LOS ANGELES — Fans in the “American Idol” audience can’t get enough of Phillip Phillips. That fact was made clear during the opening of the show, when screams of “We love you Phillip!” reverberated through the crowd in the Los Angeles studio.
It was a big night for the 21-year-old pawn shop worker from Leesburg. Each contestant was required to sing three songs: one that the judges chose, one that the contestant picked and one that mentor Jimmy Iovine selected.
In round one, Judge Steven Tyler picked the song “Beggin’” by Madcon for Phillips. The song started out slowly, with just Phillips and his guitar, a backing band soon joining in.
All three judges gave the performance rave reviews. Tyler went so far as to say, “You could be a new age Boss ... a new Bruce Springsteen.”
A clip that was filmed during Saturday’s homecoming event in Leesburg and Albany was played as a lead-in to his round two performance. The clip showed fans lining the streets for the parade, cheering Phillips’ at the airport and screaming during his perfomance at Lee County High School, as well as Phillips visiting with his family.
In round two, Phillips chose to do a version of Matchbox 20’s “Disease,” supported only by a saxaphone player, a drummer and his own guitar. The judges were far less impressed by this performance.
“I wanted more of a moment,” Randy Jackson told Phillips. Lopez and Tyler agreed that it was not a “wow” performance.
In round three, Iovine chose Bob Seger’s “We’ve Got Tonight” for Phillip’s final song. Phillips kept the song simple, without his guitar, backed by a piano and strings. Sitting on a stool in the center of the stage Phillips gave the judges what they have been asking for all season — a melody.
And all three judges were on ther feet at the end of the performance. Jackson could hardly contain his excitement.
“Perfect song at the perfect time! It was your best performance yet!” Jackson said.
Lopez agreed. “There are twenty million girls out there who wish you were singing to them,” she said. “It was like a lullaby.”
Voting for the final two finalists began at the end of the show. The final two will be announced during tonight’s “American Idol” telecast.