When the first The Voice concert tour happened in 2011, it was a fantastic show, but still failed to draw enough to last beyond that original run. So when AEG announced The Voice Tour last year, there were two burning questions: would it be as good? And what would it do differently to put more of the TV show's fans in the seats?
The answer to the first question is purely a matter of personal preference. There's actually one member of this lineup who was on the original tour roster - season one runner-up Dia Frampton, whose cover of Kanye West's "Heartless" is still as impressive as it was when she performed it the first time. The roster gets an additional boost by having not one but two Voice winners - Tessanne Chin and Josh Kaufman - plus season five's secret weapon, Will Champlin. Depending on who your favorite was, you may quibble over omissions, but by taking the top three from two seasons, the tour preserves the chemistry between those finalists, which is what makes the show work.
AEG also somewhat addressed the biggest problem we had with this idea in the first place: overlooking the massive list of talent from seasons two through four who didn't get a chance to tour previously. Throughout the tour, there have been "spot stars" by various past singers, unique to particular shows. For San Diego, we were treated to season two's Chris Mann - who continues to be one of the brightest stars ever to have graced The Voice stage - and season one's Xenia. Unfortunately, they only got to perform briefly, but at least there was some representation for seasons past. Hopefully, that will encourage new fans to look backward and see the great talent that they missed; Mann in particular deserves to be a superstar, and proved it again with his flawless rendition of "Roads."
But here's where things get interesting. The first Voice tour pretty much stuck to having the artists reprise covers they'd done on the show, with a few others thrown in. Not this time. Yes, there are a couple of them in there, and they're hit and miss; Will Champlin's version of "Carry On" is still breathtaking, while it's a little bit strange to have Josh Kaufman performing a duet with a pre-taped Usher. But wisely, the artists are allowed to break out their original music, as well as perform in combinations and on songs that we didn't see on the show. The ultimate point of a tour like this should be for fans of the show to become fans of the artists - and in that aspect, The Voice Tour succeeds.
Dia Frampton has a chance to perform her single from her new music project, Archis, and it's some of the best work she's ever done. Will and Christina Grimmie's duet of the A Great Big World/Christina Aguilera hit "Say Something" needs to be recorded immediately. You can see how much fun Kristen Merlin and Jake Worthington are having when they join forces for The Band Perry's "Done." Tessanne Chin is as showstopping as ever, and especially since a lot of people don't even know her album is out, it's important that she gets a chance to perform from that record. It's refreshing to see original music get a chance to be featured, and fun to see how different artists mesh together, ensuring that the live experience isn't just a live reiteration of what you already saw on TV. These singers are legitimately talented musical artists, and the set list really gives them every opportunity to display that.
Only time (and the financial numbers) will tell if we're talking about another Voice Tour next year. And we can still dream of a tour that would include the likes of Tony Lucca, Cassadee Pope, Danielle Bradbery, Javier Colon, et al. But for what's feasible, this second attempt at bringing The Voice to the stage is a resounding success. Let's just hope that it motivates those same fans to be in seats when these artists perform on their own tours.