Friday’s opening of the State Fair was capped with an appearance from American Idol David Cook. This was, without question, one of the funnest musical moments I have witnessed at The Fair in years.
Why? RELEVANCE! Most bands that play The Fair are either blasts from the past or up and comers. Cook is NOW, baby. The vibe from the audience was amazing as Fairgoers had the rare privilege to see someone playing Cal Expo whom they are listening to, today. And, as icing on the cake, he and his band met expectations and rocked the house.
In case you need a history lesson on the most popular television show in the world, Cook won the seventh season in 2008, which was the first season that allowed singers to also play instruments. Because of this rule change, AI had their first winner who was clearly a musician. He took his weekly assignments (Sing Mariah Carrey! Sing Neil Diamond! Sing The Beatles! Sing Dolly Parton!) as challenges to turn old hit songs into performances that reflected his musical style, which is solidly post-grunge pop rock. He made songs his own, individual interpretations of classics for a new generation. This is why he won the competition and the interest of music fans young and old. His appeal was clear in watching the multi-generational crowd queue up hours before the show. One young woman traveled from Rio de Janeiro for the chance to see Cook and eat her weight in cotton candy.
As a side note, I was getting excited just hearing the warm-up music played before the show. Black Sabbath? The Cult? Stone Temple Pilots? AC/DC? Real rock and roll to warm up the crowd for an American Idol winner? And… the crowd was singing along and rocking out? COOL.
Once Cook and his band took the stage, the crowd went wild. I was next to a 50 year old man screaming to get him to turn around for a picture when Cook ventured to the side of the stage. Even older fans tamely clapped and danced along to his widely accessible, yet modern, rock music. And, of course, the screaming girls hurt my ears. A lot.
Cook’s setlist was mostly songs from his self-titled debut album, but included a old song that will be on his next album (We’re Only Honest When We’re Sleeping), and covers (Fleetwood Mac’s “Little Lies”, Cutting Crew’s “Died in your Arms”). The performance was straightforward versions of his hits, which stood up without embellishment. The music is non-threatening, slightly edgy, and a suitable vehicle to deliver Cook’s obvious vocal talent and hook-friendly songwriting.
What lesson do I hope The Fair learned from Cook’s appearance? Invest in musicians with a solid fan base. Cook was an obvious and easy pick to guarantee an audience, which is what the Fair needs in this rough economy. Several hours before the show, I saw women of all ages wearing David Cook shirts and spending money and time at The Fair. Fair staff will be lucky if upcoming shows have the same impact on their bottom line.
Monday – Tonic: One hit wonders who play mellow love songs.
Tuesday – Salvador: Christian multi-cultural band that alternated between Latin flavored jams and stereotypical mellow love songs about Jesus.
Wednesday – Hullabaloo Music Festival featuring Jay and the Americans, Cannibal and the Headhunters, Merrilee Rush, Badfinger, Sonny Geraci and Otis Day: a bunch of one hit wonders from the 60s. Think, in order, “Only in America” “Land of 1000 Dances” “Angel of the Morning” “Come and Get It” “Precious and Few” “Shout”.
Thursday – The Fab Four: Damn good Beatles tribute band.