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Sam Woolf makes Top 10 on ‘American Idol’

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AI Woolf March 12 1

Bradenton student Sam Woolf performs The Beatles' "Come Together" on "American Idol" airing Wednesday, March 12, 2014 on FOX. Credit: Michael Becker / FOX. Copyright 2014 / FOX Broadcasting.

Sure, Bradenton student Sam Woolf didn’t turn in a particularly enthralling performance Wednesday and it put him in the bottom three Thursday on “American Idol.” But his pitch-perfect vocals and shy-guy charm proved enough for him, near the end of the hour-long broadcast, to receive the necessary votes from fans nationwide to advance. And that means reaching the Top 10.

The most important accomplishment of Woolf’s burgeoning career, it guarantees the senior at Braden River High will perform at the nation's biggest venues as part of the "American Idols LIVE! Tour 2014.” Last year, for instance, the tour stopped at the Amway Center in Orlando and previous “American Idols” shows have come to the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

“That was a great experience, performing sold-out arenas all over the world,” former local resident and current Broadway star Syesha Mercado said about her 2008 “American Idols” tour in a recent interview with the Herald-Tribune. “It opened doors in the music industry. And as far as acting, it gave me a lot of recognition.”

The "American Idol" theme Wednesday was "Songs from the Cinema," which meant contestants could perform basically any song, as long as it has been used in a movie. Woolf told me Tuesday during a phone interview he would be going for an "upbeat song" from the 2007 movie "Across the Universe." It consists entirely of Beatles songs and Woolf kicked the episode off Wednesday – following a humorous segment featuring fellow contestants impersonating him – by performing the Beatles rocker “Come Together.” It borrows from Chuck Berry and has been covered, most famously, by Aerosmith. The song may, or may not, allude to drug use. Not a good fit for clean-cut kid Sam Woolf.

Woolf HT Feb

Sam Woolf performed Saturday, February 8, 2014, at the Bradenton Farmer's Market. (Herald-Tribune staff photo by Rachel S. O'Hara)

The Bradenton resident who lives with his grandparents has been pushed by the judges to bust out of his sensitive strummer mode all season and “Come Together” was to be his breakthrough moment.

The 17-year-old didn’t approach John Lennon’s vocals — or even Steven Tyler’s — and he walked rather than strutted across the stage, but Woolf’s performance did show another side of the rather introverted singer. He can rock, sort of.

Or, as judge Jennifer Lopez put it, he’s a “baby rock star, but we need a big rock star.”

Last week, Woolf was in his comfort zone and brought the spotlight back to Bradenton. 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 perhaps the strongest, sweetest voice on this season's “American Idol,” Woolf sounded like a star.

But Woolf couldn’t manage the kind of star-making charisma that makes judges — and record company executives — get all slack-jawed. Connick Jr. and Lopez praised Woolf while encouraging him to basically let loose. It’s the same advice the judges gave this week. For the Bradenton resident with the sonorous voice and songwriting chops to be the next “American Idol,” he will probably have to show his “big rock star” side.

"American Idol" airs at 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" at ticketsarasota.com/sam-woolf.


Sam Woolf, Top 11 ~ American Idol 2014 by HumanSlinky



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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 13, 2014
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