by MIKE CHAIKEN
If you’re going to be a judge on a show like “The Voice,” you better have some vocal chops.
And Kelly Clarkson, a second season judge on the reality competition show, set off a significant caliber of vocal fireworks at her March 15 performance at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
From beginning to the end, Clarkson’s voice finessed and belted its way through the singer’s catalogue ‑ dating back to her immediate post-“American Idol” days. From her heartfelt a cappella version of “A Moment Like This,” which she used as her opener, to the soulful “The Meaning of Life,” from her most recent album of the same name, to the rocking pop hit “Since You’ve Been Gone” to close the set, Clarkson’s voice never faltered and always charmed the sold-out crowd.
Clarkson proved over and over again that she clearly deserves her reality TV role as a mentor to young singers.
Clarkson easily could have let the music do the talking all night long as many artists do. (And the music did a lot of talking.) But Clarkson’s show was unique in that she demonstrated that she is quite a conversationalist in addition to being a vocalist.
There was some of the standard on-stage patter. But Clarkson made the arena seem more like her kitchen during a summer barbecue than a 10,000 seat facility. She was sincere. She was friendly. She was endearing. And she was personal.
When Clarkson spoke about how difficult it was to get through the song, “Piece by Piece” (which is about how her father abandoned her at age 6) without crying, you believed her. And as it happened, by the end of the song, she was misty-eyed and on the verge of full-out balling.
When Clarkson paused the show to have a conversation with a pregnant woman in the front row about the foibles of being with child, you felt like you were standing in Clarkson’s backyard sipping on a glass of Chardonnay.
Clarkson even brought her “living room” to the world with a Facebook live presentation of her podcast “A Minute and a Glass of Wine.” During the interlude, she brought out her opener, 15-year-old Brynn Cartelli. She doted on the winner of “The Voice” like a proud mama, bragging to the audience about how brilliant the young singer was (and Cartelli, indeed, was brilliant).
All of this banter easily explained why Clarkson is getting her own talk show this September. (They played a promo about the show before they dimmed the lights for Clarkson’s appearance.)
All the chattiness might have gotten in the way of the music, but Clarkson is enough of an entertainer to understand people love the chit-chat, but they love the music even more.
And there was plenty of music in the main set, which was capped off with a four-track encore.
There was never a dull moment with Clarkson and her superb backup band, which added even more sheen to the entertainment value for the price of tickets.
Unlike many of her peers who were launched by “American Idol,” Clarkson continues to be in the pop music spotlight. And it was clear at the Mohegan Sun, Clarkson was likely going to be a star, whether or not she had gotten her golden ticket on that venerable talent show.
Clarkson’s choice s for the openers, Brynn Cartelli and Maggie Rose were superb selections for this leg of the tour, providing the audience with an entire night of excellent vocal prowess.
Cartelli’s voice is seasoned way beyond her mere 15 years. Although she veers toward an R&B sound, the Longmeadow, Mass. resident proved that she has more depth than just another young singer dipping into the golden oldies of soul. Her songwriting, like her voice, belies her age. And even when she did a cover, she opted for Radiohead’s “Creep” rather than an obvious selection from the Motown archives.
Maggie Rose also is blessed with a soulful voice. But rather than R&B, Rose walks closer to the country side of the street. She’s not trying to be a Taylor Swift, however. I heard more Reba McEntire in her voice. Like Cartelli, a cover song offered insight into her talent. Her version of The Box Tops’ 1967 track, “The Letter” blew away the original. And it gave the definitive version of the track by Joe Cocker a run for its money. To do that takes tremendous talent.
I give March 15 stop at the Mohegan Sun Arena of Kelly Clarkson’s “Meaning of Life Tour” four out of four stars.
PHOTOS by MIKE CHAIKEN