In its fifth year running, Canmore Idol began last week with a slate of 29 contestants that showcased amazing local talent.
Judges Jo-Anne Belvedere, Joe Ernewein and Ric Proctor had their work cut out for them in whittling that number down to just 20 to move forward into this Saturday’s (March 5) second round of the competition.
From Eminem, Pink, Willie Nelson and Mumford & Sons to original works, God Save the Queen and even a choral piece performed a cappella, the stage was set for a tough competition.
A big impression was made by 18-year-old Justin Hill, who performed a song he wrote about growing up in Canmore which captivated the entire audience and drew comparisons to a young Bob Dylan.
“There is something honest and sincere about you,” Belvedere said. “That is the most hair the Legion has seen in a long time.”
After the competition, Hill said he was not sure going in if performing an original was the right choice, but the end result was “awesome”.
“I was really shocked at the outcome,” he said. “I was skeptical because I was doing an original, but it was awesome.”
The bar was set high by the first two performers, Drew Elderkin and Jesska Brewin.
Elderkin, a return contestant, opened the show for the second year in a row and performed the original song “You and Me”.
“You’re a great performer,” said Ernewein. “You remind me of a Dave Matthews crossed with Kurt Cobain with a Bruce Springsteen punch.”
Brewin, said Belvedere, was one of those singers who get up on stage and surprise you.
“You have what I call a voice with attitude,” she said. “The only way you can pull off a song like that is with attitude.”
Proctor said the range of talent and style was incredible and it made for some hard choices.
“Obviously, there is no shortage of talent in Canmore, that’s for sure,” he said.
Belvedere said even with the range between those that have experience performing and those who don’t, Canmore Idol is a great experience because it is supportive.
With the first week over, the job of being a judge gets a bit tougher and by the last week will come down to an individual contestant’s performance.
“Everybody can sing at that point, otherwise they wouldn’t be there,” Belvedere said.
Nicole Kowalewski’s performance of “Halo” by Beyonce on acoustic guitar impressed the judges and got her a ticket to the next round.
Dea Fischer, who also advanced, gave a unique performance of “Some Kind of Wonderful” backed only by bass guitar.
“That was the grooviest version I have heard of that song,” Ernewein said.
Her first time performing on stage with “Blue” by Leanne Rymes saw Megan Rudneski move forward in the competition.
“Tonight we are seeing some of the finest, for lack of a better word, karaoke performances,” Ernewein said with respect to Rudneski.
Returning Canmore Idol contestant Shainer Elva also impressed the judges with her vocal ability and her stage presence.
“Idol is not only about who has the best voice, but presenting yourself,” Belvedere said. “You have the moves, looks, voice and inflection and that puts you above everybody else.”
Emily Gass performed “Cat’s in the Cradle” without backing music, which had been forgotten.
It was a bold move that saw the judges swayed in her favour.
Gass said while she was upset the backing music was absent, she found the competition supportive.
Sarah Million performed “I Try” by Macy Gray, but did not advance in the competition.
She echoed Gass that the experience was a positive one even though she sensed the competition wasn’t going her way.
“I’m still going to come back next week,” she said.
Moving on to the next round in addition to Gass, Hill, Elderkin, Brewin, Kowalweski, Rudneski, Elva and Fischer are Andrew LaMonica, Annie Arseneau, Beth Green, Catherine O’Phee, Dayna Hanson, Frank Eagle, Jason Perrin, Joe Todesco, Joshua Smith, Katie Begg, Lisa Baskin and Michelle Bosse.
Eliminated in the first round were Al Gerrard, Krista-Lee Ruttle, Marie-Maude Hamelin, Matthew Hamer, Patricia Marois, Rodger Retzer, Simon Bein, Tracy Leger and Million.