To set the record straight, Kelly Clarkson is not a badass. For the last four years, I’ve been convinced that Clarkson was an exceptionally talented, yet bitter and twisted young singer. While it might sound crass, that was her major appeal.
The first-ever American Idol winner has consistently topped music charts worldwide with a string of hits that thrive on heartbreak, revenge, shattered hope, and broken relationships.
Despite seeing Clarkson live about three years ago, I was holding out – and having faith – that on this tour, she would have the grunt to back up the maliciousness that makes her tracks so alluring.
But I’ve gotta say, after seeing Clarkson’s performance last night, she isn’t negative or troubled at all. She isn’t bitter, she doesn’t hate the world, and she doesn’t strike me as someone who has had her heart repeatedly stomped on and smashed to pieces.
Instead, she comes across as a happy-go-lucky middle American gal, ya’ll. Fronting the crowd in a black shimmy dress and tights, Clarkson was quick to address the fact she wasn't wearing any shoes (yes, really).
“I’m barefoot and I have my hair in a ponytail, I just don’t care, it’s hot. I figure you want a better vocal performance and it’ll be better with my shoes off. I don’t care.”
While it was unusually disturbing to see Clarkson rock out with her toes out, her vocals cannot be disputed. Her performance was effortless, and her transition between her slower, more seductive tracks to her faster, more upbeat songs was seamless.
Backed by an eight-piece band, Clarkson didn’t need any stage lights, theatrics or magic tricks to get fans cheering. Opening with “All I Ever Wanted,” Clarkson served up a nice variety of her old and new, following on with “Miss Independent” and “I Do Not Hook Up.” Other massive hits included an acoustic version of “Behind These Hazel Eyes,” “Because of You,” “Walk Away,” “Since U Been Gone,” a dance-inspired “Never Again,” a medley which mashed up four tracks including “Addicted” and “Gone” and she even indulged in a selection of covers, dabbling in the Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody,” Alanis Morrisette’s “That I Would Be Good,” Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” and Keith Urban’s “Tonight I Wanna Cry.”
In between tracks, Clarkson had banter with the crowd and while she gave a lot of herself – chatting about her favourite songs, her childhood and even admitting that her rhythm's completely out of whack – she didn’t divulge the sort of details that offered anymore insight into who she is or what makes her tick.
While I sang along and danced (you better believe it), the major part of her performance that I’m struggling with was how happy she was. Clarkson sang some of her most gut-wrenching tracks with a beaming smile, grinning and waving at the crowd. This suggests that she either didn’t write her own tracks (which isn’t true), she wrote them so long ago that’s she lost all connection with them, or she's just heavily dosed up on Prozac. Either way, I wanted to see more grunt.
I still love Clarkson's tracks, and will continue to listen to her angry pop while I’m working out, on full blast while I'm driving, or just in general if I'm in a p**sed off mood, but I’ll avoid seeing her live anytime soon – unless she does something radical.
This tour revisited Clarkson’s biggest hits from her eight-year career, and now it's time for something new. I would love to see Clarkson do a Katy Perry-type ‘reinvent’ where she turns her music world on its head, transforming from a wholesome Christian singer to wild girl-pashing party animal.
While I'm not sure Clarkson could pull off such a dramatic transition in quite the same way, it would be bloody brilliant to see her try. Clarkson, it's time for more bite, more sass, more spark and more attitude. Then, maybe, I'd consider going to your next Melbourne gig.