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Aiken sticks with stale 'Idol' formula

If you were a newly autonomous artist, released from the contract foisted upon you by ''American Idol" and one of the few unqualified successes to come out of the Fox phenomenon, would you stage your summer tour as though it were an amusement park rock 'n' roll revue? Clay Aiken did, and his Jukebox Tour, which hit the Bank of America Pavilion on Sunday, showed all the imagination, professionalism, and depth of the cheesy group numbers performed on the show from which he's supposedly trying to distance himself.

The evening's tone was set at the start, as a jukebox played Starship's ''We Built This City," recently named the worst song ever by music magazine Blender. As the record started to skip, Aiken came out dressed as the Fonz and hit the jukebox, at which point a backdrop reading ''The '50s" unfurled and the band started up. Medley after medley followed, as Aiken (with substantial help from backup singers Quiana Parler, Angela Fisher, and Jacob Luttrell) sang the most recognizable parts of hits from the past six decades. Some strange moments resulted, as when Aiken sang in front of a backdrop reading ''ELVIS" in huge letters, prompting the question of who exactly the crowd was supposed to be applauding.

The Claymates had no doubt, screaming their devotion. One couple carried a sign informing the singer and the world that this was their 100th Aiken concert. Aiken acknowledged them and many others from the stage, showing an ease with audience interaction and stage patter, even when it was simplistic and moon-eyed commentary like, ''The music of the 1960s paints a portrait of lightheartedness and fun."

Aiken occasionally broke from the medley format to perform an entire song from start to finish, though ''Mandy," ''Solitaire," and a surprisingly pretty version of Christopher Cross's ''Sailing" were truer to his middle-of-the-road pop stylings than ''When Doves Cry." By the time he closed with six of his own songs -- and the Claymates responded as though ''Invisible" wasn't actually a creepy stalker anthem -- Aiken was left to sink or swim on his own merits. The rest of the show suggested that you can take the boy out of ''American Idol," but you can't take ''American Idol" out of the boy.

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