Four years ago, when Chris Daughtry first appeared on Season 5 of American Idol, I have to be honest and admit that I wasn’t thoroughly impressed. Perhaps I was blindsided by my personal favorites, Katharine McPhee and Paris Bennett, or exhausted from celebrating the previous successes of my other fellow North Carolinians, Clay Aiken and Fantasia Barrino, but one thing is certain: Daughtry has made a new fan out of me.
On Sunday, March 21, my best friend and I trekked to Newark in order to get some sense of all the fuss surrounding Idol’s third-biggest-selling act — only Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood have fared better. We soon found out that the band had a ten-day residency with Bon Jovi two years earlier, in 2008, and christened the city’s new music venue: the Prudential Center.
As the first arena-sized venue to open in the New York area within a 25-year span, Daughtry’s historic moment needs no further underscoring, of course, because Newark knows how to rock! And due to the residents’ anxious desire for the return of Daughtry, I found the vibes floating throughout the audience to be inviting, intoxicating and extremely contagious. So when the frenetic drumming of “Every Time You Turn Around” filled the rafters of the arena, two specks of pepper could be found bobbing their heads in a sea of salt—shouting and fist-pumping along with the band’s die-hard fans.
Joey Barnes, the drummer, was worth the price of admission alone! Throughout the night, he dazzled the crowd with glow-in-the-dark drumsticks and Energizer Bunny levels of energy. His performance kept the bulk of my attention as the concert move along, especially on the band’s cover of “Rebel Yell.” I’m quite certain that if Billy Idol had been in attendance, he would have been proud of the way he slayed the drums!
Another special highlight of the evening was an acoustic performance of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” – a song that always fails to sound dated. The stripped-down version morphed into an amped-up version towards the end, however, when joined Joey joined Chris in on the fun.
As far as the studio cuts, the set list was fairly even in its split of material from Daughtry (2006), their self-titled debut, and Leave This Town (2009). From the former, the band performed “What I Want,” “It’s Not Over,” “What Have We Become,” “Over You,” “Feels Like Tonight,” “Home” and “There and Back Again”; while the audience heard “Every Time You Turn Around,” “Ghost of Me,” “No Surprise,” “Life After You,” “Learn My Lesson,” “September,” “You Don’t Belong,” and “Call Your Name,” from the latter. If you’re unfamiliar with “What Have We Become,” then you probably aren’t alone. Chris made a special announcement that it was one of the B-sides that never made it onto the first album. He also mentioned that “September” was his favorite track off of the second album.
Suffice it to say, a good time was had by all. And my iPod has now been filled with the musical pleasures of Daughtry.