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Posted on Sat, Nov 28, 2009 : 1:29 a.m.

David Archuleta makes second half of symphony show sing

By Roger LeLievre


David Archuleta and the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra at Hill Auditorium.

photo courtesy of the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra

I’ll admit, after the first half of pop singer David Archuleta’s concert with the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra Friday night, I was struggling to keep my inner Simon Cowell in check. But for the second half, it was Paula Abdul all the way.

The first half of the “Christmas From the Heart” program at Hill Auditorium was a surprising disappointment. Archuleta, “American Idol” runner up in 2008 and thus familiar with the ways of acerbic judge Cowell and the more gentle Abdul, seemed to lack confidence. Control, pacing and pitch were all over the map, and many high notes were left untouched.

Sharply dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and tie, Archuleta appeared most comfortable with the Spanish Christmas carol “Riu Riu Chiu” and Sting’s “Fields of Gold.” He accompanied himself on the piano for Vanessa Carlton’s “1,000 Miles,” and sounded good enough, but was surprisingly weak on his pop hits, “Zero Gravity” and “Crush.”

Was he nervous? Intimidated by his first-ever full show with a symphony? Wishing he were at home for Thanksgiving? Whatever it was, it left me wondering if the millions who voted for him on “Idol” were responding more to his sweet charm than his musicality. But in the second part of the show, both attributes were in evidence — a potent combination that could take him far. During “What Child Is This,” I could see the performer I hope he will eventually become. He sang from the heart and it was pure gold.

This was the Archuleta I was hoping to hear, his voice on standards such as “Ave Maria” and “Silent Night” powerful and filling Hill Auditorium the way it was meant to be filled. The standing ovation after the latter was earned and deserved. He seemed so much more at ease after the break, and his voice reflected the change, especially on the French carol “Patapan” and the lovely ballad “Merry Christmas To Me,” which he said he was performing in public for the first time Friday night.

As for his between-song comments, well, let’s just say he’s got so much energy he seldom seemed to finish a thought, or even a sentence, before he hurried off to the next one. He seemed nonplussed by the screaming teens and tweens and the shouts of “We love you, David” in between songs, and waited patiently for the fuss to die down.

For an encore, he offered an impressive “O Holy Night” that was spiritual and powerful. Then, clutching a bouquet of red roses, he waved to his cheering, screaming fans, touched some hands in the front row, and was gone.

The audience was a cross-generational mix, with many of the diehard “Archies” in the choice seats down front. During intermission there was probably more texting going on than usual at an A2SO concert, and I can’t recall ever seeing glow sticks at the symphony before.

Conducted by Music Director Arie Lipsky, the symphony, as usual, sounded superb. Leroy Anderson’s “A Christmas Festival” got things off on the right foot, but it was Anderson’s familiar “Sleigh Ride” that put me in a holiday mood.

Audience members were clearly delighted with the show.

“It’s fun seeing someone with so much talent, who is only going to get better,” said Ann Arborite Jim Fuester during intermission. “He’s so fresh and has so much energy.”

Carly Dempsey, also a local fan, said she too was thrilled with the performance.

“I like that he’s really honest. When he’s up there, he’s a little shy, but it’s natural. I think he sounded great — it’s impressive what he can do with an orchestra,” she said.

Alas, there were many empty seats on the main floor; upwards of 1,800 (out of 3,500) tickets were sold, according to A2SO Executive Director Mary Stefek Blaske. Although the turnout may not have been what was expected, you have to give the Ann Arbor Symphony credit for trying something different. This new partnership with Radio Disney is exciting and I hope it will continue, with the next show on a non-holiday weekend, which may have had an effect on crowd size.

Meanwhile, this is only the beginning for David Archuleta. It will be fun, someday, to say we saw him when.


Arie Lipsky with David Archuleta.

photo courtesy of the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra

Roger LeLievre is a freelance writer who covers music for



Mon, Jan 25, 2010 : 12:08 p.m.

The horn concerto was played wonderfully by a world class musician, who was recently one of the final two candidates for Principal Horn with the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra. His playing was neither flat nor inexpressive. i agree that more thought should be put into comments like that.


Sat, Jan 16, 2010 : 4:20 p.m.

two months later and I'm still raving about this show! Every time I think about it I can't help but smile. Another good thing: I'm definitely watching the Hill Auditorium local preformace schedule. It's an amazing theater! Even if the symphony didn't profit much from the concert, if the other concert-goers were like me they are much MUCH more likely to return for other events- I sure will!


