Walking into Nassau Coliseum on March 4, it was impossible todecipher whether one was entering an *NSYNC or Tom Jones concert.The crowd was diverse, ranging in age but all young at heart, asswarms of people filed in to see first American Idol winner, KellyClarkson, and second-season runner-up, and enormous crowd favorite,Clay Aiken.
Through their hour long sets, the pair, who switch on and off asheadliners nightly, coasted through a variety of covers and songsfrom their multi-platinum debut albums, Thankful and Measure of aMan, respectively. All traces of Idol were left behind as the twosettled into their very different styles and rapport with theaudience, which, unfortunately for Clarkson, was heavily populatedby Aiken’s overtly fanatical fans, sporting blinking lights,referring to themselves as “Claymates” and decking themselves outfrom head-to-toe in Clay merchandise.
Clarkson’s versatility was astounding and the highlight of herset came in the form of a stripped down rendition of “BeautifulDisaster,” in which she sat atop the piano, both musically andphysically, as it was the sole accompaniment to her emotive andhaunting vocals. Her interaction with the audience was somewhatminimal, due in large part to their seemingly apathetic attitudetowards her performance and obvious anticipation for Aiken.However, by the end of her powerful set, which concluded with herbiggest hits to date, “A Moment Like This” and “Miss Independent,”there was no doubt that her voice had converted even the biggestnaysayers, as the crowd erupted into cheers and a standingovation.
After a quick set change, which included the construction of alarge, silver staircase, Aiken took the stage. Unlike Clarkson, hisentrance was seemingly Messianic, as he entered through a screamingcrowd wearing a simple blazer and belting out a cover of Mr.Mister’s ’80s hit, “Kyrie.” By the time he arrived on-stage, it wasall squeals and shrieks from the audience, an energy that Aikenobviously drew from throughout his set. Despite the saccharineblandness of the songs from his album, Aiken owned the stage,moving playfully with his backup singers and into the audience.
Musically, Aiken lacks personality. This is clearly exhibited inhis stage show. Clarkson on the other hand, is obviously more theartist, hindered by some of the material that has been handed toher, yet she would probably serve better purpose in a small,intimate theater which would showcases her voice. In the end, bothperformers were immensely talented, but when it comes down to it,Clarkson is like a fine wine improving with age, compared toAiken’s cheese.