Seven hours of traffic, torrential rains, and hit radio. I wanted to slit my wrists.

To say that the trip did not have an auspicious beginning would be the height of understatement. I got a late start, but for good reason. I ran into Cody online and got some very inside information, some of which has to do with David’s album, and which, if it does indeed come to pass, will very good news. Especially for David. (There. That’s your hint.) Then, someone who shall remain nameless (Josie) kept me online with her hilarious fanaticism and considerable charm. I didn’t think the the difference of ninety minutes was going to make all that much of a difference and perhaps it didn’t, but I don’t think I went more than twenty miles-per-hour for the first three hours of the trip (the whole thing was only supposed to be four-and-a-half). The traffic reports were along the lines of, ” …the volume on ninety-five is causing major delays this afternoon, it just seems like everyone decided to go north all of a sudden!” Great.

Even though, as most of you know, I tend to take the long view when it comes to David’s career and don’t tend to obsess over every permutation, I did think it would be fun to hear his song on the radio, and especially since I only listen to radio music in the car, and don’t drive very often (living in New York City as I do), this seemed like a good opportunity to try and catch it. So, instead of putting in Oscar Peterson or Ella Fitzgerald for a long drive as I would normally do, I scanned perpetually for the hit music station in every broadcast zone I drove through.

Let me just say right off the bat that the state of pop music today seems a rather sorry state of affairs. Everything is so processed to within an inch of its life that when something like Colbie Caillat’s “Bubbly” or even Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long” comes on, it’s like finding an apple and a slice of ripe camembert in the midst of a deep-fried fast food feast. The one track of pure pop that got my attention included the lyrics, “I got a pocket full of sunshine” and “take me away.” Really smart but still perfectly pop, I thought, nice work… When I eventually had a chance to look this one up, what do I find but that it’s one of David’s favorites, indeed the artist he is rumored to be duetting with on his album, the one and only Natasha Beddingfield. Oh, the boy’s got taste, people, the boy’s got taste.

I never did hear “Crush,” but I was unable to endure the hit radio station investigation for the entire journey, so maybe I missed it. I had a CD I’d made and labeled “Archie,” which, at one point, I slipped into the CD player out of sheer desperation. When I looked up after the momentary glance down to make the insertion, there was an enormous street sign in front of me for Arch Road. Several hours later, when I decided I needed another break from the radio wasteland and put “Archie” in once again, I looked up and–no, I don’t think I can write it. It sounds all too… well, too unicorns and puppy dogs. Okay, I’ll spill it. But I want it on record that I am drawing no explicit correlation between putting David’s music on and seeing what I saw; I am merely reporting a sequence of events… After putting David’s music in for the second time, I looked up to see what I can only describe as the largest, brightest, most vivid and colorful rainbow I’ve ever seen in all my years. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I would have sworn it was a special effect from Hollywood or Photoshop. There was no doubt in my mind that every car on the road with more than a single individual was just then commenting on the wonder that traversed the entire expanse of the sky. “Don’t let the sun… go down on me…” he sang. The incredible sight lasted nearly thirty minutes. Just about the length of the CD.

How Josie knows me so well having not even met me in person I don’t know (she half jokingly refers to her psychic abilities; from what I’ve seen, it’s no joke), but her suggestion to me of where to stay was, in a word, perfection. I tend be rather high-maintenance about hotels–squeamish, even–but Wentworth by the Sea turned out to be a real delight. The food itself is worth the trip, and although I would give the service perhaps three stars instead of five, the geniality of New Hampshire people in general more than made up for any minor gaps. Being from New York, one can’t help but be a little skeptical in the face of such spontaneous kindness–I kept wondering what they wanted from me. Nothing, it turned out, that’s just the way they are. Crazy!

Okay, enough chit-chat. The concert. I suppose I could go on about how American Idol is such a machine that it’s hard not to be impressed by how they’re able to turn out such professional-looking shows with such margin-enancing efficiency, but I’ll spare you the cynicism. Suffice it to say that no expense was allotted without excruciating review. And then denied. The thing about seeing these kids live is that television distorts things. Sometimes to their benefit and sometimes to their detriment. To me, the biggest surprise of the night was Kristy Lee Cook. The girl commanded the stage like almost nothing I’ve ever seen. I can’t believe I’m saying it, but she’s a star. And hot? Smoking doesn’t even begin to cover it. And, the same goes for the other Cook. His stage presence is immense. His control over a crowd is really quite something to behold. Something our own dear beloved David could–and I hope is–learning from.

At the risk of committing Archie Angel blasphemy, I’m going to report that our dear David has some work to do. In an interesting way, he and Cook are almost direct opposites. Cook’s command of the stage is so impressive that the fact that what he actually delivers is so terribly common is sort of beside the point–he is an entertainer of the highest order. Archie, on the other hand, is the opposite experience. His stage presence is based almost entirely on what he delivers in performance (which is, of course, utterly spectacular), not on any conscious command of the stage and the crowd. This, I think, is a problem. It is an unfortunate fact that David is not going to be able to ride out his career on musical genius and heart-connected singing alone. Oh, sure, those for whom David’s guilelessness is part of his charm will always be able to open themselves to the miracle of his voice, but many others will need to be led with a bit more surety. Audiences want to be manipulated; they want to feel that a performer not only knows what they want but how they want it delivered. David understands that every song is a story, but I am not yet convinced that he understands that every performance is a story, too.

David offstage is another thing entirely. Everything you’ve heard is true. He is, in a sense, other-worldly. There is indeed an aura around him, although it is, I would say, as much of a protection as it is anything else. There is a slight distance about him, like a fawn in the forest that is stunning in its beauty and strangely welcoming in its gaze, but ultimately reluctant to let you get too close. There is something decidedly precious about David, but it is not fragile. I got this sense about him from the very beginning and I felt it quite strongly in his presence: David is an unusually powerful individual, with an iron resolve and steely determination. Make no mistake: David’s gentle compassion is the sign of a spiritual warrior. No one will ever get him to do what is not in his heart to pursue.

More stories and photos to come.