Kelly Clarkson performs “Catch My Breath”
Photo: D. Drapela

By Michael Rampa

They say you never forget your first one.  That is why millions will always remember Kelly Clarkson. Thanks to a little show called American Idol, its inaugural winner has built a solid 13-year career. Fueled by talent, charisma and a squeaky clean image, the Fort Worth native is a multiple Grammy award winner, currently a new mother and Reba McEntyre’s daughter in law.

Plying to smallish crowd of about 6,500 on a very muggy evening in Burgettstown, PA Sunday night, the humidity and thunder showers did not dampen the two-hour performance. She came out with the pedal to the metal with blistering versions of “Dance With Me” and the collective sing along, “My Life Would Suck.”

Midway, the set got a little dark as she wept through “Piece By Piece,” and “Breakaway/Because Of You” accompanied only by piano. Still America’s sweetheart and infectiously charismatic, she quipped, “Sorry, Y’all. Those songs are always tough. ‘Where are the meds?’”

In direct contrast her guitarist broke out the Gold Top Les Paul for an occasional shred fest worthy of an 80s hair metal show. As with most of today’s pop concerts, the massive stage production spared no expense.  Floor to roof panels subtlety slid into different positions and exposed her capable band from various angles., What makes Clarkson so endearing is that she is generally devoid of diva behavior. Between her playful cabbage patching during “Stronger” to her self-deprecating humor throughout, there is never a dull moment. When her earring accidentally dropped into her dress, she took a break and said, “Excuse me for a second, something fell between Thelma and Louise.”

She closed with a thundering three song encore that included a cover of “Bang Bang” and of course, her Grammy winning signature single, “Since U Been Gone.”

Her first tour in two years features a trio of openers. First up was fellow Texan Abi Ann. The 17-year-old is already an accomplished touring country artist with the likes of Jesse McCartney with several indie awards to her credit.

Next up was Eric Hutchinson. His stage banner read “Eric Hutchinsion is pretty good, “ Bearing a striking physical and vocal resemblance to the artist Beck, he performed four acoustic originals from his six rdisc collection d and tipped his cap to Taylor Swift  with a catchy “Shake It Off” to close out.

A Capella quintet Pentatonix is like seeing the Pitch Perfect movie come to life, which explains the deafening screams of teenage girls. Lest you think that lessens their street cred, the group has a Grammy for best A Capella performance. They performed a set of covers ranging from Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” to a Michael Jackson medley from a multi-tiered lighted riser. Hey resurfaced later to accompany Clarkson on a ripping version of “Uptown Funk.”