The 10 biggest things I noticed from the audience were:
1. The boy Lauren brought up on stage during her song was a plant straight out of Central Casting. He exited the studio after her song and met and shook hands with Lauren's parents on his way out.
2. During the playback at the end of the show, executive producer Nigel Lythgoe gestured to the audience to applaud louder as James' performance came out. He didn't do that for anyone else.
3. As James was singing his final note on his solo, he (James, not Nigel in case anyone was misinterpreting based on item #2) waved his fingers at the audience, gesturing for more applause. UGH. Such a turn-off.
4. James played the Idol theme on the electric guitar during the outro after his performance.
5. Seated in the front row behind the judges were Katey Sagal, Constantine Maroulis, Lorraine Bracco and Penny Marshall. In the second row was Brad Garrett. Semifinalist Julie Zorrilla was in the upper section. Constantine was greeted by Penny Marshall with a hug. Constantine and Julie apparently know each other too - they hugged upon seeing each other.
6. During commercials, Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson get up a lot to talk to people. J.Lo does not leave her seat and gets touched up a lot. J.Lo is also really thin in person, and her ass is not even that big.
7. Randy was sporting some orange kicks. Steven had rhinestone-studded sneakers. J.Lo had huge heels and almost flashed the world when the Jacob and James turned her around on her chair in their duet.
8. Winning the applause battle: James, Scotty, and then Casey & Jacob seemed to elicit more screams and applause from the audience. This is not shocking. Just look at the voting patterns this season.
9. The studio audience demographic is a lot older than I expected and than what has been in the past.
10. Ryan Seacrest was all over the place today. He kept missing camera cues and seemed not quite on his game. And, as you could see on TV during Haley's performance, he stayed on stage a bit too long.
As for the performances, here's my take, both based on in-studio and on TV:
Jacob Lusk - Oh No Not My Baby
I liked this a lot more than I have liked him lately. His outfit was heinous, and his dancing cracked me the hell up, but he seemed to enjoy performing today. His last note went flat, but overall it was entertaining.
Lauren Alaina - Where You Lead
Lauren's confidence seemed to be at an all-time high here, bringing out some
Haley/Casey - I Feel The Earth Move
So many double entendres during the video intro. "I like growling with her!" "I like growling singing with her. On stage." I would have preferred a Haley solo on this song. This turned into such a cheese-fest when they were at the judges tables. The ending was kind of neat with the jazzy runs, but Casey prowling the stage remains scary.
Scotty McCreery - You've Got A Friend
What a great arrangement. The strings, the staging (which looked better in studio when you could see the full stage), and Scotty's vocals were beautiful. It's absolutely tragic what the producers did to the studio recording. They ruined it with some hillbilly arrangement. But we're judging the performance here, and it was lovely. My favorite of the night, maybe even of the season, and I'm surprised that the judges didn't really show enough appreciation for it. They actually gave him some bits of criticism. But I think Scotty has enough votes in the bag to withstand having some critique.
James Durbin - Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow
This was shaping up to be a Bo Bice-like moment, and I really, really wish James had kept the entire song a cappella or at least in that tempo. The full band part was a bit of a letdown. But the judges lapped it up like it was the best thing ever (it almost was), and Randy even made the colossal mistake of saying James might win the whole thing. Tsk, Randy. The pimping is going to turn people off.
Lauren/Scotty - Up On The Roof
Cheesy background and kind of a boring arrangement, although it was suited better for them than a more upbeat version would have been. I think their duet was the best of the three, but that's not saying much because the other two were soooo cheesy.
Casey Abrams - Hi-De-Ho
I haven't been his biggest fan lately, but overlooking the grunts, I actually kind of enjoyed this. I think him having all those people on stage helped, and I really loved the staging of the whole thing, especially the beginning with him walking over to the piano and the ending with all of the musicians and singers surrounding him (if not the actual vocals of that last note).
Haley Reinhart - Beautiful
They were scrambling until the very last second to fix Haley's earpiece, and as she was singing, I was wondering if she was still having problems with it because it sounded a bit off-key to me. Surprisingly, it didn't sound as bad on TV. I think the problem with this was that the song had too many dynamic changes. It was like she was singing three different songs. Don't get me wrong - I love the song, but I didn't think it was something that would drive people to vote.
Jacob/James - I'm Into Something Good
This song is super cheesy, and those two made it even cheesier with their dancing. It was like a joke performance. I don't even know. And WOW white is soooo not flattering on James. Or those particular tight white clothes aren't flattering.
Likely bottom 2: Jacob and Haley
Going home: Jacob