Zakk Wylde Joins James Durbin on Idol Stage For Metal Performance

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I’ve admitted before that I’m hooked on American Idol – something I resisted for the first two seasons before both my wife and I were both sucked in by the powerful forces of the Idol vortex. I’m usually not inclined to watch talent shows, but there was something about Idol that just captured my attention almost as soon as we tuned in one night and I just wasn’t able to stop watching. I suppose it was the contrarian in me that kept me away from the show for the first two seasons. It was just so popular and there was so much buzz about the show that I initially decided I wanted nothing to do with it. What do you expect from a Rush fan?

On the other hand, as someone who appreciates and enjoys other kinds of music beyond just classic rock, American Idol can be quite entertaining, and some of the talent that they pull out off the street is just amazing. And how can I resist watching some of those contestants who show up for their first audition expecting great things with nothing to back to those expectations up? I especially enjoy the ones who couldn’t carry a tune with a bucket, yet still insist they belong on the show. After all, their mom, dad, brother, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins all think they sound like Josh Groban or Mariah Carey!

Getting back to those who actually can sing, this season’s rocker, James Durbin, may have made American Idol history last night with a full-blown heavy metal rendition of a song that was originally done by Sammy Hagar for the 1981 animated film Heavy Metal. Other contestants have rocked out on the Idol stage before, but I can’t recall a performance that was as true to bona fide heavy metal as Durbin’s performance last night.

Zakk Wylde, who needs no introduction to dedicated metal fans, is a guitarist who may be best known for his time spent playing with metal legend Ozzy Osbourne. Wylde seemed as if he was recognized by at least a portion of the audience when he appeared, something one might not expect from an American Idol audience, but then again, perhaps they were just riled up by the appearance of a dude who looked to be about as metal as one can get.

Durbin, who shunned the advice of this season’s full-time coach, music producer Jimmy Iovine by choosing a full-on metal number, may have taken on a big risk, but if the reaction of the audience and the judges was any indication, it was a risk worth taking. It seems doubtful that Durbin will find himself among the next “bottom three” after all the attention and praise he picked up last night, but with American Idol, one can never be completely certain of anything.

Speaking of the Judges, I haven’t said a whole lot about Steven Tyler’s high-profile role as a judge this season, although there was certainly plenty of friction within the ranks of Aerosmith (particularly between Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry) when Tyler decided to accept the invitation to sign on for the show.

I think Tyler has been a decent addition to program and has handled himself pretty well. At times he still seems a bit hesitant to criticize contestants or offer more than a token amount of advice, but given that it’s his first season, he may just be settling in trying to get comfortable with this new gig.

I expected there to be a bigger hole left in the wake of Simon Cowell’s departure and even questioned whether I would continue to watch the show without him, but so far, I have not found myself missing his presence at all. Admittedly, I had a few good belly laughs over some of his no-holes-barred comments to contestants, but I guess it really comes down to the contestants themselves, and as long as those kids keep coming and sounding as good as they have been this year, the show will still be interesting enough for me.

One thing viewers can expect from American Idol is surprises. It’s nearly impossible to say who the winner will be. There have been some excellent choices in past years, such as Carrie Underwood, who has gone on to enjoy tremendous commercial success and others such as Taylor Hicks who seems to have all but disappeared from the public eye.

Does Durbin, a rocker and hard core metal fan have a shot at the title? On Idol, it’s anyone’s game, so sure, I think Durbin has a shot. There are seven or so shows left (not including the eliminations) and a lot can happen between now and the finale. Either way, it had to be a pretty cool experience for metal fans to see Durbin and Wylde rock the house last night and from all appearances, be genuinely appreciated for their work.

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