Thu, Dec 3, 2009 : 2 a.m.

Not being one of the third that bought tickets early, or the other 2/3 who may have bought later. I'd like to support local, if they'd do so the same. Getting some made for tv guy to perform instead of local talent, just ain't right in these hard economic times. As I don't watch tv, I've never heard this guy. He may be good, but the proof is in the recordings. Probably the worst thing is, that no one has mentioned his name to me and said "check this guy out". Although I have been recommended some great stuff this year.


Wed, Dec 2, 2009 : 12:31 p.m.

David was fabulous!!! I went with my mother and two friends, we sat center stage on the main floor about 10 rows back and I can not stop thinking about him playing the piano and singing 1000 Miles. We also met David before the show and had our picture taken with him. What you see is what you get. He is a wonderful person as he is a singer/performer. He is young, was thrust into all of this glamour. His stage presence will come about in time. I truly enjoyed watching his youth come out when he would speak between his songs. I would go see him perform again in a second! The Symphony was outstanding as well.


Tue, Dec 1, 2009 : 3:37 p.m.

David Archuleta's "Christmas from the Heart" concert was absolutely fabulous- the best concert I've ever attended! The entire concert was great, not just the second half. I took my 2 daughters and 2 of their friends and, days later, we are still talking about how much we enjoyed his performance. David is such a talented young singer and he seemed relaxed, confident, and friendly with the audience. His voice was perfect and his music moved us with emotion. David is also a wonderful role model for the youth and his music transcends all age groups. My family became fans of David from the first time we saw him on American Idol and we are hoping he will return again someday soon to perform with the A2SO at Hill Auditorium. - Cindy


Mon, Nov 30, 2009 : 12:03 p.m.

I'm sorry, the review does not at all do this concert or artist justice -it was spectacular! as a longtime fan, I was thrilled to hear David was coming to Ann Arbor, and he was even more amazing live. His voice is truly a gift from God. The emotion and meaning in his songs were so powerful, and it was incredibly moving. He sings from his heart,and his honesty and humility make him a star. I would go see him again in a heartbeat -what a wonderful experience! I appreciate him coming to Ann Arbor so much, and hopefully he will consider coming back.


Mon, Nov 30, 2009 : 10:45 a.m.

I am amazed every time I hear David sing live. I have been to 5 of his concerts now, and this one with the symphony will be forever etched into my heart. I laughed with him, cried with him and enjoyed with him. What I can appreciate the most about him is his realness. You know what you're getting with David Archuleta. Humbleness, sincerety, and class. I feel blessed to be on this journey with him and I will forever be a fan!


Sun, Nov 29, 2009 : 9:45 p.m.

I was at the show and also thought the second half was better than the first, although I loved when he sang The Riddle and Fields of Gold. I'm hoping these songs are more indicative of what his next album might be like. I think the fact that he was doing his pop songs with the orchestra and not moving around much had something to do with Crush and Zero Gravity not being as good as I've seen at his regular shows. I loved Silent Night, Ave Maria and What Child Is This as well as O Holy Night. These definitely came from his heart!! I was kind of wondering what Mr. Arie Lipsky thought of David after spending Thanksgiving with him and performing with him. I always like to hear what people who know music very well think of David. JUST WONDERING IF IT'S POSSIBLE TO DO A SORT OF POST CONCERT INTERVIEW WITH THE ORCHESTRA TO GET THEIR THOUGHTS ON DAVID?? Anyway, thanks for a great review, and who knows, maybe we'll see David back here again someday...fingers and toes crossed and hoping :)


Sun, Nov 29, 2009 : 9:07 a.m.

As a member of the orchestra I had a great time at the concert and I wasn't the only one that enjoyed the change of pace. David was a joy to work with and I loved his genuine innocence. When he sat down at the piano and accompanied himself my respect for him was raised to a new level. I wish we did more of these concerts not only from a revenue stand point (even if this one didn't make the AASO any money) but it's important to grow our audience. It's possible some of the folks that came to hear David might just come back to hear the orchestra in the future. Thanks to all who came out.


Sun, Nov 29, 2009 : 2:18 a.m.

