‘American Idol’: Judas Priest, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Spiderman steal the finale, tout new projects


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Yes an “Idol” was crowned, but Scotty McCreery wasn’t the only person walking away from the Nokia Theatre a winner Wednesday night.

The producers of the series should take a moment to pat their own backs after they pulled off the most star-studded finale in the show’s history.


‘Idol’s’ grand finale managed to be both an over-the-top spectacle and a great promotional vehicle for the roster of special guests who graced the stage -- McCreery’s moment of glory took all of 10 minutes.

Despite taking front and center a few weeks ago, the audience shrilled with delight at the top of the show as Lady Gaga was covered by the Top 13, taking on “Born This Way” from the album that was released this week. During the number, there were murmurs from folks nearby about whether Mama Monster would perform alongside the finalists (it was known all season she’d perform in the finale) as well as the odd choice of song. She didn’t collaborate, instead standing atop a makeshift cliff and belting out new single “Edge of Glory.’ Debuting the song live made it easy to spot the Little Monsters nearby, as a group of teens would pause amid their screams for the occasional ‘OMG’ and high five.

Gaga’s performance set the tone for a handful of showings typically reserved for awards-show season that all had one bottom-line takeaway: Buy my new product.

Throughout the night, there was something for all ages and tastes.

There was stadium rock. James Durbin teamed up with Judas Priest to show America a bit of heavy metal. All season, the rocker begged the audience to embrace the genre he loved so much. He made it pretty easy in his showstopping number with the English rockers. Getting the legendary brand was a huge score on Fox’s part, especially as they are in the midst of prepping their upcoming farewell tour -- for which they announced more details this week.

Comedy shtick. Though a respected musician in his own right, Jack Black’s appeal lies largely in his schleppy charm, which was matched well by Casey Abrams’ kooky stage antics. The two hammed it up during a take of Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” alongside an eyebrow-raising display of skin. The kids (and DreamWorks) probably would have preferred a few dancing pandas with T-shirts that read “Kung Fu Panda in theaters tomorrow.”


Diva pop fare. Both Gaga and Beyoncé had a double dose of the spotlight (after both being mentors). The top girls tried their best to mimic the oomph and sass of Bey while doing a medley of her hits, including ‘Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It),” ’Irreplaceable,’ ‘Get Me Bodied,’ ‘If I Were Boy,’ and ‘Déjà Vu.” Just as the girls were unleashing their inner Sasha Fierce the singer emerged to join the girls with “Crazy in Love.”

The number closed a full day of online promo for the diva: She was offering a tracklist reveal of her new album, “4,” one title at a time each hour leading up to 5 p.m., the time the show began taping on the West Coast, where “1+1” was revealed as the album’s opener. The track then leaked, right before she took the stage (again) to ‘debut’ the song. Jennifer Lopez even got in the diva mix by shaking it like a Polaroid picture during hubby Marc Anthony‘s performance; she had already used the stage once to pimp her album ‘Love?’

Theatrics. The audience got a sneak peek at a new track from the reworked -- and, so far, accident-prone -- Broadway production “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.” After clearing up (or maybe defending) the nature of their appearance, Bono and Edge hit the stage alongside Reeve Carney, who plays Peter Parker, to perform “Rise Above” with a few high-flying Spideys before the production was set to open officially in a few weeks. Given the critics’ panning of the show and the number of mishaps on set, there was no surprise that staffers warned the audience to remain in their seats during the performance. (It should be noted that no stuntmen were injured during the performance.)

And a dose of nostalgia. Mom and Dad had to be in heaven for a few toe-tapping, finger-snapping moments of the evening, not including that inexplicable but crowd-pleasing reunion of the surviving members of TLC. Gladys Knight, Tony Bennett and Tom Jones all popped up during the night to perform. Knight and Bennett are not strangers to the series, especially Knight, who has surfaced at a few finales before. But their random offerings were a great opportunity to tout their latest creative endeavours: Knight has a Vegas headlining gig at the Tropicana (on the site to purchase tickets she is billed as the “original American Idol” ... really, she is); Bennett has a new album, “Duets 2,” slated for a September release.

ITunes is awaiting your order. Right on the store’s homepage, most of what you heard on “Idol” Wednesday is ready for you to gobble up: McCreery and runner-up Lauren Alaina’s coronation singles, Beyoncé’s “1+1,” which she’s offering with album pre-order, the Spidey tingling “Rise Above” and Gaga’s album. So buy now. That was the reason you watched, right?


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-- Gerrick D. Kennedy

Photos, from top: A number of high-profile acts performed with the contestants, including, from left, Beyoncé with the girls, Judas Priest with James Durbin and Jack Black with Casey Abrams. Scotty McCreery learns that he is the next ‘American Idol.’ Special guests Reeve Carney and U2 perform. Credit: Michael Becker / Fox