Judging judges at the live taping of The Voice

Don’t you just love pleasant surprises? Not just the “Hmmm, this vegan burrito doesn’t suck” moment, but the big ones like a job interview that morphs into a really good conversation.

I had one of those moments the other day at the most unlikely of places – the set of The Voice Australia.

Voice setI hadn’t been to a taping in a very, very long time and what I remembered of them wasn’t quite associated with puppy dogs and unicorns; more like political speeches and hard backed chairs at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Lame attempts at humour and very long waits.

See, last week, a darling friend of mine asked if I wanted to join her to see the show.

“Um, sure. That would be…interesting.”

Monday afternoon rolls around and a tiny bit of me wanted to bail, as sitting for six hours just isn’t appealing. But once we’re on the lot, it’s pretty clear that some memory molds were about to be broken.

First off, people are friendly. Not just, “Wassup” friendly, but “How can I make your stay here at Fantasy Island more to your liking?” friendly. I passed on the Pina Coladas, grabbed a water and took a seat in my leather recliner. Ok, no recliner … or Pina Coladas, but there was that water and some candy. Nice!

Settled in. Then the waiting commenced. I’d expected to wait for an hour or two before shooting starts, then wait another 30 minutes for the second take, then another 30 for the third take, only to have this repeated three more times.  This is based on my experience with sitcom tapings in LA where things are filmed “in front of a live studio audience.”

Fortunately, no more than 15 minutes later, there was some hustle and bustle as sets got changed out. Now, normally this isn’t something that intrigues me but having seen the enormity of The Voice’s sets on television, I was curious as to how they managed to move things around so quickly. Well, from the way they were handling the pieces, I’m guessing they are made out of meringue as one guy has a tree over a shoulder and a what looks like the base of the Eiffel Tower over the other. Pretty darn cool. Heck, even after having seen this, going back and watching the show (oh c’mon, you’d do it too if you were in the studio audience and there was a chance you’d be on TV) those sets still look quite grand. Well done, Mr. Television Man.

set change

About this time in LA, you’d have a comedienne entertain you before the taping and in between takes. To say cheesy is being polite. More like late-night stand-up routines that have been bleeped for fifth graders. And thus my misconceptions continued but fortunately, The Voice’s interim babysitter was Michael Pope – a talented chap who managed to make the G-rated humour entertaining for everyone.  It was like dad-jokes on Red Bull.

After a quick tutorial on how to stand-up, applaud, applaud louder and clap in time to the music, The Pope explained to the audience how the show’s host, Darren McMullen, would record a few promo lines. Once that was done, the fun started. We were told that on that night’s show, the judges would be performing Ricky Martin’s Livin’ la Vida Loca – but they won’t be doing it during the show, rather “live” and recorded prior to the show. They performed it three times – in case someone messed up, to get even more camera angles and just so we could see Ricky. Sigh.

It’s always been a fun, high-energy song so, throw in some Salsa dancers and you’ve easily got a party in the making. The set wasn’t elaborate which I assumed was to keep the focus on the judges. Joel Madden started with a pop punk rendition, followed by Seal who seemed to have had identity issues striking a pose more akin to Elvis while channeling the voice of David Bowie.

And then, the moment we’d waited for: Ricky Martin strutted in, wearing his trademark black leather pants, and the crowd went wild. And by wild, I mean all the tween-girls around me let out glass-shattering shrieks. Everyone else, including me, squealed as well but about an octave lower.

Delta Goodrem then emerged (male dancers in tow) through fire and brimstone after descending a flight of black glossy stairs. Gold dress up to there, with matching lamé shorts borrowed from Kylie Minogue, Delta saddled up to Ricky and everyone joined in shaking their bon bons.

First take good. Second take better – except that Joel dropped the F-bomb (thus the reason we have multiple takes) then apologised profusely – and by third take, the crowd felt it and moved along.

Timomatic, accompanied by his back-up dancers, then came out and performed his latest dance-hit “Parachute” (once again “live” to be aired later).  Military inspired  – both in attire and precision – they nailed the performance in one take. That is crazy impressive.

So, there we were, a bit over two and a half hours. Where did the time go?

At this point, I switched from “entertain me” to “convince me”. I wanted to see if the televised show matches reality or to be more lenient, resembled reality.

The show runs on a tight schedule and even the length of applause is timed. The singers/contestants hit the stage like professionals – straight to their marks, microphone aligned and eyes locked with the cameras. Pretty much what you see on TV, which at that time I am sort of missing as I enjoy watching the singers’ facial expressions – something that is just a bit too hard from the top row.

About this time, I looked around at the audience. There were clearly those who were there for the novelty of the situation, smiling and clapping along as The Pope instructed, but the rest were really there to support the artists, support music in general or hoping to meet the judges. Whichever it was, the favourites were apparent from the number of screams that came from the spectators. And judging by their numbers (and preferences), I determined that I wasn’t quite a member of The Voice’s target audience.

