Wheeling sweetheart Reinhart plays to sold-out crowd
Haley Reinhart's hometown crowd couldn't get enough of her Saturday night.
More than once during the sold-out "Idols Live" show, the audience at Allstate Arena chanted the Wheeling native's name, urging Haley to sing for just a little longer.
And Haley seemed to milk each moment, frequently engaging the crowd in call-and-response, encouraging them to sing along with her.
"Boy does it feel good to be back home," Haley said. "I've got a whole chunk of family members out there, and I feel like I must know at least half of the rest of you."
Haley's renditions of two of her most popular "Idol" covers were spot on. She began "House of the Rising Sun" a cappella before letting it build to a shiver-inducing crescendo.
"Bennie and the Jets" was sultrier than ever, with Haley slinking around, drawing out every last syllable, perhaps in an effort to stay onstage as long possible.
All of the Idols seemed to be feeling the Chicago love. Both Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina said they were happy to be in Haley's backyard, and there were several shout-outs to the city and for Haley.
For a time, there was speculation Haley might be allowed an extra song because the group performance of Katy Perry's "Firework" was cut. But the rumor turned out to be just that.
It hardly mattered.
Haley was featured plenty Saturday, from the opening number of Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" to the closing performance of Journey's "Any Way You Want It," with plenty of mini-solos and backing vocals in between. Particularly memorable was Haley, Thia Magia, Pia Toscano and Naima Adepo's cover of Janelle Monae's "Tightrope."
The girls' voices blended beautifully, with not one missed note. Reinhart has said it's one of her favorite parts of the show, and it was one of the best.
Another standout was Haley, Stefano Lagone and Thia's backing harmonies for Lauren Alaina's take on "If I Die Young."
The "Idol" runner-up has a big voice, but it's even sweeter when supported.
But Haley wasn't the only contestant with Chicago ties to do her city proud. Casey Abrams, who grew up in Wilmette, turned Rob Thomas' "Smooth" into a funky experience that was one of the night's most fun covers -- it included scatting along with one of the "Idol" guitar players.
Casey's duet with Haley on "Moanin" may not have been as good when the pair originally did it on "Idol," but their voices still complement each other well.
Vastly improved is Stefano Lagone, who worked the crowd with ease. James Durbin's range may have come off as too shrill for TV, but it sounded fantastic in a filled-up arena.
And of course, the Season 10 winner, Scotty McCreery, the country kid with the big voice, drew the loudest screams of the night. McCreery displays solid vocal chops, and he's toned down the annoying faces. His performance was clearly that of a champion Saturday night.
It may have been Haley's first sold-out hometown show, but we're betting it's going to be far from her last.