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Music Review

'Idols Live' feels too scripted

Blake Lewis performs during his segment of the 'American Idols Live' tour in Worcester. Blake Lewis performs during his segment of the "American Idols Live" tour in Worcester. (JIM COLLINS/WORCESTER TELEGRAM AND GAZETTE)

WORCESTER - There were no judges, no drawn-out Ryan Seacrest eliminations, and no zany car commercials, but somehow the "American Idols Live" tour at the DCU Center in Worcester Wednesday night managed to resemble a giant reproduction of the television show that spawned it.

Which meant that even with impressive highs, the two-hour performance plus 30-minute intermission felt like the world's most brightly lit, tightly choreographed karaoke showdown as opposed to a spontaneous concert experience.

Of course, no one comes to these tours looking for art. They come to sing along to songs they know sung by people they fell in love with in their living rooms. Traipsing across their tri-level stage in front of a workmanlike seven-piece band, the top 10 finalists - solo and in a variety of combinations - delivered all the fun, grinning energy you would expect, and occasionally a little something more.

Bubbly teen Jordin Sparks may have won the whole shebang but the decibel level shot up most often in the near-sellout crowd when runner-up Blake Lewis took the stage.

Lewis certainly pulled focus with his easy charm, intricate beatboxing, and live looping on a mash-up of "She Will Be Loved" and "With or Without You."

The women were especially strong, with powerhouses Melinda Doolittle, Lakisha Jones, and Sparks pairing up and soloing with fire and soul.

Sparks naturally got the headlining spot, and even though not every genre she tried - from Pat Benatar to Shirley Bassey - worked for her, the teenager is a major talent, nailing every note of big ballads like "I (Who Have Nothing)" and "A Broken Wing," displaying impressive control, phrasing, and a likable persona.

Doolittle tore up "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" and sashayed through "This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)" with Sparks. Jones hit "I Will Always Love You" over the fence. Designated "rocker" Gina Glocksen proved herself the most improved player out from under the Simon Cowell scowl on Pink's "Who Knew."

Unsurprisingly, Sanjaya Malakar - whose coif morphed from flat-ironed to loose curls to peeking out of a newsboy cap throughout the night - was more entertainer than singer. He slipped and slid his way through Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel." The rest of the boys - Phil Stacey, Chris Sligh, and Chris Richardson - held their own.

Many of the night's best moments were the quiet surprises: the lovely harmonies of Richardson and Sparks on Rascal Flatts's "What Hurts the Most," Sparks accompanying herself on Jewel's "You Were Meant For Me." It was during those times that the show felt fresh and not "as seen on TV."

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American Idols Live

At: DCU Center in Worcester,

Wednesday night