People have said that they would pay him to hear him sing the phone book. I like to think I’m a little more discriminating than that, I always want to hear hear that voice wrapped around a good song.
But I think they use the phonebook example to demonstrate that he can really sing just about anything. And he probably can with the little quirks that are so very Clay Aiken. The fact that he sings the word love as low or that his accent creeps in when he sings Orleans' "Steel" the One. I find I sing along with his unusual pronunciations in my head, to the point where if I heard someone else sing it, I would feel that they were singing a stripped down version of the same song. What’s the matter with them? Don’t they know that last line of Crying is suppose to be sung Crah-ying?
We’ve heard him sing pop, with either a ballad like his hit Solitaire or more uptempo stuff like Invisible. We’ve heard him take a pop song and give it a more new age production, like his haunting version of Broken Wings off the 2006 album, A Thousand Different Ways. . He offered up a wonderful blend of many contemporary genres with the original album On My Way Here. And this year, he’s bringing a big band sound to Tried and True classics like Mack the Knife and It’s Only Make Believe. (Even a rap parody he did in 2007 of OPP was actually pretty decent for a tall, skinny white guy.)
He's also written and recorded the very indie sounding Lover All Alone. I’ve referred to this song as heartache in the form of a poem set to music.
But a part of me has always wanted him to rock out a bit every once in a while. Not for a whole album or even in a new direction, his voice is too distinctive to compete in the Hinder Nickeldaughtry space. It would be a waste of talent. But he teased us a bit in 2004 by opening a concert with a U2 song and he nailed it. It left me hungry for just another taste, like that last dessert before the diet that you will finally conquer. The pop and pop/rock songs are more to my liking than a standard like It’s Impossible, even if it is sung by the best voice in the business.
Currently, he’s on tour with Ruben Studdard in a show that has brought the house down every night. They take the audience through four decades of music, combining solos and medleys with a comedic camaraderie that’s as funny as it is charming.
Last Friday, about two-thirds of the way through their set, it happened. They were in the middle of the 70’s medley, after a bunch of dance music. Wait! Is that Boston I hear through my headphones as I watch a piece of captured video? The volume button on my computer is begging for elevation. I have this album on my ipod and I still have the original vinyl. He starts More Than a Feeling and manages to hit an extremely low note before three seconds later transitioning into falsetto and then a full fledged Tom Scholz would be proud Drift Awaaaaaaay rock sing/scream! Holy vocal chords, Batman!
Tell me which male singers out there can sing Boston, Lover All Alone and Mack the Knife and do it all well, and where it’s just about the music. One Voice. Live. No spare parts needed.
The concert plays until August 14th, with cities listed here and some potentially additional ones to be announced in the fall. I still have to wait until August 7th to lose myself in a familiar song. In the meantime, I’ll watch the video, close my eyes and slip away.