Michael Johns, David Cook Thrill The 'American Idol' Judges

“American Idol’s” tour group – the Top 10 - took to the stage last night. But it was rockers David Cook and Michael Johns, whose performances helped them get a leg up on the competition.

The contenders were asked to sing songs from the year of their birth as the evening’s theme and competition was kicked of with 1987 baby, Ramiele Malubay, who sang Heart’s “Alone,” despite being under the weather.

Even though she was sick, judge Randy Jackson cut her little slack.

“It was a little pitchy, all over the place,” he commented.

Jason Castro took the stage next, singing Sting’s 1987 song, “Fragile.”

“Jason, I think you’ve had two bad weeks and I think it’s time that you start taking this a little bit more seriously. That was the equivalent of someone busking outside of a subway station,” judge Simon Cowell said, before telling Jason he could win if he mixes things up.

Another 1987 baby, Syesha Mercado, sang “If I Was Your Woman,” originally made famous by Gladys Knight & The Pips.

“This is a good moment for you… I think this is the best I’ve ever heard you sing, including when you auditioned,” Randy said. “I think it was stellar. I think it was unbelievable. I was shocked. I’m lovin’ it.”

Chikezie, a child of 1985, took on the Luther Vandross favorite, “If Only For One Night.”

“Chikezie, I think you sang it well, having said that, I thought the performance was actually very cheesy,” Simon said.

Brooke White, born in 1983, took on The Police’s “Every Breath You Take,” stumbling at first and restarting the song.

“I like that you started it and said, ‘Maybe this is not right.’ A lot of good professionalism there,” Randy said, though he admitted not loving the arrangement. “It was just OK for me, it was alright.”

One of the oldest competitors in this season of “Idol,” Aussie Michael Johns, born in 1978, sang Queen’s “We Will Rock You” combined with “We Are The Champions.”

One of the more thrilling performances of the night, the stage was littered with audience members beating their fists in the air to the first part of the song. And he wowed the judges.

“Finally you believe in yourself and you use that big old voice you got,” Randy said.

“This was your moment, your shining moment and I’m so proud of you,” Paula Abdul gushed.

“Michael, this is the first time with you that I saw star potential,” Simon said.

Carly Smithson, who was born in 1983, revealed she was actually named, by accident after Carly Simon, whose music played in the car as her mother was driven to the hospital in labor.

Her song choice for the evening? Bonnie Tyler's “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”

“You can probably take every song that I’m not crazy about and make me a believer,” Paula said. “Carly you could do no wrong tonight.”

One of the youngest contenders, 1990 born David Archuleta, took the stage next, performing a song which wasn’t a stateside hit — the Australian-penned “You’re The Voice.”

“David you could sing the phone book and we’d all in love with you,” Paula said, but Simon didn’t agree.

“I actually didn’t like your performance at all. I thought it was actually reminiscent of a theme park performance,” Simon said. “It’s one of those ghastly songs that you sing when you’ve got animated creatures dancing around you.”

1984 baby Kristy Lee Cook sang “God Bless The USA,” and she churned out a performance that – for the first time in weeks – found favor with the judges.

“Kristy, your best performance by a mile,” Simon said. “That was the most clever song choice I’ve heard in years… That’s going to keep you in the competition.”

Rocker David Cook, born in 1983, took on an acoustic version of Michael Jackson's “Billie Jean,” thrilling the fans and judges with his emotive performance.

“You might be the one to win,” Randy said.

“David, that was great. It could have either been insane or amazing and I have to tell you, it was amazing,” Simon said as the crowd and David’s family erupted in cheers.

Copyright 2014 by NBC Universal, Inc. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.