is one of 10 kids - 5 boys, 5 girls - and one shower! That sounds brutal. Plus, all the kids are sweaty because they have a passion for playing football. Like Mike, Tim believed he'd grow up to be a football player, and he never imagined he'd be a musician, but he's loving this experience and that he's more than just an Urban kid. His siblings alone can cast enough votes to keep him in the competition. Tim gave a new take on "Under My Thumb," which had a reggae feel to it. Randy and Ellen weren't feeling the performance, but Kara and Simon applauded him for doing something different, whether or not it worked out.
Siobhan Magnus grew up in a huge artsy/musical family. She and her dad play piano to let out steam. Last week, Siobhan said her dad is the best singer she knows, but this week her dad said that Siobhan amazes him with her singing. Siobhan performed "Paint It Black" and had a dramatic entrance on the mechanical stairs, which is risky for the first live show with stairs in about 10 months. She looks great, although I'm not fond of pairing a nice dress with combat boots, and she hit some wild notes at the end of the song. Ellen said Siobhan "rose above the sea of people like Snooki's pouf." Randy and Kara thought it was the best interpretation of the night, and Simon said it was the standout performance, which means that people will either love it or hate it. That reminds me of Adam Lambert's "Ring Of Fire."
Six months ago, Lee DeWyze was living paycheck to paycheck while working at a paint store. Ryan quizzed him on bizarre color names, and then we learned from Lee's parents that he was embarrassed to sing in front of them and wouldn't let anyone watch. Times have changed! Ryan said that Lee was nervous as he introduced him, and I wonder why he said that. Maybe those were Lee's parting words to Ryan before he picked up his guitar and jammed to "Beast Of Burden." Lee put his own alt rock spin on the song and the judges commended him on his tremendous growth and good voice, but Simon mentioned that now he needs to have a moment and put his mark on the competition.
Paige Miles grew up singing in church and gives her mom goose bumps. Footage of Paige singing in a Christmas play was shown, but it looked like some kind of Goth Christmas show. Paige looked beautiful and sang "Honky Tonk Women," but Paige is to jumpsuits as Danny Gokey is to glasses; it's becoming her trademark! Randy and Simon had no idea that Paige was battling laryngitis. They should follow @AI9Contestants on Twitter for this info! Considering her voice issues, Paige worked it out and hit all the notes. Kara said the Paige the judges fell in love with is back.
Aaron Kelly is from Sonestown, PA where there are about 50 houses and one stoplight. As someone who was born and raised in L.A. and sits in hours of traffic each day, I cannot fathom that. After seeing pictures of a little Aaron in giant cowboy hats, he sang "Angie." He started on the steps under a spotlight on his over-gelled hair. Randy loved the tender moments in Aaron's voice, and Ellen joked that Aaron is trying to do his hair like hers. Kara and Simon also liked Aaron's performance, and Simon thought it was one of his strongest showings.
Closing out the night was Crystal Bowersox, who is from a rural town in Ohio. Her supportive father would drive her from gig to gig and helped her set up. She's been writing songs since she was 10! If I wrote songs when I was 10 they'd be about soccer and butterflies. Truly moving material. Crystal sang a classic Stones song, "You Can't Always Get What You Want," and came walking out from behind those electronic doors (I assume they're electronic. For all I know there could be a dozen workers heaving that thing apart). The judges took note of her ease and comfort on stage, but Simon wants her to pick a song that has more of what she needs. Simon, "You can't always get what you want." But I guess if Crystal tries she "just might find [she'll] get what you need."
Tomorrow night, half of Ryan's radio station playlist performs: Ke$ha with 3OH!3, Orianthi, and American Idol David Cook.