Last week, we watched Vanessa Ferguson impress judges on NBC’s “The Voice” with her powerful rendition of “Don’t Let Me Down” by the Chainsmokers. The singing competition show is all about discovering new talent in America, but some Levitteers from Ferguson’s hometown of Greensboro, N.C., may recognize her voice from last year’s Levitt AMP Greensboro Music Series, where she performed with the Larry Draughn Music Group.
Ferguson—who is now on R&B singer-songwriter Alicia Keys’ team—reminds us of the many Levitt performers who have previously competed on widely popular reality talent shows. In past blog posts, we’ve featured “America’s Got Talent” contestants Benton Blount (Levitt AMP Jacksonville 2016) and Jimmy Rose (Levitt AMP Middlesboro 2015), as well as “American Idol” winner Taylor Hicks (Levitt AMP Midvale 2016) as part of our Spotlight Series on artists playing upcoming Levitt concerts. Today, we look back on a few of the countless televised performances by other artists who have performed on Levitt stages and dared to sing in front of millions of viewers across America.
Laith Al-Saadi – “The Letter” (originally by Joe Cocker)
Levitt Pavilion Pasadena 2016, 2015, 2014
Laith Al-Saadi’s big voice and classic rock vibe made him a popular frontrunner on last year’s season of “The Voice,” finishing fourth with Team Adam (that’s Adam Levine of Maroon 5) in the competition. The formally trained, Ann Arbor, Mich.-based guitarist, whose blind audition has been viewed over four million times on Youtube, also stunned judges with his fast guitar riffs—even earning himself a handshake from judge Pharrell Williams.
Casey Abrams – “Nature Boy” (originally by Nat King Cole)
Levitt Pavilion SteelStacks 2014
With a melodica in hand at his “American Idol” audition in 2011, jazz singer Casey Abrams only played the instrument in celebration after successfully getting through to the next competition round in Las Vegas. The then 19-year-old is adept in a number of instruments but most often played the upright bass while crooning jazz and rock standards on the “Idol” stage, like Nat King Cole’s “Nature Boy” which won him a standing ovation. Abrams eventually finished in sixth place.
LeRoy Bell – “Don’t Let Me Down” (originally by The Beatles)
Levitt Pavilion Arlington 2012, Levitt Pavilion Pasadena, 2009
2011 was a big year for LeRoy Bell. The veteran performer, who has written songs for Elton John and Gladys Knight & the Pips, turned 60 years old and competed in the inaugural season of the X Factor U.S. Mentored by Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls, Bell sang a soulful take of The Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down” for his last performance on the show, taking eighth place in the competition.
Crystal Bowersox – “Midnight Train To Georgia” (originally by Gladys Knight & the Pips)
Levitt Pavilion SteelStacks 2016
Multi-instrumentalist Crystal Bowersox entered “American Idol” in 2010 hoping to provide a better life for her son, eventually singing her way into the finals and achieving a superb second place in the show’s ninth season. Bowersox often played guitar to accompany her pitch-perfect vocals, but for her rendition of “Midnight Train,” she decided to switch to the piano. The move was a smart one that won compliments from producer Randy Jackson, who believed Gladys Knight, the song’s originator, would say that Bowersox did the song proud.
Cas Haley – “Walking On The Moon” (originally by The Police)
Levitt Pavilion Arlington 2016, 2014, 2012, 2011
Texan Cas Haley’s brand of reggae-infused pop and rock has made him a favorite on the Levitt Pavilion Arlington stage as well as on “America’s Got Talent” in 2007, where he surprised judges with a reggae-acoustic rendition of “Walking On The Moon.” For the show’s finale episode, Haley teamed up with British band UB40 to perform their number one hit “Red Red Wine” and placed second in the competition.
Gedeon Luke – “Born By The River” (originally by Sam Cooke)
Levitt AMP Asbury Park 2016; Levitt Pavilion Arlington 2015; Levitt Shell Memphis 2015, 2014; Levitt Pavilion SteelStacks 2015
At only 18 years old, Memphian Gedeon Luke McKinney competed alongside Levitt AMP Midvale performer Taylor Hicks on the most watched “American Idol” season in the show’s history. Before starting his soul band Gedeon Luke & The People, the young “Idol 2006” contestant already showed a remarkable talent for channeling Motown of the 1960s, winning him glowing compliments from the usually critical Simon Cowell as well as place in the show’s Top 16.
We applaud these artists for making it past tough competition to perform on television—and winning the hearts (and votes) of American viewers! Do you have a favorite reality talent show contestant you’d like to see play a Levitt stage?