There were teenage girlfriends holding up a rainbow flag during the anthemic "Mad World," 8-year-old boys staring dreamily up at Adam masturbating his mic stand for "Whole Lotta Love" (no, that's not overstating the case) and jaded middle-aged industry dudes shaking their head in amazed and impressed disbelief. (Last month, I had dinner with my eightysomething Mormon grandmother, who gushed about Adam and demanded to know my expert opinion on how it was possible he hadn't won. If she's Adam's biggest fan, anyone's fair game.)
It's one thing to watch Idol at home every week, wondering how the hell Adam kept managing to advance in a "family-friendly" popularity contest. It is a whole other mad, mad world to hear 20,000 people explode with excitement every time he shimmies like a stripper while demanding the crowd "get up and dance, bitches!"
It's not entirely the Adam show: Anoop and Matt are doing their best to bring sexy back, and they both make a good stab at it. Allison attacks Pink, Janis, Heart and her "Slow Ride" duet with Adam with such attitude and aplomb that it's like a huge flashing pink warning to any teen diva-in-training that there's a new girl in town (I'm looking at you, Jordin Sparks).
And the actual headliner, winner Kris Allen, glides right into a much more traditional pop-rock set with almost Fred Astaire ease, given the wild show that immediately precedes him. "Ain't No Sunshine" is as cinematic as on the finale episode, the godawful single "No Boundaries" was quickly yanked in favor of a heartfelt take on the Killers' "All These Things That I've Done" and "Hey Jude" is as sweet and sincere as Kris' southern aw-shucks smile. If you haven't heard Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" enough this year -- it was one of the only songs, thanks to the cast of the new TV show Glee, that out-charted Kris or Allen during Idol season -- you'll love the dueling pianos ensemble finale.
If you can't make the trek, get a front row seat via the YouTube video at the top of the post.
-- SHANA NAOMI KROCHMAL