It’s hard to imagine it’s been less than a year that Casey James has been on our radar. Most of us first saw him either in leaked photos on AI fansites identifying the top 24 or on the show, walking down a street, holding his guitar as we heard Ryan Seacrest in a voiceover introducing him. Since then, Casey has given his fans so many memorable moments, trying to narrow the list to just ten is daunting. But I’ll try.
Duet with Bret Michaels
For the three minutes he was onstage, Casey was the star of American Idol Season 9. He owned that stage. Singing, slinging two guitars, shining on his singing partner’s signature song, it was Casey’s moment in the spotlight. Had you not known who was in the final two, you would have thought this was the winner’s coronation.
There was a dividing line during this competition, that which came before Jealous Guy and that which occurred after. Before, Casey was seen as a talented singer-guitarist. After, he was an artist, capable of plumbing an emotional depth that connected with every viewer. It was a transformative moment that changed the perception of what he capable of.
While his fans fought back tears, or more likely resigned to having a few stream down their faces, Casey took his swan song on American Idol and made it a celebration. He looked like an unshackled slave, so elated with his new found freedom and so grateful for where he was. When he picked up his second cousin from the audience and shared the stage with her, our hearts collectively melted. And we all knew that this was not the end of Casey, but the start of an exciting new beginning.
Tweet before first AI concert performance
At 5:15 Pacific time on July 1st, Casey tweeted:
“I’m about to play for ALOT of people. My whole life has led me to this point.I have never been happier or more thankful.No words, only love”
Those last four words have so much meaning for Casey’s fans — they so simply yet eloquently describe what he must have been feeling as he prepared to step on the stage for the first time and be the performer he wanted to be. And it encapsulated every feeling his fans have felt about him.
Late Night Sandwich Videos:
These videos, put together by Michael Lynche, quickly became like crack to Casey’s Twitter fans. Their addiction was so acute that an LNS video without Casey was enough to start serious withdrawals — agitation, depression, anger at his replacement. They were, along with the Twitter parties, the highlight of the summer for Casey’s fans. These videos showed a relaxed, fun-loving Casey that solidified the deep connection his fans had developed with him. All the videos can be located here, but I’ve chosen the one from during the Texas concert stop for this list.
Saving his 1000 tweet
On August 12, Casey started a series of tweets, teasing his Twitter fans that something good was coming. And, indeed it was. This is how Casey announced his signing with Sony Music.
@CaseyEJames I will be working with Sony Nashville!!! Not sure the exact specifics, but there will be an official press release soon. Unreal. 🙂 Thursday, August 12, 2010 2:56:38 PM via Echofon
@CaseyEJames Sooo close… Thursday, August 12, 2010 1:41:51 PM via Echofon
@CaseyEJames Inside venue tonight. 🙂 Thursday, August 12, 2010 1:41:32 PM via Echofon
@CaseyEJames Andy forgot the card he picked!! Haha!! Thursday, August 12, 2010 1:40:45 PM via Echofon
@CaseyEJames I bought band of brothers on blue ray!! Thursday, August 12, 2010 1:36:58 PM via Echofon
@CaseyEJames A few more random tweets to go! 1:34 PM Aug 12th via Echofon
@CaseyEJames I love my dogs!! 🙂 1:33 PM Aug 12th via Echofon
@CaseyEJames I’m about to eat a sandwich. 🙂 1:26 PM Aug 12th via Echofon
@CaseyEJames It’s Hot in Arizona. 🙂 1:25 PM Aug 12th via Echofon
@CaseyEJames So that my news will be # 1000. 1:25 PM Aug 12th via Echofon
@CaseyEJames So I need to tweet a few more times to get to 1000. 1:25 PM Aug 12th via Echofon
His decision to share the good news in this fashion showed just how much his fans meant to him and how much he knew they would want to share in his big moment.
Hometown performance of Gravity
This is what I wrote about this performance when I did a post reviewing his stop at the Keys Lounge and the other hometown venues.
Casey covered John Mayer’s Gravity and, though it’s a little hard to hear over all the screaming from the understandably enthusiastic crowd, his command of the song was unmistakable. He sang with such feeling, oozing the charisma the judges had once claimed he lacked, and played like he was making love to his guitar. He even gave out a little moan at one point, overcome with the emotion of the moment. As much as I’m looking forward to him recording his first CD, I’d say that Casey will always be one of those performers (like Springsteen, Vedder, and Stipe) who are actually better live.
Making it past the group performances in Hollywood
Casey was excited when he made it to Hollywood, and the video of him calling his mother, Debra, and giving her the news (along with her ear-piercing reaction to the great news) was memorable as was Casey’s stream of “woos” after he got the news that he had made the top 24. But this video, of him making the cut after the group round where he struggled with an apparent fear of choreography, is so beautiful and emotionally piercing. His tears — of relief, of joy — are so real and telling. More than any other moment, that small clip at the end of the video showed just how much this meant to Casey.
His first performance during the AI9 tour
This is what his brother Billy Cole said after seeing the video:
HOLY CRAP!!!! THIS IS AMAZING !!!! Whomever got this vid, thank you. I was sitting here in front of my computer jumpimg up and down moshing all by myself, like a dork. This has the best sound yet, of any of the videos i have looked at! This is the first time i could actually hear and tell what he was playing, I have heard the original, but not his version. I knew it would rock, but wow! THIS is the guy I am used to playing with!
Couldn’t put it any better myself!
I wrote this about Casey’s Mrs. Robinson before learning more of the backstory (about him dedicating this song to a family friend who had just been in a very serious car accident) and just how much this performance really meant to Casey. But what I could tell at the time was how heartfelt his performance was and how Casey could tap into so much emotion in such a short period of time.
This is by far my favorite AI performance of his — tender, vulnerable, and a little wistful. I don’t know if it was because it was the six year anniversary of his motorcycle accident or if the song has some other meaning, but it was Casey at his most exposed. It will be interesting to see musically which Casey we get when he’s done with the American Idol tour and settles down to make a record — the good-time, old-time rocker, the soulful, sexy bluesman, or the earnest, sensitive singer-songwriter. Is it too much to hope for all three?
I particularly like his softer, less crisp enunciation of the lyrics. There’s this singer, Natalie Merchant, she was originally with 10,000 Maniacs. She had a habit of slurring her consonants, so “stride” would become “stide.” Anyway, Casey does that here, as the word “pray” is sang so delicately that the “r” falls off. There’s something so ethereal about the way it sounds. And then, at the end, when he plays with the melody so the last bit takes a little country dip. I don’t know what the judges didn’t see that the rest of us saw during this performance, but maybe they were too intent on their fantasy final two to see what there was right in front of them. But we saw it.
So that’s my list. I know you’re coming up with yours as well, so post it here in the comments section and we can all share in our Casey memories 2010 as we wait to make all new memories next year.