Harry Connick Jnr, Keith Urban and Jennifer Lopez have been three excellent judges and mentors and I feel they will guide us through the series to end in a good way, assisted as ever by Ryan Seacrest, not looking that much older than he did at the outset.
There is a rapid run through of previous winners. It was interesting to see whether I remembered each one and whether any were still making good music now. A few are.
Michelle Marie gets the honour of kicking us off. At the age of 15 she can sing well, although most of it is at full volume and lacking any real emotion. Good notes and sound but she is a bit too much and over excited and when the audition room gets invaded by several (quite odd looking but probably very nice) people I do wonder whether the panel were wondering what they'd done! Just as I write this, Harry says that the people coming in had scared the sh#t out of him!
I don't think she's going to get much further and I'm not totally sure she was the best audition to start this series off with but it may have been the sort of thing that American production team people think their viewers will like.
In Atlanta they have winners Rubin and Lee and possibly Kris, I'm not sure, to greet some of the contestants.
The next one up is Josiah Siska, a totally Country & Western guy with a superbly low voice. He is a nice fellow and Ghost Riders In The Sky may be a 1950s number but he does a great job. Nice audition, although he doesn't strike me as modern that really doesn't seem to matter on this programme. He's through.
Third up is a powerful girl with It's A Man's World and a lot of runs that were pretty pointless. She's through too. I don't recall her name but I don't see her making any Live Shows.
Fourth up is Billy Bob who is a Honky Tonky man. He is gigantic. You can listen to him talk all day. Great character. Some of his sentences were classic out of some Western film. He doesn't sing too well, though, which is a shame.
Lee Jean is another 15 year old but nothing like the girl at the start. He just strikes you straightaway as more mature and 'normal'. I don't know the song he sang but there was something special about this young man that, despite some notes going astray, showed talent. he has to go through and we'll see more of him. Nice job.
Off to Denver and we meet Jeneve Rose Mitchell who lives somewhere with no electricity. She uses a generator to watch TV and spends most of her time with horses. She is genuinely from the outback! Off the grid on 'Saddle Mountain'. Amazing. she is very original, playing a cello and singing. Fascinating. I don't know where she fits in but she is through and should be good to watch as she must surely progress.
Sonika Viad is a very pretty girl with parents from India and the first almost typical 'pop star' of the evening to audition. Nice voice, a simple look but all the more attractive for that. Harry says that she could win, she just sang, no runs or fancy bits.
Next comes a lad called Joseph who sings semi-operatically as if he is in pain. He looks like he is suffering too. Big voice but he's all over the place. Everyone's saying 'Let's go Jo' and they look as if they had really not expected anything other than a Golden Ticket.
Next we have a nice girl police officer. Reanna Molinaro has a nice name and attitude too. Once she had handcuffed Harry she does a lovely job of a Patsy Cline number. She'll be through.
Sylvia yodels. Oh dear. She is a cool lady but really she gets a bit annoying after a while. Lovely character and she hardly stops talking.
Shevonne has auditioned five times before. she looks a lot better than before. Laurel Wright too has been here before and, from last year a guy whose name I missed returns and did Benny & The Jets. All three sounded like they should go through and they do.
We see Nick Fradiani briefly who has an album coming out soon.
Joshua next and he has a good voice and nice personality. One of the better guys so far, after Lee Jean. Possibly the first to have made me stop and listen and you get the feeling he really means what he sings. He is easily through and I'd like to see him.
Jordan Sasser and his wife Alex are both entering the competition. He looks a prat with the mini pony tail. Alex sings Bruno Mars and plays a ukelele. It is neither one thing nor the other. Nice enough girl but it's all a bit sweet. No passion, all on the surface. So she gets a 'no'. In quite substantial contrast Jordan does a pretty good job of Celine Dion's It's All Coming Back. He is a bit over the top but he could be helped to control that. He gets through and certainly can perform although whether he'll stand out isn't s clear. He might be a bit 'ordinary'.
Kerry Courtney is a solid singer but a bit heavy on the guitar. He has quite a lot of emotion going on in this slightly off beat number and it doesn't really show off whatever talent he may have as well as it might at the start. As he progresses, however, he gets in to it and he is interesting. Quirky, as Harry says. Idol material I am not sure about. Jenny says he gets dark and even a bit scary at times. He goes through, deservedly so. It was interesting also to see that he was on his own - no-one to shout and jump up and down when emerging with the Golden Ticket.
Shelbie Z is a powerful Country South singer. She delivers a Carrie Underwood number well and flies through to Hollywood round. She could be a competitor although i don't know how she'll g down with the voters if she gets that far. She can be a bit over the top after a while. She was a Voice contestant.
Kanye West closes the first show of this Final Season by doing an audition himself. Quite funny, especially with his mum chatting with Ryan outside.
A good start. Quite a classy show in comparison to X Factor at the same stage. Far fewer bum auditions, indeed only one or two that I recall. The panel seem settled in their skins and just enjoy life. The small audition room with no instruments other than an occasional piano accompaniment or the auditionees own guitars works well for me.