Just when you thought Jena Irene was going to simply walk away with the Season 13 "American Idol" title, Caleb Johnson, with the help of a couple of fan-chosen songs, has asserted himself. During Wednesday night's Top 5 performance show, Caleb channeled Aerosmith and Whitesnake, reaffirming his rocker status and showing that, if nothing else, he's a world-class singer and performer. While taking the former band's "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing" and making it into a smooth rock ballad, he left Whitesnake's "Still of the Night" alone, choosing instead to show the power of his voice and let the music do the talking. It was the right choice, too, because not only did he close the show on a roll he started last week with The Black Crowes' "Sting Me," he brought down the house with his David Coverdale-esque scream.
As Lyndsey Parker at Yahoo TV pointed out in her Top 5 performance recap May 1, the "episode featured several standout numbers, but if you only watch one 'Idol' performance this week — nay, this season — make it this one." This one, of course, being the pyrotechnic-backed cover of the 80s blues metal classic by Whitesnake. (Yes, that same song that sounded so Led Zeppelin-like that thousands of fans could be seen with Zeppelin t-shirts at any given Whitesnake concert.) Ricky Minor and the "Idol" band were blasting away, having fun with the hard rocking rhythm. And the lead guitarist? He performed the lead break like a John Sykes (Whitesnake's lead guitarist on the cut) clone.
The performance was so electrifying, so out-of-your-seat energizing, that "American Idol" judges Keith Urban and Jennifer Lopez hit their feet and started head-banging and fist-pumping the air. Of course, the more reserved Harry Connick Jr. couldn't show favoritism (he's a judge, he's told us, and doesn't feel it is fair to give standing ovations), but he said it all in his critique: "You just can't sing that song any better than that, man. Fantastic job."
Now, David Coverdale might have something to say about singing the song "any better than that," but even that great vocalist would be hard pressed not to admit that Caleb's rendition was big hair worthy.
"Still of the Night," performed by David Coverdale and Whitesnake on their eponymous 8-times platinum album, barely cracked the Top 80 (No. 79) on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, but managed to get to No. 18 on the Mainstream Rock chart in 1987. It remains their signature song. The song seemed to be Coverdale's and lead guitarist John Sykes' ode to Led Zeppelin, highlighted by a break where Sykes uses a violin bow to play a few notes (reminiscent of Page's performance on "Dazed and Confused" and "How Many More Times" from the band's first album). The songs roots touch even more rock royalty -- it was generated from a demo of a song Coverdale worked on with Richie Blackmore when the former sang lead for Deep Purple.
Caleb Johnson's rendition was a fan-chosen cover. A young man named Cameron Martin from Oregon requested Caleb perform the blues metal tune, saying, "It requires power and range, and you have all of them. Just go out there and crush it!"
Oh, he crushed it alright, so much so that Judge Keith had a difficult time giving the North Carolina rocker some constructive feedback.
"American Idol" is winding down its thirteenth season and some finalists just keep getting better and better -- except for Sam Woolf, who seems to be stuck in some kind of bland vocal purgatory, even if the judges can't seem to see it -- with each passing week. Still, the show is down to at least four top-rate performers -- Jena Irene, Alex Preston, Jessica Meuse, and Caleb Johnson. And one of the remaining five will be voted off the show, their fate revealed on Thursday's results episode.
Suffice it to say, it is highly unlikely that that finalist will be Caleb Johnson.
"American Idol" returns for the results reveal on Thursday at 9 p.m. (EST) on Fox Television. Judge Keith Urban is scheduled to leave the panel for a few minutes to perform.