Kelly Clarkson delivers dynamic performance in Pittsburgh

Photo Credit: Rich Frollini/Coda Photography

Photo Credit: Rich Frollini/Coda Photography

It was an interesting night at the First Niagara Pavilion on Sunday, July 19 for Kelly Clarkson’s long awaited return to Pittsburgh. It’s been two years since she’s graced the stage in the Burgh and fans were eager for her return.

For an artist who was selling out arenas a few years ago, the Clarkson fan base was small but mighty. They braved a pretty nasty storm just before the first artist took the stage. Many lawn seat ticketholders rushed for cover under the pavilion since the lawn was closed off and all ticketholders were given seating in the back of the pavilion. This caused a bit of confusion before Eric Hutchinson took the stage when security forced all ticketholders to exit their seats to clear everyone out and then let people return to their seats. Many were upset they missed half of Hutchinson’s performance due to the chaos.

Still, despite a few hiccups – the show was well-received by fans. Clarkson was a beacon of talent on stage. She admitted to a few fumbles and even missed her entrance on a song – but no one seemed to care.

Clarkson kicked off the show with her powerhouse hit, “Dance with Me” and the crowd went wild. Barefoot and beautiful in a sparkly purple dress, no one could tell she’s been on hiatus for the past two years. Her voice is still powerful as she commands the stage. Belting out fan favorites like “Breakaway,” and “Behind these Hazel Eyes,” Clarkson proved she hasn’t lost her touch in the music world.

During the show, Clarkson is all about the fans. Not only is her performance appropriate for all ages, he proves that you don’t need to parade around in a bikini and shock the crowd to make fans love you. Her songs are appropriate, empowering and any parent should be proud to have their kids count her as a role model.

In a unique twist, Clarkson invited fans to submit videos for a chance to perform on stage during the show. One lucky fan was granted his wish to share the stage during her “Open Mic” set and performed “Darkside.” Clarkson then asked for requests and performed “Stay” for a fan who requested the older song. I loved how Kelly adds a unique element to her show and keeps it fresh every night for her band as well.

As any good performer does, towards the end of the evening, Clarkson invited Pentatonix back on stage to give her hit song “Heartbeat” the acapella treatment and it was outstanding. We never missed the band! She then gave an old song a new spin when she performed a mash-up of “Walk Away” with “Uptown Funk” from Bruno Mars. It was surprising how well the songs meshed together. She closed out her show with “Since You’ve Been Gone” before retiring for the evening.

Opening for Clarkson was the internet-sensation, Pentatonix. Some fans in attendance may argue the reception for the incredible acapella group was even warmer than for Clarkson herself. From the minute the banner was dropped, fans erupted in cheers and screams. It was clear the group has an enormous following in the area.

Photo Credit: Rich Frollini/Coda Photography

Photo Credit: Rich Frollini/Coda Photography

Beginning with a beautiful rendition of Ariana Grande’s song, “Problem,” Pentatonix wowed the crowd with a collection of pop hits in their own style. From the first song they arranged as a group, “Telephone,” to new hits like “Cheerleader” which debuted on their set list just a few nights ago – Pentatonix is an unstoppable force in the music industry.

While any band can cover a song, what’s impressive is how Pentatonix arranges their covers so they’re familiar and how one single instrument – the voice – gives it a new life. Their performance was nothing short of flawless, showcasing their incredible ability to hit notes to perfection and make you forget that there isn’t a full band accompanying their tremendous sound.

Also included in their set list is their popular Evolution of Michael Jackson collection that includes songs from his entire career – something near and dear to their hearts. The video debuted at the end of June and currently has more than seven million views.

Closing out their set, Petnatonix gave the audience the opportunity to be part of the acapella sound. Three members divided the audience into teams and taught them each a part of their original song, “On My Way Home” before performing the final number. The result was a beautiful sing-a-long for the fans and artists.

Eric Hutchinson shared the second bill on the tour and brought a very different vibe than the other artists. With a strong folk-style sound, Hutchinson dazzled the audience with his impressive skills on the piano and soothing vocals. One of his claims to fame is his strong lyrics laced with wit, humor, and a dash of sarcasm.

Despite much of the audience being displaced for his performance due to the ticketing chaos in the top sections, Hutchinson gave a stellar performance with a few surprises including an interesting rendition of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” that really got fans going. After the show, he headed to the concourse to sign autographs for fans – an all-around great act.

Kicking off the show for Clarkson was Abi Ann, a 16-year old country singer from Texas who made quite a name for herself just a few years ago on the scene and has won numerous awards like America’s Favorite Teen Country Artists by the Independent Music Network in 2012 and Best New Teen Artist from the Artists in Music Awards in 2013.

Openers always have the hardest job since most people are still trickling into the venue and aren’t paying much attention, but that didn’t stop her from putting her heart on the line for fans. She has a lot of talent and, with more time and experience, could make quite a name for herself in the industry, but for now it was hard to differentiate between her and her backup singers at times. She needs a little lesson on star power – perhaps Kelly can give her that.  Still, her music is worth a download if you’re looking for something new to check out.
Review by Hayley Lynn Martin for Pennsylvania Bridges

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