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Monday, 19 March 2012 18:45

Concert review and set list: Kelly Clarkson (with Matt Nathanson) puts on vocal clinic at the Fabulous Fox, Friday, March 16

Concert review and set list: Kelly Clarkson (with Matt Nathanson) puts on vocal clinic at the Fabulous Fox, Friday, March 16 Louis Kwok
Written by Matt Fernandes

Touring on her latest album, "Stronger," Texan Kelly Clarkson put on a stunning vocal clinic Friday night at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis.

Released in October, the record has garnered her usual high success and will surely continue to produce hit singles this year.

The original 2002 American Idol has enjoyed more staying power than the rest, consistently charting hit records while collecting a broad fan base. As a pop star, she's proven to be less predictable, less dramatic and less auto-tuned than the rest.

Even so, haters have always followed Clarkson, criticizing everything from her sexual orientation to her weight.

Clarkson took the criticism head on Friday night before taking the stage. As the sold-out crowd buzzed in anticipation, faux tabloid headlines were projected on a transparent curtain, flashing words like "Single," "Failure" and, especially, "Fat."

When she hit the stage and launched into "Darkside," she didn't look fat or unsuccessful to me. In fact, I'd be shocked if she's still single. Guiding a rapturous crowd through a diverse set of rock, gospel, soul and pop, Clarkson's show in a sense was a big middle finger to the critics.

Judging from her music selection, Clarkson could rightly be called a record collector nerd who happens to be a pop megastar. Her anthems pay the bills, but Clarkson seemed most energized pulling off ballads and offbeat covers.

After dazzling the crowd with rockers like "Since U Been Gone" and "Behind These Hazel Eyes," Clarkson and her crack band changed gears with a dark, industrial version of Florence and the Machine's "Heavy In Your Arms." It was the first of many surprises during the night.

Huddling together at the front of the stage, the band played a prolonged and engaging acoustic set. With their informal, living-room-jam setup, the band could have been playing at the Venice Café, complete with their eclectic, sticker-laden upright piano.

All the while, Clarkson displayed astonishing vocal range and power.

Tracy Chapman's blues, "Give Me One Reason," played well with the St. Louis audience. With "Walk Away," Clarkson admitted that she just wants to be like one of her idols, Annie Lennox. A gospel version of Carrie Underwood's "I Know You Won't" allowed Clarkson to show yet another vocal side.

Then it was time to give the crowd what they really wanted. Clarkson duetted "Don't You Wanna Stay" with an oversized Jason Aldean projected on a screen, which worked surprisingly well. "Miss Independent" was a highlight, her guitarist playing with a Led Zeppelin riff during a solo.

Personality-wise, Clarkson is like your favorite aunt -- positive and self-deprecating with a goofy sense of humor.

Matt Nathanson opened the show with a set of tuneful adult contemporary pop. He served his role well, pumping the crowd up with upbeat sing-alongs. Between songs, Nathanson worked his talents as a comic, keeping the crowd laughing. His backing band was a bit like the Walking Dead though -- capable instrumentalists but not willing to at least fake laugh while their singer cracked the crowd up.

Most bizarre moment of the night: During Clarkson's encore, someone up front pulled out a Rams banner and started waving it around … because when you think of Kelly Clarkson, you think of the St. Louis Rams.

Kelly Clarkson set list

Behind These Hazel Eyes
Since U Been Gone
You Love Me
Heavy in Your Arms (Florence and the Machine cover)
Give Me One Reason (Tracy Chapman cover)
Walk Away
I Know You Won't (Carrie Underwood cover)
Don't You Wanna Stay
I Forgive You
Already Gone
Mr. Know It All
Miss Independent

Never Again
Because Of You
What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger)
My Life Would Suck Without You

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