So, while I was cheering for the soulful voice of Steve Clisby, coolness personified, it seemed the crowd favourite was folk songstress Celia Pavey. Sure she has a pretty voice, and looked like a vision from a Shakespearean romance, but I just can’t see these tween girls downloading her version of Edelweiss. Actually, I can’t see anyone downloading that, but that’s another story. Pan to the judges and you could see that Delta, Steve and Celia’s coach, was quite torn about the vote. Hmmm, maybe Delta isn’t just a pretty face after all.

Set change, again done within amazing efficiency and then it was Team Seal’s Mitchell Anderson and Harrison Craig’s turn.

HarrisonOk, that was just wrong. How does one compare rock and “popera”? Well, to be more precise, how could I compare the two? I’m partial to harder music, yet couldn’t help but be enthralled by Harrison’s voice and demeanour.

Now, I know a lot of people believe that Harrison has it in the bag, not just because of his voice, but because of his story – abandoned by his father, the challenges of a stutter and an idolising younger brother. To that I say, “so what?”.  Everyone could take a lesson from his graciousness alone so it’s just a bit sad that his adversity has become such PR gold.

Unsurprisingly, Harrison was voted in but Mitchell went out on a high destined to pack the place at his next gigs. And I’ll be in that crowd.

Of course, now the judges had to get in their say, so, true to form, Seal wasted no time turning Mitchell’s departure into his own drama with an “I failed you” mea culpa.

Next we got Team Joel’s Kiyomi Vella and Danny Ross. I was bouncing in my seat with excitement because I just love everything about her and to Joel’s credit, he picked a difficult but awesome song – Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill – which she covered with aplomb.  KiyomiOf course she looked stunning and I was already looking forward to watching the recording at home, as I am enamoured with her make-up… and her clothes….and her hair. And she’s smart. And I love her name. Girl crush.

Alas, she didn’t make it through, losing out to cape-wearing Danny. Yep, you read that correctly, he wore a cape. And not something rustic or bohemian – more Phantom of the Opera Halloween costume. I just don’t get him but clearly, judging once again by the noise that emanated from the audience, I’m on my own here.

Commercial break, then Team Ricky’s Miss Murphy and Luke Kennedy took the stage. I’m guessing the girl vote won as Luke made it through. But, like Mitchell and Kiyomi, I’ll be watching out for Miss Murphy well beyond this show.

Following the eliminations, we got to see the remaining four sing “original” songs. I say this loosely as it turned out only Celia and Danny wrote their songs; Harrison’s and Luke’s were written by others, which personally, I’m ok with as the boys never touted themselves as song-writers, but the semantics just set it up for a bit of scrutiny.

Despite that, my favourite moment of the night followed Harrison’s More Than a Dream. The judges sang his praises but to me, the truest compliment came from Ricky who told him that he hoped his own sons would grow up to be the type of person we’ve come to respect from Harrison. And for the final heartstring, as Harrison left the stage, Ricky lifted him off the ground with a big bear hug.  Not a dry eye.

It’s moment like that that makes you see the judges beyond their celebrity personas. During both commercial breaks and performances, I’d watched them for some clues. It seems that Ricky wears his heart on his sleeve. His smile, poetic words and gentle voice just compliment the Latin pop persona making him even more likeable – if that is even possible.

Joel on the other hand is the type of person I’d want as a brother or best friend – a bit mischievous, (well, maybe more than a bit) but with a really good heart. Of all the judges, Joel spent most of the time during commercial breaks walking amidst the audience posing for photos and signing autographs.

To be fair, Delta interacted as well and though I confess to not having been a fan of hers, having sort of perceived her as just another pretty face, she won me over that night. Till then, all I’d been able to focus on was her Stevie Nicks impersonation – closed eyes, swaying head and a sort of hippie hula with her arms. But what I hadn’t seen till being there in person is that of all the judges, she is really the only one that moves to the music. To me, she’s that girl in high school who danced like no one was watching. Respect.

And then there’s Seal.

Six hours later and I still wanted more. Gosh, darn it, Holly, thanks for dragging me along as I had a really good time and, as alluded to earlier, had a number of pleasant surprises. Turns out, I really like “live” tapings. I now see a young girl in Delta Goodrem, I like Joel Madden even more and Ricky, well that opinion stands – he’s still caliente. And then there’s Seal.







2 Comments on “Judging judges at the live taping of The Voice

  1. Loved the article. I was able to visualise the night as seen through your eyes. Well done.

  2. Your behind the scenes analysis on the judges is fascinating – a real time experience that is still fresh on the page. Good job you xxL do we see some Finale analysis?

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