Kelly Clarkson’s unusual yet electric career came full-circle on Saturday night at Radio City Music Hall, as her performance paid respectful tribute to the late Etta James.
Clarkson’s introduction to the music industry came by way of the first season of a little show called American Idol, and American audiences heard Clarkson’s voice for the very first time when she auditioned with the time-honored and familiar Etta James classic “At Last”. She made her mistakes, just like they all do, but the voice was undeniable (unable to embed video flashback, but you can see it here).
During her Saturday night performance, Clarkson appeared onstage beneath a screen blaring cruel descriptors (“fat,” “failure”) and fake headlines — “Kelly Clarkson is fat,” “Makeup mishap for Kelly” — setting the stage for what would ultimately be a very emotional performance, full of angst, and showcasing Clarkson’s full range of capability.
Starting with “Behind These Hazel Eyes” and “Since U Been Gone,” and then going on to explore the rest of her well-known catalogue, Clarkson’s performance later took a dark turn with a vindictive “Never Again,” followed by an emotional and delicate “Because of You.” Most engagingly, Clarkson paid tribute to James, who died Friday, with a respectfully restrained version of “I’d Rather Go Blind,” followed by a lively “My Man.”
Clarkson has admitted she’s not much of a performer, and her voice indeed does most of the heavy lifting – not unlike the monolithic singer Clarkson borrowed a tune from to get her start. I’d wager a guess that while we lost a legend, Clarkson gained a guardian angel.
What do you think of Kelly Clarkson’s career? Is she following in the footsteps of Etta James, or picking up where she left off?