Grand Prairie Kelly Clarkson's whirlwind year -- presidential inaugurations, awards shows, tussles with record execs, wedding planning -- briefly brought her home Friday night.
"It's nice to be home," Clarkson said not long after taking the stage. "I love coming home."
The Fort Worth-born, Burleson-raised pop superstar was back in North Texas to help raise money for the Omaha, Neb.-based charity Opportunity Education Foundation, and the sold-out Verizon Theatre was treated to a hit-heavy, 70-minute set that featured plenty of vocal fireworks.
There were fleeting references to the Grammys (prior to her enthusiastic cover of fun.'s We Are Young) and an ever-so-veiled allusion to her war of words with Clive Davis ("In this industry there can be a lot of people who try to bring you down," she observed, before launching into I Hope You Love Me), but she kept the focus mainly on the music.
The crowd cheered her every move, and frequently sang along with such volume as to almost drown out Clarkson, who couldn't keep the smile from her face. Backed by her five-member band and three back-up singers, the spartan stage set-up (heavy on the lights, light on the video screens and set dressing) allowed Clarkson to render her hits classic (the set opening My Life Would Suck Without You) and fresh (Catch My Breath) free from gaudy distractions.
The only complaint is that given such a compact performance, were two covers really necessary? Admittedly, Clarkson's scorching take on the Pistol Annies' Hell on Heels only intensified the desire to see her dive headfirst into the country genre, but a pair of someone else's songs felt a bit like overkill. Nevertheless, Clarkson basked in the hometown(ish) love, reflecting it right back at the adoring masses gathered before her. It was enough to make your head spin.
Texas Christian University and fellow American Idol alum Tim Halperin offered up a 40-minute set that started shaky but finished strong, with the singer-songwriter debuting a new tune, Jolene, from his forthcoming sophomore album. With a full band behind him and his parents in the audience, Halperin looked every inch a musician whose dreams were coming true in real time.