Kelly Clarkson with backup singer Jessi Collins.
Photo: Robb Cohen Photography & Video/www.RobbsPhotos.com
Photo: Robb Cohen Photography & Video/www.RobbsPhotos.com

ATLANTA CONCERT REVIEW: Kelly Clarkson proves why she’s still a winner

Originally posted Friday, March 28, 2019 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Kelly Clarkson opened her sold-out Infinite Energy Arena concert Thursday night singing a cappella a portion of her coronation song that immortalized her into reality show record books as the first winner of breakout hit “American Idol” more than 16 years ago. 

»»PHOTOS: See our complete gallery of photos from the Kelly Clarkson concert

In recent tours, she has largely avoided the somewhat treacly “A Moment Like This” but this time, she chose to pay homage to her past before jumping into the present. 

What is disconcerting to any “Idol” loyalist is her deep ties with NBC’s “The Voice,” the rival singing show that facilitated the death of “American Idol” on Fox. Clarkson is currently coaching her third season and singers from her team have won twice already. ABC producers probably grimace every time they see “The Voice” beat up on “Idol” in the ratings. 

Kelly Clarkson early in her set at Infinite Energy Arena in Duluth March 28, 2019.
Photo: Robb Cohen Photography & Video/www.RobbsPhotos.com

Clarkson also made her concert into a showcase for three of her most promising “Voice” singers from season 14 who came on tour with her. Young pop singer and season 14 winner Brynn Cartelli opened. R&B singer D.R. King was one of her back-up singers and dueted “Run Run Run” with her. She also gave her “Voice” country singer Kaleb Lee a chance to perform two songs that weren’t nearly as great as she said they were.

Otherwise, her set - which hasn’t changed much since the tour began - was primarily a mix of many of her biggest tunes and cuts from her most recent album “Meaning of Life.” Her latest songs have a far more soulful R&B flair and less of that Max Martin pop feel that has interwoven many of her past hits such as “Stronger” and “My Life Would Suck Without You.”

Now 36, Clarkson has said “Meaning of Life” on Atlantic Records was far more what she wanted than past albums on her previous label RCA. 

Her vocals, as usual, exuded warmth and strength, her ability to do runs in a way that never felt showy or over-stated. The sound mix was superb, her eight-piece band and four back-up singers supplementing, never supplanting, her natural charisma and power. 

A broad view of the stage, which included a supersized screen behind Kelly Clarkson at Infinite Energy Arena March 28, 2019.
Photo: Robb Cohen Photography & Video/www.RobbsPhotos.com

This is her first trip to Infinite Energy Arena. (On past major tours, she has done the Fox Theatre twice, Lakewood twice and Cobb Energy once. Her last time in Atlanta for a show was a Star 94 Jingle Jam at the Roxy in late 2017.)

The stage set up was by far the largest she has had to date. It featured a monstrous screen behind her and plenty of room for her to roam. A runway ran deep into the general admission area with a spot at the end with an elevating platform that brought her on stage and off. 

But Clarkson is no Cher. She subsisted on a couple of modest costume changes and spent part of the concert barefoot. Choreography? She’s got natural rhythm but has never pretended to be a dancer. 

Kelly Clarkson at Infinite Energy Arena March 28, 2019.
Photo: RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com

Midway through, she did a mini version of her podcast on Facebook Live called “A Minute and a Glass of Wine.” It actually lasted about far more than a minute but did include the requisite glass of wine. She complimented her super fast crew and noted that her 2018-19 has been especially good. 

She had always wanted to be in an animated film and got her wish: “UglyDolls,” which is coming out in May and includes voices from Clarkson, Nick Jonas, Blake Shelton and Wanda Sykes

She also got to sing a song on the soundtrack, a Pink-penned song called “Broken & Beautiful.” “It fits perfectly with my character Moxie. She’s very optimistic but also very real,” she said. So she sang it for the first time in concert, which precluded her usual cover song. 

Over her 90 minutes, her natural ease on stage, her free-flowing banter and her unmistakable authenticity bonded her with her fans from beginning to end. She had no problem being sensual during “Heat,” assertive on “Whole Lotta Woman,” sassy for a superior, jazzed-up version of “Walk Away,” dramatic on “Never Enough” and emotionally verklempt during her tour de force ballad “Piece by Piece.” 

That last song, she admitted, is so popular, she knows she’ll be singing it the rest of her life - along with set-ending crowd pleaser “Since U Been Gone.” 

She said when the crowd sings along to “Behind These Hazel Eyes,” it gives her a “spiritual high.” She wasn’t pushing pablum. When the Atlanta audience sang key parts of the break-up song with her, she looked genuinely lifted.

Kelly Clarkson singing a snippet of "A Moment Like This" to open the concert at Duluth's Infinite Energy Center March 28, 2019.
Photo: RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com
Kelly Clarkson at Infinite Energy Center March 28, 2019.
Photo: RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com
Kelly Clarkson sings "Run Run Run" during her "Meaning of Life' tour stop at Infinite Energy Arena in Duluth March 28, 2019.
Photo: RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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