Click the image for an enlarged, non-headlined version of Rabid’s gorgeous new CD cover art.

I was so thrilled to attend Ford Day. I am grateful to Wanda from Archuleta Avenue and Rickey.org, who arranged the ticket purchase for others and also waited for me when I got hopelessly lost trying to find the venue. I am fortunate that the event was a little less than three hours’ drive away, so with some schedule rearranging, I was able to slip down to Detroit to see David perform in an intimate and more casual venue. It was also great to meet other posters and lurkers from NotingDavid.org, Rickey.org, Fans of David, Archuleta Avenue, and other sites. A group of us had dinner and further shared our Archie love after the concert, simply a great time.

The event was held in Ford’s conference concert, located on the company’s expansive grounds that also feature the Ford Museum and other attractions. The grand ballroom where the concert was held seats only a thousand guests. I immediately noticed that the audience was mostly comprised of employees from Ford and other companies. Of the tickets sold, 400 tickets were available to non-Adcraft members on a first-come basis. Our little group was fortunate to make the window for the non-member tickets by only a few hours.

Shortly after we found our seats (also on a first-come basis), I took a 360-degree video pan of the room to give YouTube viewers a sense of how small the venue was. By the time that both David’s came out to sign autographs after the concert, there were probably less than 400 people in the room. The event was the size of a medium high-school assembly, so the concert’s vibe was unplugged, friendly, casual, and intimate.

The concert began with obligatory introductions from Adcraft and Ford hosts. A local radio personality from a big Detroit talk radio station (WJR) read the news, apparently a tradition for these annual concerts. I was anxious for them to just get on with it, as I already knew that American Idol is also a grand product placement opportunity for Ford, Coke, and other companies. The anticipation in the room was palpable by the time the last host introduced the American Idol brand with several videos, which I recorded. The host introduced the two David’s and a short video presentation included a compilation of finale night clips, their season performances, and Ford video scenes.

I videotaped David’s entire performance, including the host’s introduction and David’s pre- and in-between song banter with the audience. It was fabulous to see him perform in such a small space! Right before David walked onto stage, stagehands set up a keyboard and I heard a noticeable gasp from the audience. We all knew that David would probably perform “Crazy,” “Angels,” or the rumored “Crush.” David greeted the loud cheers with his usual smile and casually took his place at the keyboard. He has obviously become more comfortable chatting with the audience through his summer touring experience. He looked great in his fitted jeans, striped t-shirt, and black jacket that we found out later he had purchased at a Detroit mall the night before with his dad.

As always, David’s set flew by at lightening speed. I am always caught between trying to soak in the experience of hearing his textured and full voice live while also capturing every second on video. My small camera does not take the best quality shots (especially in low lighting), but my sound is usually quite decent and it was the same in this case.

David’s “Angels,” as usual, was especially joyful and deep live. I always anticipate where he will choose to do runs or alter the melody. I loved the unplugged nature of the performance with no backing band.

Of course, Jeff had shared in Tulsa that David might be performing “Crush.” As soon as David began to introduce the next song, we immediately knew that we’d be the first to hear the song’s live performance. David apparently told an audience member after the show that he was very nervous for this first performance, but he delivered the song (while using a backing track) with a bouncy dance and lots of energy. “Whew!” he exclaimed when the song was over.

David is always full of surprises, which he delivered again when he introduced “Imagine.” It was wonderful to hear his entire song version. Similar to what others have already noted, yesterday’s “Imagine” performance topped or even rivaled (in different ways) his first American Idol “Imagine” performance. When I listened to the video again early this morning, I was struck by how he nuanced different notes and extended some lines out, while subtly altering his volume in different ways for effect. He caresses each note as he feels the lyrics. David’s set ended all too quickly, and like with all his performances so far, I am left greatly anticipating his solo concert.

I was not really a Cook fan during the show, but Cook certainly delivers a solid acoustic performance. I enjoyed hearing him perform in that intimate space, no doubt familiar to him after years of playing in bars and clubs. Cook was similarly relaxed and bantered with the audience.

As we had heard beforehand, if the two David’s did not have an immediate engagement to follow, they would be hanging out with the audience after the show. I would guess that less than 400 people were present after the show ended. Both David’s emerged about 15 minutes after the show ended to sign autographs. They stood on separate sides of the stage and their respective crowds gathered around. I took some photos to give a sense of just how close we were to David. At one point, I was even standing beside him for quite a long time. I spent a long time just observing him and also comparing our heights!

To my surprise, Jeff also walked on stage and down into the crowd after a few minutes. I know that many others met and chatted easily with Jeff during the tour, but I did not see him in either Indianapolis or Grand Rapids. When Jeff came over to my side of the stage, I immediately introduced myself as an educator who had come to see his son.

When I am in the moment, my journalistic training background (I was a features reporter) takes over and I am completely calm and not afraid to ask questions. Highlights of our conversation: I asked Jeff various questions about David’s educational plans (not set in stone yet; he asked me for some advice about colleges); plans for an upcoming tour (maybe in January); and will there be a Christmas album? (maybe a few songs available for download). He’s easy to talk to and quite open to bantering with fans.

Back to David. I made my way through the crowd and eventually stood at the front while David handed out signed photos. It was fascinating to watch him. Even though he is considerably more outgoing since the season ended, he still reflects a quiet and gentle demeanor, which I hope he never loses. I enjoyed sharing a few words with him. His gaze is intense, as others have also shared. He really engages with the listener. Some fans were quite moved when he addressed them by name, having remembered seeing them at concerts weeks ago. He even remembered the name of a friend (not present at Ford Day) that one of the fans had come with during a summer tour concert!

We stayed until all of us (including David and his dad; Cook had already left) had to leave the ballroom. His next stop was L.A., where he will stay while recording until three weeks before the album’s release. While David was inside his dressing room combing through the many gifts fans gave him, his dad walked out to the almost-empty parking lot to chat with the remaining fans.

All in all, the day was delightful and I am grateful that I could attend. Attending Ford Day helped soothe my sadness when the tour ended. Strangely enough, I was not sad, but rather very much at peace, after the Ford Day concert ended. Chatting with both David and Jeff about upcoming plans, and seeing David’s obvious excitement about the journey ahead, reminded me that this is only the beginning.

I hope you enjoy the videos I captured. I recorded the entirety of the host’s introduction to David, David’s pre-“Angels” banter,” the entire “Angels” and “Crush” performance, in-between song banter, and partial “Imagine.” A second video includes the rest of “Imagine.” I also included a couple of photos that give a sense of how accessible we were to David and his father. There were no barricades and both easily interacted with the crowd.

Video links:

target=”_blank”>Host intro to David, David pre-song banter, Angels
target=”_blank”>Entire Crush and part Imagine
of Imagine
target=”_blank”>Pan shot of venue