Simon Cowell can laugh all he wants about Kris Allen’s being “humble,” but the 23-year-old singer from Conway, Arkansas, is obviously doing something right, since he made it to the top three Wednesday night on “American Idol.”
After two weeks in which he was told in no uncertain terms by Cowell that his run on the program was probably over, Allen did it again on Wednesday, even after a pair of performances on rock night that were not his strongest to date. It helps that Allen’s hometown is pulling for him in a major way , as evidenced by another strong turnout for Tuesday night’s Kris Allen Watch Party, which this week drew nearly 2,000 supporters to his church, New Life, where once again they voted en masse.
“The vibe here was really great,” Brandon Shatswell, Allen’s pastor at the church, said. “Everyone was really positive about his performance, but you are, of course, dealing with a biased crowd. For sure they didn’t love some of the critiques.” If anything, Cowell’s comments about how Allen’s performance of the Beatles’ “Come Together” was like “having ice for lunch” motivated the crowd even more to vote as much as they could.
“Yesterday afternoon I was thinking about the show in the middle of the day and I thought, ’You know, he’s fine,’ ” Shatswell explained, admitting that Cowell’s negative comments did make him worry that the voting might be swayed by the latest difficult-to-decipher dis from the British judge. Shatswell had a chance to speak to Allen on Thursday (May 7), and he said the New Life worship leader “is really, really excited and very happy and grateful” about making it through to the top three, though he was concerned about fellow contestant Allison Iraheta going home , since they had grown close over the past few months.
Allen, who will fly home Thursday night, will be feted on Friday in nearby Little Rock and then again in Conway on Friday evening, where there will be a concert and a parade in the city’s downtown streets. Similar celebrations will take place in Milwaukee for Gokey and for Adam Lambert in San Diego.
Sonja Keith, one of the organizers of the weekly Allen watch parties , said she was very concerned that Allen might not make it through because the Conway area was hit by some heavy rainstorms just as “Idol” was beginning on Tuesday night, which affected a number of the attendees’ cell phones. “There was a bit of a panic getting the votes in,” the mother of four and local magazine publisher said. “Some people left to vote at home, but more stayed to vote than previous weeks, so it was obviously enough.”
She predicted that the homecoming celebration would be like no other event the city of 60,000 has ever seen and that attendees are expected from every corner of the state. And, Keith is already working on next week’s party, which will return to the Farris Center on the UCA campus, where she hopes to draw between 3,000 and 4,000 voters.
While she thought Allen, of course, did a great job on the Beatles song and on his duet with fellow top-three finisher Danny Gokey on Styx’s “Renegade,” good pal JP Davenport was also sweating it out a bit on Wednesday when she began checking what the “Idol” blogs were saying about her former college roommate. “I think we all were all a little worried only because of what we were reading,” she said. “In our gut, the lines were busy all night — busier than they’d ever been — so we felt like Arkansas was behind him. In our guts we felt he was staying, but we were a little scared.”
When Allen was the first contestant to be moved to safety, Davenport said the feeling was “indescribable,” forcing her to pause her DVR and stare at the TV for nearly 10 minutes. “I was not expecting him to go [to safety] first and I was preparing myself for the worst,” she said. “I had that look with the bulging eyeballs that mirrored the one Kris had and then I cried and my phone blew up with everyone calling to say how excited they were.”
Davenport said she also talked to Allen and though he was very tired, he’s “extremely, extremely” excited and all he could say about the experience was that it was “nuts.” Allen is doing his best to make time to see everybody when he gets to town, but Davenport got a bit of a taste of how incredibly busy her pal’s life has been since making it to “Idol” when he said he would definitely “pencil in” some time to hang with his friends in Conway. “How funny is that?” she laughed.
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