The Live Playoffs are finally here. Gwen Stefani, Adam Levine, Blake Shelton and Pharrell Williams are in attendance with five artists each (and four additional recalled artists) for the very first live performances of season 9 on The Voice. We have two evenings of Live Playoffs during which America will finally get to vote for whichever artist we want to see receive the mantle of The Voice.
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We. Are. Live. And Trying to Figure Out this Comeback Surprise
Did I hear that correctly? Did Carson Daly just announce that all four coaches will be bringing back one of their eliminated artists? What is that all about and why are they doing it? We already have to cram 20 performances into two evenings of Live Playoffs … so what’s going on?
Adam and Gwen’s Artists Open the Live Playoffs Night 1
Carson announces that, yes, each coach will be bringing back an eliminated artist. This is a first-time-ever occurrence. We don’t know which four will make it back, and apparently they aren’t going to tell us right away. However, this round will see each team cut in half at results time. Maybe they needed an even number on each team (six instead of five) in order to have an even cut? Thee in, three out? We’ll never know. After the results are announced and the curtains have fallen, only 12 artists will be headed to the live Top 12.
Gwen and Adam’s teams will be hitting the stage with stripped-down (meaning without much accompaniment) for the first round of entertainment. Blake, Pharrell and their artists are in the audience cheering them on. But first, Carson says we’re getting down to business right away and announces that the first artist of the evening is from Team Adam.
Blaine Mitchell Performs “Never Tear Us Apart”
We see a little of Blaine’s practice with Adam. He’s got some huge news: since we last saw Blaine, he’s gotten hitched. He says he married his best friend. We even get a peek at that special day. Congrats, Blaine.
If you recall, Blaine’s trip to the Live Playoffs hasn’t always been smooth. He lost his Battle Round on Team Blake to Blind Joe, before Adam scooped him up. Immediately, he proved his skill when he beat Andi and Alex in the Knockouts.
His performance is okay but not spectacular. I much preferred his rousing delivery of “Hold Back the River” in the Knockouts. That was powerful stuff, folks. This performance, however, proves that Blaine has a rock and roll heart.
Regina Love Performs “Hello”
How in the hell can Regina top her performance of “Midnight Train to Georgia,” a performance that brought the house down? Well, if an Adele number can’t do it, who knows what could? This song is slow, moody and dark. She gives it her all, but it doesn’t lend itself to the power and drama we know Regina has inside her.
Keith Semple Performs “To Be with You”
Rocker Keith Semple beat Manny Cabo in the Battles and Dustin Christensen in the Knockouts. There’s no reason this powerful little Irish songster shouldn’t be able to make it to the Top 12. He tells Adam about how awesome it is to have the UK supporting his career once again. He had a modicum of success in an Irish boy band before coming to the US to make his dreams come true.
He’s in leather pants and looking every bit like Adam’s Mini-Me. He seems to go a little flat on some of the higher notes, but he does okay. Again, not his best all season, but he should be safe. He was born to entertain.
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Shelby Brown Crushes “You’re No Good”
Shelby’s back and up next for Team Adam. She beat Amanda Ayala in the Battles and James Dupre in the Knockouts. She talks about how packed the bowling alley where she’s continued to perform has become since The Voice began airing.
Of all the song choices so far in the Live Playoffs, Shelby’s has been the one which best showcases the artist’s ability and serves up a hefty helping of surprise. Shelby takes it up a notch.
From here onward, the artists will be working their fannies off to show us how much better they can be. Some will rise to that challenge, some will stall and some just don’t have it in them. They will plateau. We look for those artists who progress under pressure like high quality diamonds. Shelby is an expensive rock in the rough, no doubt about it.
Korin Bukowski Performs “Adia”
Gwen once again provides an artist with a magical makeover. Korin allows Sandra Bullock (or her doppelganger) to shear about five yards of hair from her head. Not to worry, she still has a couple yards left and she’s absolutely beautiful.
Having already gone head to head with Chase Kerby and Summer Schappell only to rise victorious, Korin now has to beat out Viktor Kiraly, Regina Love, Jeffery Austin, Braiden Sunshine and the unnamed boomerang kid. This performance leaves me uncertain as to her chances. Her voice isn’t strong enough to solidly deliver those long notes. She’s shy and an underdog, so we’ll see what America thinks when the results are announced in two days.
The First Comeback Artists is Team Gwen’s Ellie Lawrence
Is it Christmas already? The two artists I most want to see again are Ellie Lawrence and Sydney Rhame. I’ve already listened to “We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off” and “Photograph” so many times that I’m hearing them in my dreams. When I see that Ellie and her gorgeous watercolor hair are back for the Live Playoffs, I actually get a tart sensation in my eyes. Yeah, that means tears, people. What? How is it that we get so emotionally attached to these artists? That’s the fun of it all, isn’t it? And the worst thing to happen is a poor song choice that does no favors to the artist’s talent. That’s what happened in the Knockouts for Ellie. But it doesn’t happen again.
