The auditions reached the Alamodome in San Antonio on Wednesday evening (Jan. 30) and all the judges seemed to be minding their manners, Charlotte a distant scream-filled memory. (In real time, the "American Idol" judges had a five-week break after the auditions in Charlotte and Baton Rouge in early October.) And the home of Davey Crockett and Sam Bowie's last stand did not disappoint. In fact, before it was over, the state that produced finalists Kelly Clarkson, David Cook, Alex Lambert, Tim Urban, Casey Abrams, Casey James, and Liverpool (England) transplant Hollie Cavanagh served up several country singers, a couple of worship leaders, and Adam Lambert's twin brother from another mother.
One of those getting a gold ticket was returnee Vincent Powell, who made it to the end of Hollywood Week last season. When Judge Randy Jackson asked what he thought might have gone wrong, Vincent told him that he had become unnerved by Randy himself who, during his final performance, had taken an excessively long pull on his drink, causing Vincent a bit of self-doubt. Randy jokingly complained that it wasn't true (but footage -- edited? out of context? -- showed him taking a drink with Vincent standing there). Vincent then performed B. B. King's "Rock Me Baby" with Randy warning him he was going to take an hour-long drink. Didn't matter; Vincent's vocals were golden.
Husky-voiced Savannah Votion stepped up to the audition stage and not only revealed her midriff but that she was a young mother. Her version of Etta James' "At Last" rocked the judges panel and got her a resounding round of yeses from the group.
Another mother (of three) and a local church worship leader, Cristabel Clack, then delivered her rendition of Alicia Keys' "If I Ain't Got You," prompting the judges to also bestow a unanimous decision in favor of her getting a free trip to Hollywood.
Viewers got to see yet another of the "surprise" or "secret" audition choices, a former Miss University of Arkansas. Judge Randy stepped out onto the Razorbacks football field and announced to the crowd that Ann Difani had been chosen to audition in San Antonio for the "Idol" judges panel. All smiles and clueless (missing a couple of obvious verbal cues from the judges, most notably Judge Keith Urban's reference to Faith Hill in her vocals), Ann nonetheless rendered a compelling version of Faith Hill's "Stronger" for the judges and got her ticket for the West Coast.
There was also the self-dubbed Papa Peachez, a deep-voiced power singer that insisted on doing his own thing. A little self-indulgent and self-promoting (but, then, a lot of lyrics reflect artists in just that way), the "super-quirky" guy impressed the judges, especially Nick Minaj. However, though impressive, he got a split vote from the panel. Since Judge Randy had the tie-breaker in San Antonio (how the tie-breakers were determined is as yet unknown), Judge Nicki implored him to let Papa Peachez through. Randy, who had voted against sending the young man through, relented and changed his vote.
Another of the better performances from San Antonio came from 16-year-old Sanni M’Mairura, a confident singer and dancer born to parents from Kenya and Tanzania. He is part of a dance/singing outreach group called The Noise, which is based in Houston, Texas. The young man noted in the run-up clip that he not only wanted to sing, dance, choreograph, and teach, he wanted to be a positive role model. He sang Michael Jackson's "Who's Loving You?" Judge Nicki, after describing his audition as "candy canes, whipped cream, rainbows," said that he had a "great well-orchestrated audition." Judge Randy said he was impressed that he performed Michael Jackson without trying to sound like Michael Jackson.
But the surprise of the "Idol" auditions in San Antonio came when overly emotional Adam Sanders got before the judges. Bearing a slight resemblance to Adam Lambert (if Lambert had a long-lost cousin that weighed a few pounds more than the "Whattaya Want From Me?" singer), he stepped before the judges and announced in a very high-pitched voice that he would be singing Etta James' "I'd Rather Go Blind," saying he wanted to keep that soulfulness, sort of like what Judge Mariah Carey had infused into her own music. Mariah thanked Adam for the compliment but noted that James was a bit before her time (a line that got a laugh from the panel). Adam quickly made amends for the seeming faux pas, said Mariah had captured James' soulfulness, for which Mariah thanked him. Then, in a mini-Susan Boyle moment, Adam Sanders simply dominated the audition room with a powerful vocal that had the judges admitting they hadn't expected to hear something that good come from the young man. It was also a vocal performance that many will undoubtedly compare to Adam Lambert, especially when the young man took on the high notes.
So the "American Idol" auditions in San Antonio ended on a high note, so to speak. Next stop: Long Beach, Calif., for the Los Angeles auditions.
"American Idol" airs on Fox Television on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8 p.m. (EST).
(photo credit: American Idol, Fremantle North America, Fox Television)