On Tuesday, the most recent American Ido, Phillip Phillips, performed at the Washington Pavilion twice, each time filling the concert hall’s 1,800-person capacity with enthusiastic Augustana students and Sioux Falls community members.
Casual listeners and ardent fans, young girls held by their mothers and retirement age couples alike, flocked to his afternoon performance, where Phillips punctually took the stage to eager cheers and female catcalls. Sporting an acoustic guitar and standing in front of a grooving, Dave Matthews-esque backing band that would make Andy Dwyer jealous, the 22-year-old singer/songwriter proceeded to treat the audience to his raspy style of soulful folk-rock.
“[His performance] was a bit different than I imagined,” said sophomore Abbie Blank-Libra, who attended Phillips’ evening performance. “He branched out from what he did in his popular songs.”
While Phillips offered the standard fare in terms of song choice – a smattering of audience-friendly radio staples, Randy Jackson-approved covers, and deep cuts from his debut album The World from the Side of the Moon – his presentation deviated from what one would expect from a reality juggernaut alum.
Though most of the tracks from Side of the Moon settle in around the four-minute mark, the live performance stretched some of the tracks to twice their length by way of jam-based instrumental sections and blues-affected guitar solos. During these sections, Phillips would turn around to face his formidably talented backing musicians, using head-nods to dictate dynamic shifts. His performance of the gently rising track “Tell Me a Story” reached almost 10 minutes, and Phillips quipped afterwards, “I would play that one for the whole show.”
While the listeners appreciated these interludes, often getting up to dance while one stalwart fan quietly mouthed the words to every tune, most audience members’ reasons for coming were clear.
When Phillips launched into current single “Gone, Gone, Gone,” the audience erupted into applause. The set-closing performance of his inaugural hit “Home” – the most commercially and critically successful American Idol “coronation song” in the show’s 11 year run – brought the afternoon audience to its feet with its sing-along chorus.
“The audience was pumped up,” said Blank-Libra, who was only familiar with “Home” at the time of the concert. “Especially the Augie students in the orchestra pit.”
Another reason for the crowd’s passion became evidently clear throughout both performances. The singer replied to recurrent shouts of “We love you Phillip!” from his female fan base by humbly thanking them in his deep Georgia lilt, and even chuckled after one young woman requested that he remove his flannel shirt.
Ultimately, the afternoon show lasted a timely 90 minutes, while the evening show featured an opening set from the Denver-based, alt-folk band Churchill and ran three hours, and both Phillips and his fans seemed to enjoy every minute of it.
“You can tell that he loves singing for people,” Blank-Libra said.
After hours of lively acoustic strumming, duck-like foot dancing, and raspy glory-notes, Phillips left the stage voicing gratitude for the 3,600 hundred people who made Sioux Falls his home for the day.