It was performance night Wednesday on American Idol, and the first live show of the season produced some surprises that you didn’t see at home — at least one of which had the producers in the dark (we’re looking at you, tardy-for-the-party Nicki Minaj). Here are five noteworthy sights from the Idol-Dome on top 10 night, when the finalists had to sing songs by winners from the series’ first 11 seasons:
1. The center of activity before the live show begins is usually the green room, a credentialed-only VIP area walled off in the corridor next to the Idol stage. But not Wednesday night. That’s because right outside the VIP room you couldn’t help but bump into Idols everywhere you turned. Not the season 12 finalists but returning singers from seasons past, including Didi Benami, Diana DeGarmo, Michael Johns, Pia Toscano, Brooke White and Ace Young. They had come home to Idol to pass the Idol Across America microphone to Ryan Seacrest. About 30 minutes before the live broadcast, they walked onto the Idol stage to hand the mic to Seacrest and meet and interact with the top 10 from season 12.
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2. The half-dozen former Idol contestants weren’t the only ones enjoying a homecoming Wednesday. Simon Lythgoe, who was a producer on the first six seasons of the series, had a front-row seat for the top 10 performances. He was seated next to his dad, executive producer Nigel Lythgoe.
3. As stage manager Debbie Williams counted down the last five seconds to the live broadcast, everyone in the audience could see that, as usual, there were four empty chairs for the judges on their small stage. That meant four judges were expected to fill those seats. But when Seacrest introduced the panel, only three walked out onstage. Those of us wondering where Minaj was soon found out: She was “stuck in traffic on the 405" Freeway (though Randy Jackson said he thought it was “the 101”) and was “seven minutes out.” It was an American Idol first: a judge late for the live broadcast.
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4. Once she did arrive at the studio, Minaj spent the commercial breaks looking into a hand-held mirror and fixing her hair and makeup, making us think she was so late for the studio that she didn’t have time to take care of these important tasks before her arrival. Or maybe her car’s top was down?
5. As the judges were critiquing Amber Holcomb’s performance of Kelly Clarkson’s “A Moment Like This,” Nigel Lythgoe escorted a woman out of the audience to the standing-room-only area right in front of the stage. He carefully positioned her near the steps leading up to where Seacrest and Holcomb were chatting. Seacrest soon acknowledged Holcomb’s birthday and said her stepmom was in the house and had a birthday present for her.