Oh wow, David will NEVER be a disappointment to me. I was there, and the whole show was EXCELLENT! David puts so much feeling into his music, it's unbelievable. He is getting better and better at connecting with the audience too. He really has a great sense of humor and he is so honest he sometimes comes off sounding goofy, but that's what we love about him. He is who he is, always! During Ave Maria, David's soul went somewhere and I felt like I went with him. It was so moving and beautiful! I saw many people wiping tears after that one, even men! I must say, for his first time performing with a symphony, and after only rehearsing for 2 hrs earlier that day, he did an amazing job. David was enjoying himself up there, and the conductor was clearly in awe of David's talent. I have heard that David has already been invited to come back and I hope he does. I will be there, and maybe next time I'll bring the whole family! No one should be left home from something so beautiful. It was a night I will never forget, a perfect evening with David and the symphony!


Sat, Nov 28, 2009 : 4:01 p.m.

I saw David in Salt Lake City, Utah on 11/24/09 at a sold out show. During the lst half of the concert he sang "Crush" & "Zero Gravity" and other songs from his self-titled lst album. This was done with his band and sounded great. He had everyone in the audience, including myself & sister (both of us in our 40's) and my 12 year old niece up and dancing & singing to every note. It was fun! During the 2nd half of the concert his band accompanied a string orchestra, and an obo player and David performed his beautiful "Christmas From The Heart" songs. It was an amazing show and appealed to people of all ages! I saw a young 4 year old wave to David from the audience and also saw a couple in their 70's. It is amazing the appeal David has to people of all ages. David is talented beyond belief for someone so young! I wish I lived in the Ann Arbor area so I could have seen him perform last night with the symphony orchestra.


Sat, Nov 28, 2009 : 2:16 p.m.

I love that the orchestra played such a variety of songs. It seems that the orchestra and David had very little rehearsal together. Perhaps the pop songs were left at the back burner since they were not the highlight songs. That is my feeling. They could not have had one take in rehearsals for each song, and Crush is an extremely complicated timing song for instruments as well as voice. I have a feeling it was a combined weakness, not a David only weakness. But kudos for them trying it. I think Crush could definitely be a great orchestrated vocal combo. But Zero Gravity doesn't sound like it would even sound as swell orchestrated. That just may not be a great orchestrated song. But David's voice has never sounded off with that song in concerts of past. I have a feeling this too, may have just been an orchestra-vocal needing more practice to get down just right. It's not a classic, and they are not as familiar with it and it, too, has this different beat that does not strike me as orchestra friendly. but kudos to the orchestra for taking it on. That may be why David struggled a bit with this, since he's used to it being band instruments and much harder sounding. What really matters is that the Christmas songs were stand outs. They could have easily left out Crush and Zero Gravity in my opinion. They needed more practice it sounds. But, again, it's ok to not be PERFECT! I think the holiday weekend was a bummer for this concert. I wish there could be another in middle of December with orchestra.

Pam Molascon

Sat, Nov 28, 2009 : 1:22 p.m.

This was an awesome concert -- David is an amazing singer! I don't think any song he sang wasn't outstanding. What a great young man, with more to come.


Sat, Nov 28, 2009 : 9:35 a.m.

I've been to David's concerts and trust me, he is usually running around and jumping all over the stage while singing songs like Crush and Zero Gravity. Perhaps the small space he had to sing in was a bit constricting and a little strange to him. The fact that he adjusted and then rose to the occasion says a lot about his overall maturity and musicality. Without a doubt I have never heard anyone sing as beautifully live as David does (and I've been to MANY different concerts over the years!!). As you noted, had it not been TG weekend my entire family would have been at this concert! (The timing was so disappointing to many of us!) David is a joy at 18y, I can't even imagine what the future holds in store for him (and his fans). Thank you for this review and please check out David's cd Christmas From The Heart, it too is out of this world!


Sat, Nov 28, 2009 : 8:30 a.m.

David needed to preserve his voice for the second half of the show since he has been a little ill. The holiday weekend is definetly the reason I didn't make it. I hope he can come back some time.


Sat, Nov 28, 2009 : 7:52 a.m.

Thanks for your review. One of the things I love and admire about David is that he is always HIMSELF! not matter where and when. He is the REAL DEAL! as an artist and as a human being. Too bad some people still can't see or feel (or don't want to do it or admit it) what David is really all about. I wish I could have been there last night; I've seen in him in concert and he is phenomenal when he sings live; his voice is out of this world!. You wrote "this is only the beginning for David Archuleta", it's true. David has an amazing and very long successful music career ahead of him. I really admire him and respect him as a very talented artist and as a remarkable human being. I'm very proud of him; I'm very proud to be his fan and I'll be for life!