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Review: The Voice Tour showcases real talent amid reality-TV spectacle at the Straz Center in Tampa



The Voice Tour brought NBC's Emmy-winning television series to life Wednesday night at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa, capturing both the powerhouse vocals and the cheesy production antics of reality TV.

To be clear, the Voice Tour isn’t so much a concert as a recreation of the show experience. At a concert, the audience forms a connection with the artist. Layers are revealed. A deeper appreciation gained. There’s a flow to the setlist and a rapport built between singer and listener.

Wednesday’s performance, while fun and full of talent, lacked the cohesiveness concertgoers seek. The set-up mimicked the format of a Voice episode: alternating solo and group performances with no transitions. The snippets of excerpts from the TV show even felt like commercial breaks.

That being said, there’s no denying these artists are damn good singers who can rival most musicians currently on the radio. The tour brought together the three finalists from seasons 5 and 6 in addition to some fan favorites: Josh Kaufman, Jake Worthington, Christina Grimmie, Tessanne Chin, Jacquie Lee, Will Champlin, Jake Barker, Kristen Merlin, Dia Frampton and a brief appearance by Ashley De La Rosa.

Special attention, rightly so, was given to the winners of seasons 5 and 6: Chin and Sarasota native Kaufman. In addition to impressive solo performances by each, the winners joined forces for an emotional duet on Rihanna’s Stay. The song allowed Chin to soar on some power notes while also highlighting the nuance of Kaufman’s voice.

There’s something immensely satisfying about seeing the most beloved songs of the show performed live. Kaufman’s rendition of Stay with Me, Grimmie’s Hold On, We’re Going Home and Frampton’s Heartless energized the crowd and surpassed the show versions.

A handful of artists played original music, trying to establish themselves as more than just past contestants but current artists with staying power — something the show has struggled with. Chin’s Everything Reminds Me of You proved her to be the diva her fans crave, her voice showcasing a jaw-dropping range, her fist punching the air and her long dress billowing out behind her as she stomped around the stage.

There were some serious, heart-felt ballads, but oh, were there gimmicks. From a karaoke, sing-a-long version of Taylor Swift’s We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together to a “flash mob” set to former judge CeeLo Green’s Forget You, the Voice singers pulled whatever tricks they could to engage the crowd. 

This included putting the audience in the coaches’ chairs by hosting a blind audition of sorts. Three audience members were invited on stage to sing while the crowd donned blindfolds or closed their eyes.

In the little moments each artist had to interact with their audience, they delivered the same endearing personality quirks the fans first connected with on television. Worthington was just as humble and sweet as expected, while Grimmie unleashed her inner rocker and Frampton continued to be her quirky, indie self, prancing around stage barefoot.

For the 2,000 fans gathered Wednesday, the Voice Tour delivered what it promoted: the chance to see their favorite contestants live, hear some of their best covers and indulge in the Voice experience. Whether any of these artists gain the success needed to tour solo one day remains to be seen.

-- Caitlin Johnston, tbt*

[Last modified: Thursday, June 26, 2014 11:50am]


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