Adam Lambert may not have won “American Idol,” but his second coming, contestant James Durbin, might be headed for the top.
The young man, who suffers from Aspergers and Tourettes, but shines when he sings with his rock ‘n’ roll pipes, thrilled the judges on the first series of performances for the public on “American Idol” on Tuesday night, featuring the Top 12 men.
James, who auditioned in San Francisco, turned what had been – until his arrival on stage — a dull evening into shape, taking on a heavy metal classic – Judas Priest’s “You Got Another thing Coming.”
Using his lofty, hard rock voice, and enthusiastic stage presence, the 20-something singer whipped the crowd and the judges into a frenzy – especially Steven Tyler, who had to be censored on the pre-taped show.
“James! That was BLEEP crazy good,” Steven said, as FOX caught his unmentionable at just the right spot.
Earlier in the night, show host Ryan Seacrest gave the Aerosmith rocker an “American Idol” logo on a stick, hoping he’d use it to cover his mouth when he felt the need to curse – an opportunity Steven missed while praising James.
It took a while for another magical moment, but when it came, it came in a big way.
Jacob Lusk, who Randy Jackson previously said gave the greatest performance ever on “Idol” (of “God Bless The Child” during Hollywood Week), performed Luther Vandross’ “A House Is Not A Home,” and his rendition of the soul classic saw the judges piling on the praise.
“I am honored to be in your presence,” Steven said. “You make me cry when you sing. I don’t know where you get it man, but I will bathe in it… Divine intervention.”
Jennifer Lopez added that she was a super-Luther fan, but that James could step into his seat on the soul train.
“He’s gone, but now we have you,” she said.
And the show closed with its third major standout contender – Casey Abrams – who brought a new slant to the competition with an impassioned performance of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put A Spell On You.”
“You are out of your mind unreal,” Steven said. “As good as it gets.”
“Casey! You’re sexy, Casey… You’re gonna redefine what this whole thing is,” Jennifer told the singer, who last week was reportedly in the hospital, with his Top 24 spot in jeopardy.
“My stomach… wasn’t in the right place,” Casey said, shrugging off the rumors he was seriously ill.
A handful of other men found themselves bathed in praise, including Stefano Langoni, who performed “Just The Way You Are,” by Bruno Mars. He had the girls swooning, and Jennifer who called him, “a beast.”
Paul McDonald, and his unusual voice, was also championed by the panel after singing Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May,” a performance that saw him kicking his legs about like a tin man.
“I love you,” Randy said.
Here’s how the rest of the pack did:
Clint Jun Gamboa, the karaoke DJ, already infamous for kicking Jacee Badeaux out of his group during Hollywood Week, opened the show with an “Idol” favorite, Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” to great praise. Steven called his rendition “beautiful,” while Randy said, “There’s no karaoke singer that’s got that kind of vocal talent.”
Jovanny Baretto performed the Edwin McCain’s “I’ll Be,” and while Steven said he “brought it,” Randy said, “it felt very karaoke.”
Jordan Dorsey tried on Usher’s “OMG,” which the full panel panned. “I’m not sure that’s who you really are,” Jennifer said.
Tim Halperin opted for Rob Thomas’ “Streetcorner Symphony,” but again, the judges felt let down. “I’m not sure if that song did you any justice man,” Steven said.
Redheaded teen Brett Lowenstern gave it his all on The Doors classic “Light My Fire,” and the judges were impressed with the song, and Jennifer, by his hair. “[You had] more hair tossing than me and Beyonce put together in the past 10 years, you need a fan.”
Young New Yorker Robbie Rosen took a chance with Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel,” but he split the panel. Steven said he could “sing a ballad like nobody’s business,” but Randy said he didn’t think it “was a great performance.”
Country boy Scotty McCreery opted for John Michael Montgomery’s “Letters From Home,” which Steven said was simply, “beautiful.”
Fans of the show were told that voting for the evening could be taken care of by phone and – for the first time in “Idol” history, online.
On Wednesday, the Top 12 women will perform and on Thursday, the verdict will be given and the judges will add their wild card picks.