SALT LAKE CITY — On tour for the first time in three years, Kelly Clarkson stunned hollering Utah fans as she ascended to the stage in a scarlet, shimmering ball gown during her opening number at Vivint Smart Home Arena on Wednesday night.
While singing "A Moment Like This" a cappella, which she first performed after being crowned the inaugural 'American Idol' winner, it felt like Clarkson was creating a new moment for audience members, one that seemed to say: “I'm still here and I'm better than you remember.”
But her actual words after that song were much funnier: "I'm not sweating, but I can't breathe. (I forgot that) you guys are way the (heck) up here."
Clarkson hasn't missed a step during her three-year hiatus from touring: She had a couple kids, is a winning coach on NBC's "The Voice" and her talk show, "The Kelly Clarkson Show," is set to debut on NBC this fall. Despite these successes, it's clear that Clarkson is most at ease while serenading 20,000 fans every night on her "Meaning of Life" tour.
"You (all) live in such a postcard magical place," Clarkson told audience members in Salt Lake.
From there, she delved into a set list that brought the mid-2000s back to life. It won't come as a surprise that young adult girls sang along with Clarkson as she belted timeless hits like "Breakaway" and "Behind these Hazel Eyes," but young men and old men were equally as fanatic, proudly mouthing all the words, showing that Clarkson's music reaches a wide demographic of people and proving that truly good music resonates with all ages and genders.
Clarkson's voice carried the same power and soul that fans have loved since her "American Idol" win back in 2002, reminding the audience just how incredible her voice sounds live. After performing empowering hits from her new album, including "Meaning of Life" and "Whole Lotta Woman," Clarkson gave one of the most poignant performances of the night, singing "Piece by Piece" which details the hardships she faced growing up without a father. Clarkson choked back tears near the end, but that didn't faze the mesmerized crowd as they listened to her silky vocals in near silence.
It's safe to say, however, that Clarkson's vocal chops weren't the only thing on display Wednesday night — she also has an excellent sense of humor and loves to chat. While explaining that she was asked to host her own talk show, Clarkson added, "(I guess) people love train wrecks."
After performing a crowd-favorite medley of more classics including "Because of You" and "Beautiful Disaster," Clarkson surprised the audience. She said that during every concert, she loves to find local talent and invite people on stage to perform.
With a glass of wine in hand, Clarkson excitedly announced she came across the now viral "Les Miserables" medley video featuring Utah's LeBaron Family and was instantly hooked. Within minutes of relaying that story, the entire LeBaron family was on stage with microphones in hand.
Clarkson couldn't believe one family could harbor so much talent and was convinced there had to be a weak link.
"When someone told me about (the LeBaron family), I thought one of them was going to suck, (but) they are all crazy talented," she said.
With that, the LeBarons launched into their pitch-perfect "Les Miserables" medley, which was easily the highlight of the whole night. Clarkson looked on with a beaming smile and hands in the air the entire time. After a standing ovation from the crowd, Clarkson told the family: "I want (someone) to make a musical with this family … I don't think I've ever seen a more blessed group of individuals."
The fun didn't stop there. Clarkson followed up the LeBarons' cameo with a soulful performance of a newer song entitled, "Move You." This was quickly followed by one of the most upbeat songs of the night, "Miss Independent," where Clarkson was joined by her talented tour openers, Brynn Cartelli, season 14 winner of "The Voice" and country sweetheart Kelsea Ballerini. Ballerini held her own during her opening set list which included hits like "Love Me Like You Mean It" and "Yeah Boy."
After a concert of so many highs, it seemed impossible that Clarkson's encore could improve on the already amazing night, but once again, the singer proved she knows how to thrill a crowd. Before closing the night with highly anticipated hits like "Stronger" and the always relevant "Since U Been Gone," Clarkson slowed things down, showcasing yet another talent of hers: Singing covers.Comment on this story
She started with a familiar and beloved number, "It's Quiet Uptown," from the hit musical "Hamilton." The crowd was indeed quiet as Clarkson emotionally sang the lyrics from a raised stage. She also took on one of today's hottest tracks, Loren Allred's "Never Enough" from "The Greatest Showman," her powerful vibrato effortlessly hitting the high notes and filling the arena.
Finishing the night with covers just proved this woman can do anything, showcasing her ability to soar on already popular songs as well as her own tunes. The singer delivered impeccable vocals, a much-appreciated wit and proved she's not trying to be anybody but herself. Clarkson is one of the most authentic people to ever come out of Hollywood.