Ellie Lawrence Performs “Ex’s & Oh’s”
Gwen tells Ellie that her songs have been some of the most downloaded on iTunes. Excellent. She hits the stage and she’s a little too close to the band. Her voice gets lost in the noise at first. This song does showcase her Bonnie Raitt gravel, but the song is somewhat frenetic. She has a blast during her performance and the audience gets into it. Adam says this was her best performance. Blake says it’s the best performance of the night so far.
Jeffery Austin Performs “Say You Love Me”
Jeffery has an emotional practice with Gwen. The song is about young love. Gwen advises that he wear all black and pour his heart out, “a la Sam Smith.” Jeffery’s song is perfect for his voice. His voice has such body, such resonance. He knocks this performance right out of the park. He brings his heart to the stage and lays it all out there for the world to see. Damn. Adam even says that Jeffery could win this whole competition. Pharrell says this is the best performance of the night. Hm. That sounds familiar.
Christina Grimmie makes another quick appearance to remind us about fashion and splash the name ‘Kohl’s’ across the screen. Carson continues to remind us that Wednesday will see the teams cut in half, so you need to vote, vote, VOTE.
Braiden Sunshine Performs “Everything I Own”
Braiden is back to report that he’s been performing with the originators of one of his covers on The Voice. How awesome is that? His hair is attractively straightened, but he left the gel behind. Good move, young man. He’s also left the glasses in the green room, and didn’t he have braces before? He looks like a completely different kid. He looks like a miniature Shaun Cassidy with much better teeth and a rad wardrobe.
Adam gives a little constructive criticism about this song choice not necessarily being a good one for showing off how much he’s improved. Gwen, of course, just wants to put him in her pocket and take him home.
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Amy Vachal Performs “The Way You Look Tonight”
Adam stole Amy Vachal from Blake after her Knockout performance of “A Sunday Kind of Love” (which I now own a copy of). This woman has such a dreamy voice. The key would be for her to show us that she’s more than just a crooner who makes us warm and mushy inside. Can she knock America’s socks off with this mellow wedding ballad? She’s good entertainment, that’s for sure, but does she have the chops to beat out her teammates?
Blake mentions exactly what we’re all thinking: Amy has a Christmas album kind of voice.
Viktor Kiraly Performs “All Around the World”
Viktor, voice-wise, could be Michael Buble’s twin … until he hits his falsetto. He hits the stage in the cleanest look yet. He’s the quintessential beautiful man with perfect hair and a twinkling smile. His performance is flawless, and he will most likely make it to the next round. Is he unique enough to take home the whole shebang? Probably not, but I plan to enjoy him for as long as he’s on my screen.
During the comments, Adam admires Viktor’s moves and teases Blake about the older coach’s clumsy moves. Gwen is thrilled with the performance. The only reason Viktor was free for the Steal in the Knockouts was that he was against possibly the stiffest competition of the whole enchilada this season, Jordan Smith.
Adam’s Comeback Artist, Chance Pena, Performs “Barton Hollow”
The adorable kid from a family of gym owners is back on the scene and ready to kick some ass. Adam gives him the perfect advice about honing in on what went wrong with the performance that eliminated him in the Knockouts: he needs to control the break in his voice. He needs to let it out slowly in order to be dramatic. He’s so adorable, he reminds me of a baby Hugh Jackman. He pushes out his performance. His voice is a wild animal that Chance hasn’t figured out how to manage yet. Adam gives him the kind of pep talk that sounds like a death knell after the performance. “You’ve learned so much, no matter what ever happens.” That kind of thing. Ouch.
Jordan Smith Performs “Halo”
Beyonce? Jordan is taking on Halo? Ballsy, baby. And, of course, we knew he’d get the pimp spot. He’s already kicked the poo out of “Chandelier” and “Set Fire to the Rain.” Adam is nearly in tears during their practice, which he says has never happened before. He says it’s hard to explain Jordan’s talent. He’s incredibly soulful and unique; powerful. This performance should be fantastic.
Jordan starts out mellow and slowly crescendos until he reaches the top of his range. It’s beautiful. He gets a standing ovation from all four coaches. The crowd refuses to calm down so we can hear the final coach comments. Pharrell says God has stamped His signature on Jordan’s voice. Adam speaks to Jordan’s incredible magnetism. He’s a very different kind of performer. I preferred his “Chandelier” performance to this one, but I look forward to seeing how he advances as the competition gets more fierce. He’s a shoo-in for the Top 12.
12 Performances Down, 12 Still to Come, and Two Comeback Artists Remain to Be Named
Team Adam and Team Gwen can relax now that their artists have done everything they could for this round. Adam and Gwen brought back Chance Pena and Ellie Lawrence, and we’re guaranteed an even number of cuts for each team. Both boomerang artists performed well. America will decide if it was enough to place them in the Top 12. The next episode will present Team Blake and Team Pharrell. We’ll also find out the two they’ve chosen as their boomerang artists.
The Voice airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8pm on NBC, with the Live Playoffs results show airing Wednesday, November 11 at 8pm.
(Image courtesy of NBC)