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Local student Sam Woolf advances on 'American Idol'

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Bradenton student Sam Woolf seen performing on "American Idol" television show Wednesday, March 5, 2014 / FOX COURTESY PHOTO

It didn't take long for Sam Woolf to make an appearance. During tonight's live broadcast of "American Idol," the Bradenton student helped kick off the opening montage that featured all 12 finalists. Woolf's face filled the screen as he sang, gorgeously, a line of "Home," the debut single by Phillip Phillips, the 2012 winner of "American Idol."

Woolf also didn't  have to wait long for the results based on his performance Wednesday. Neither did all of his fans blowing up Twitter with the "Woolfpack" hashtag (#Woolfpack). Family and friends back in the singer, songwriter and guitarist's hometown here had to be relieved, too.

Less than 15 minutes into the latest episode of "American Idol," host Ryan Seacrest asked Woolf and several other of the dozen remaining contestants to step forward. With a single word, "safe," the senior at Braden River High learned he would advance. That means Woolf will spend another week in Los Angeles, at least two more nights on national television, and is one step closer to winning the superstar-making show. Some would have jumped for joy. Not Woolf. The 17-year-old walked off camera as if he had just been asked to please go to his next class.

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Bradenton student Sam Woolf seen performing on "American Idol" television show Wednesday, March 5, 2014 / FOX COURTESY PHOTO

Earlier in the show, all 12 contestants were seen talking around a dinner table. They talked about their performances. They talked about feedback from celebrity judges Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr. They talked about forming friendships with each other. Woolf supplied the reaction shots. In the first, we see him intently listening, looking much more mature and wiser than his years. In the second and final shot of the scene, he's smiling, warm and genuine, and then laughing.

Woolf must have been laughing at something genuinely funny because after witnessing him sing, especially his own original songs, and talking to him, I get the feeling he's incapable of hitting a false note or faking an emotion. The judges want him to emote more, with his voice and body language. If and when he does, it should come from the same place of sincerity everything else from him has emanated. I hope the voting public, all those #Woolfpack members, feel the same way. After all, it's votes, not judges, that ultimately determine the next "American Idol."

Incidentally, Emily Piriz, who lives in Orlando but is from Miami, received the least amount of votes. The judges get one "save" for the rest of the season but Piriz's closing performance wasn't enough to win them over. Well, at least not enough to win over the guys. Appearing frustrated, Lopez said the decision was not unanimous, which is required for a save. Piriz, completely composed, left the show with words of gratitude.

Down to 11 contestants, next week's theme is "the cinema," Seacrest said. If you happen to known any of Woolf's favorite films, or, better, yet, favorite film songs, drop a comment. I'm sure I'm not the only one who would like to know.

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Bradenton resident Sam Woolf's Braden River High School as seen on Fox's "American Idol" television show Wednesday, March 5, 2014.

On Wednesday, Woolf brought the spotlight to his hometown. The theme was “home” and our local hero got his turn to perform well into the second hour of the broadcast. A montage included a “Welcome to Bradenton” sign as well as a shot of Woolf's Braden River High School.

As for his performance, Woolf chose a rather obscure number, “Just One,” by West Coast indie-folk band Blind Pilot. Again pitch perfect and demonstrating he has the most sonorous voice on this season's “American Idol,” Woolf sounded like a star.

But Woolf still couldn't manage to display the kind of star-making charisma that makes judges and record company executives get all slack jaw. Harry Connick Jr. and Jennifer Lopez praised Woolf while encouraging him to basically let loose.

The strongest feedback, though, came from the third judge, country music superstar Keith Urban, who said Woolf's vocal tone was “like butter,” guaranteed he'd make it through the next round of nationwide voting and, sweetest of all, told the world he would gladly go out and buy an album of Sam Woolf original songs. Still, Woolf remained reserved about it all.

“I'm definitely having fun but it's not what I expected,” Woolf said Wednesday when interviewed after the 'Idol’ broadcast by local television station Fox 13.

"American Idol" airs at 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays on Fox. Check out our Sam Woolf website with interviews we conducted, more videos, photo galleries and reviews of his performances on "Idol."



Wade_Tatangelo_by_Mike_Lang_HT_06212013
WADE TATANGELO is the editor of TICKET + and a contributor at TicketSarasota.com. He has been an entertainment editor, reporter, columnist and reviewer for more than a decade at publications nationwide. He is a Hershey, Pa., native who grew up in Tampa and graduated from the University of South Florida. Wade joined the Herald-Tribune in 2013. He can be reached by email or call (941) 361-4955.
Last modified: March 6, 2014
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