Live: Daughtry Brings American Idol To The National Pastime At Citi Field


Citi Field
Friday, July 20

Better than: Johan Santana’s ankle.

In this hyperdistracted age, it would only seem logical that heading out to the ballpark has become an experience where any action happening on the field has competition from other forms of entertainment—fancier foods from brand-name restauranteurs, swathes of the club turned into sports bars, boutiques offering clothing that’s a step up from jersey replicas and baseball caps.

The musical extension of this strategy came on Friday night, when, after a lengthy, frustrating game played on a cool, damp night that brought to mind early-season contests rather than post-All-Star Break tilts, Daughtry—led by Chris Daughtry, the fourth-place finisher on American Idol‘s fifth season, and one of the Fox talent show’s most successful alums, post-show-visibility-wise—performed on a stage set up near second base. A clutch of people in attendance were allowed up-close-and-personal access; the rest of us (an impressive amount, given the weather and the game’s late ending time and frustrating result) sat scattered throughout Citi Field’s lower bowls.

In the Idol universe, Daughtry served as a sort of portent for the overwhelming success of what fans call WGWGs—white guys with guitars, who have (sometimes deservedly, sometimes not) taken home the title every season since 2008. His pre-finale exit from the show in the year that silver-haired soul brother Taylor Hicks was crowned the winner caused a not-insignificant amount of shock from the Idol-watching community, even though at the time his not winning was somewhat expected because of Idol‘s positioning as a “pop” competition.

That pop edge, though, is probably what’s made Daughtry-the-singer have more of a career than the majority of his Idol-bred compatriots. Daughtry-the-band specializes in a kind of glossy post-grunge that slakes the thirst of those listeners who want to hear power chords and yarling without being too submerged by a self-loathing mire. Its bombast is directly borrowed from that of what’s now probably not-incorrectly referred to as “mainstream rock” (some of the band’s singles have been co-writes with the likes of Evanescence’s Ben Moody and Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger), but the Daughtry tracks that do break through to the Duane Reade in-store radio level of notoreity have a poppy edge that make them less of a slog to listen to than, say, the Sevendust catalog. There’s a hopefulness about them even when they’re wistful.

Friday night Daughtry reeled off 11 tracks (no abbreviated sets here!) that both summed up the frontman’s appeal and laid out the logical reasons for the band being post-game entertainment for America’s pastime: “Home,” the ballad that was later used as a send-off for people sent packing from Idol; “Feels Like Tonight,” a Dr. Luke/Max Martin tune that’s pretty much the post-grunge equivalent of White Lion’s “Wait,” with a triplet-propelled chorus tailor-made for soundtracking late-summer-night amusement-park rides; and “No Surprise,” which turns an inevitable breakup into a moment of triumph and liberation. In what could be seen as a nod to Daughtry’s Idol past, the band performed two covers, a rote take on Tom Petty’s “Runnin’ Down A Dream” and a snarling performance of Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell” during which he had the platinum-topped singer’s snarl down so perfectly, you had to wonder how much time the younger Chris had spent sneering in the mirror while Idol’s back catalog played in the background. The crowd, despite the chill and the late hour, cheered and sang along; the show ended with the take-me-back anthem “It’s Not Over,” which surely some in attendance took as a rallying cry for the home team’s recent woes. The night had been long, but making this track the night’s final rallying cry was a shrewd move, one that showed just why Daughtry has outshone so many of his Simon Cowell-reared peers.

Critical bias: I love the Mets and will forever, which is why I’m still lobbying for a Yo La Tengo/So So Glos postgame double bill one of these days.

Overheard: [frenzied organ rendition of Finger Eleven’s “Paralyzer”]

Random notebook dump: If I could subsist solely on the carnitas tacos from El Verano Taqueria I would.

Set list:
Ready To Run
Feels Like Tonight
Crawling Back To You
Outta My Head
Not Over You
No Surprise
Runnin’ Down A Dream
Rebel Yell
It’s Not Over

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