Our First Concert: Kelly Clarkson | EW.com

Music

Our First Concert: How Kelly Clarkson shaped one writer's love of Top 40

(Rob Verhorst/Redferns)

Each week, EW writers and editors will share their first concert experiences. Whether we were chaperoned by parents or hanging out with friends, these moments stayed with us and helped shape how we enjoy live music. First up, one writer remembers seeing Kelly Clarkson for the first time.

Technically, I attended my first concert with my parents in 1991: Kool & the Gang at Radio City Music Hall, where my mother says she felt me kicking when Stevie Wonder joined the group for a surprise performance. And as an actual out-of-the-womb child, my love of anything that Radio Disney played prompted mom and dad to send me to see Aaron Carter and the A-Teens, a performance during which one of the male ABBA knockoffs managed to get through with a broken leg.

But when it came time to actually pick a a concert on my own, I didn’t stray too far from the pop roots of my early childhood. So in mid-July 2006, two of my best friends and I — with my mom along as our gracious chaperone — set off to Jones Beach on Long Island’s South Shore to catch the first (and in my opinion, best) American Idol winner, Kelly Clarkson on her Addicted tour. I looked forward to hearing live renditions of what my tween self deemed my future wedding song, “A Moment Like This,” along with “Breakaway,” which I associated with my then-favorite movie franchise, The Princess Diaries. (The song plays when Princess Mia (Anne Hathaway) stops to say hi to little girls during a Genovian parade in Princess Diaries 2. It’s adorable.)

Clarkson’s stage presence captivated me the minute she entered the ocean-side amphitheater, running through a mix of her Breakaway hits along with what has now become her tour staple, cover songs. Toward the middle of the set, Clarkson put her spin on Ray Montague’s “Shelter” and Marc Broussard’s “Home” — two cuts I did not know at the time, but I imagine my mother appreciated the throwback.

Clarkson continued to command the room with her powerful vocals, lacking any truly over-the-top production moments. It was just Kelly, her band and the audience, and I loved it that way. The night’s most memorable moment came when Clarkson braved the crowd and topped a podium at the barrier between the floor level and mid-tier seats. She belted out some more Breakaway cuts, but I was mesmerized that Clarkson — someone I’d only seen on TV and the early days of the Internet — was so close to me. Soon after Clarkson returned to the stage, she ended the show with a high-energy version of “Walk Away.”

It was the encore, though, that introduced me to the element about live shows that keeps me buying tickets. As my friends and I jumped up and down shouting the lyrics to “Since U Been Gone,” I realized the best part of coming to see artists I loved was feeling the seats vibrating and the beats pumping through my body, knowing everyone else came to look as stupid, but feel just as jubilant, as I did that night.

While I never heard “A Moment Like This” live — I’ll just have to wait until it’s played at my wedding! — Clarkson put on an impressive pop show, the kind I still catch today. And her Addicted tour proved that no matter how many times you hear a song or an album, the connection to the material and the artist changes when they’re a few feet away, rocking out on a platform in the middle of the crowd, with your mom only a few feet away.