As Laine stood on the stage to sing, The Way You Look Tonight by Elton John, it seemed to me that it was more about the way he looked tonight. “There was a time” opening made me feel this was another time in the persona of Laine Hardy. He stood before us, no guitar, a hesitant smile and a new entirely different definition of who Laine Hardy is or wants to be.
His wardrobe again was a step up from previous choices. This was not Elvis, he never looked this classy; it was Frank Sinatra or Steve Lawrence (who I am sure Laine has never heard of.) The jacket was a gorgeous designed print of charcoal on silver lame, and the pants were silver file. The soft clingy silver shirt had collar tabs of crosses, and again Laine accessorized with an odd choice of a purple circular flower. This flower and feathers are coming from somewhere that I doubt were an American Idol wardrobe department addition. There’s a story there somewhere that will have to come directly from Laine or Cindy, but I am patiently waiting.
The romantic song choice was an unusual rhythm and contemporary lyric for a country boy, and Laine appeared to be a bit nervous without his guitar. His emotions were laid open to the world and at first, I feared this was not working for him. Suddenly with his eyes closed, he let out one of those Laine smiles, not a grin this time, but a true genuine smile and he seemed to immerse himself into the words and the feelings of this love song. Using his hands to direct the audience he opened his arms inviting the listener into his loving – no adoring, feelings. Coming to the end, a close-up showed as he placed his hands gently around the microphone; it was as if he was caressing the face of the woman he loved. Those long-lashed eyes softly closing on “the way you look tonight.” Then the smile.
Judges who had attentively absorbed every word had some new comments. Katy asked, “Have you been taking voice lessons…recently…this week?” Laine quickly answered, “Yes ‘mam,”…”oh,” about to apologize when Katy drawled in her best southern accent, “You can call me ‘mam, of course you can. It really shows, it’s paying off.”
Luke reminded, “You have that gravelly thing going on, but this is the first time we’re hearing you singing. Tonight you did, and you really can.”
“Ok, you been in my closet again, and you are the crossing the line this time, boy,” Lionel has to open. “Let me tell you what you did tonight. You have that look, that style, that sound. In my book, that means WINNER.”
As judges end their comments, Ryan steps in to add. “These shoes he’s wearing are $4,000. They are borrowed.” As Laine turned and pulled up his pant to show the shoes, Ryan added, “See the diamond in the back.”
Lionel quickly joked, “Those are not my closet,” and Luke said, “No yours have two diamonds!”
Tonight we close out the show having seen another version of Laine Hardy. Who is that Bayou Boy? Is he Elvis reincarnated, Dean Martin in disguise, a new Blake Shelton, a soft spoken Michael Blube? The time is almost here for an answer – will he be the 2019 American Idol? Stay tuned.