Eight recent “American Idol” winners and finalists took the stage at The Valentine in Nashville on June 7, 2023, which was so packed that some fans couldn’t get into the venue. The main draw for the audience seemed to be this year’s Top 3 — third-place finisher Colin Stough, runner-up Megan Danielle, and winner Iam Tongi.
Rounding out the roster of performers at the “19 Takeover” concert, put on by “Idol’s” record label partner 19 Entertainment, were Season 21 Top 8 finalist Haven Madison, Season 20 Top 5 finalist Fritz Hager, Season 18 Top 11 contestant Grace Leer, Season 20 winner Noah Thompson, and Season 20 runner-up HunterGirl, who also served as emcee for the concert, joking that she got the gig because Ryan Seacrest couldn’t make it.
The Valentine — a four-story bar, restaurant, and music venue in Nashville’s Lower Broadway district — streamed the concert live on Instagram, though the audio and visual quality were spotty throughout the evening. Stough and Danielle’s performances captured the bustling crowd’s attention, to be sure, but it was Tongi, crowned the Season 21 winner less than three weeks ago, who truly stole the show as fans screamed and showered him with gifts throughout his set. While the other “Idol” stars played four songs each, the 18-year-old wound up singing seven.
In addition to fans who packed two stories of the venue to catch a glimpse of the new stars, several Season 21 contestants attended the special concert and posted social media photos from behind the scenes, including Austin Markham, Jon Wayne Hatfield, Top 20 contestant Hannah Nicolaisen, and the Top 8’s Oliver Steele. Heavy’s got the highlights — here’s what you need to know:
Noah Thompson, HunterGirl & Others Performed New Music
A backup band accompanied all eight of the performers during the “19 Takeover” concert, which served as an informal kickoff to CMA Fest, happening in Nashville through June 11. The show kicked off with Season 20 contestant Fritz Hager, who finished in the Top 5 but has since landed a record deal with 19 Entertainment.
Wearing a striped black shirt, black pants and high-top sneakers, the 21-year-old Texas native told the crowd he moved to Nashville in January, but that this was his first live concert in town since settling in. Electric guitar in hand, the alternative-pop singer-songwriter rocked out to his recent single, “Two Step,” as well as his previously-released “Secret’s Out,” “Caroline,” and a song called “Bad Day” that he said he hopes to release soon.
“Thank you guys so much or having me,” he yelled at the end of his set, blowing kisses to the crowd. “You’ve been amazing!”
Next up was Season 18’s Grace Leer, wearing a bright red sleeveless top and jean shorts. The country singer, whose newest single “My Mind’s Made Up” is gaining steam on the charts, sweetly gave a shout out to her dad in the crowd. In addition to her new song, Lee’s set included a tune called “Somethin’ About” and her previously released “Ones Before Me” about women in country music.
Season 20 runner-up HunterGirl — dressed in a short black dress with a denim jacket and white cowboy boots — re-introduced herself and performed four songs with the band, including her “Idol” single “Red Bird” and a new song called “Lonely Out of You,” prompting the crowd to sway their hands in the air during the chorus.
The fifth performer was high school student Haven Madison from nearby Clarksville, Tennessee. Dressed in a crop top with gold shimmering pants and black Doc Marten boots, the singer performed her original tune “15,” which captured the judges attention on Season 21 of “Idol.” She also told the crowd she’d always wanted to be a musician but that “I live in a town where you gotta be in a sport or you’re nothin.'”
Madison played the powerful ballad she wrote for her brother, “Still Need You,” and got the crowd to sing along to Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On a Prayer,” which she also performed on “Idol.” Next up, Madison will headline a concert in Clarksville on June 11 with fellow Top 8 contender Steele.
After a quick intro from Leer, Season 20 winner Noah Thompson took the stage holding a drink, which he didn’t let go of throughout his set. Thompson touted the June 9 release of his first EP several times in between singing the title track, “Middle of God Knows Where,” as well as “She Gets It From Me” and his biggest hit thus far, “One Day Tonight,” which has over 23 million streams on Spotify alone.
Before signing autographs for the front row and leaving the stage, Thompson told the audience, “You guys changed my life. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. I appreciate y’all, everything you do for me, your support.”
Season 21’s Colin Stough & Megan Danielle Were Nervous But Kept Crowd Cheering
Both Stough and Danielle showed some nerves on stage, but the crowd loved them regardless. In fact, before HunterGirl could even introduce Stough, who performed in between Grace Leer and HunterGirl, many in the audience screamed at the sight of his white cowboy hat as he approached the side of the stage.
Wearing a t-shirt, jeans and leather vest, the 18-year-old from Mississippi was talkative during his first-ever show in Nashville. A third of the way through his first song, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man,” Stough missed a line and laughed, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I messed that up!” He then encouraged the audience to sing along on “Stone” by Whiskey Myers, a tune he preformed on “Idol” that the celebrity judges raved about.
“As a human being, I’ve had some hard times in my life,” Stough said. “I know everybody has hard times. Adversity is supposed to happen, everybody. It’s supposed to happen. This song got put in front of me to cut and record and I did and I almost didn’t. And man I’m glad I did, ’cause we’re sitting at five million plays. I didn’t do that – all y’all did it!”
As the crowd cheered, Stough went on to briefly talk his belief in God and that everything happens for a reason, telling the crowd, “It took a long time for me to put that in my head, but when I did, this song got brought my way. And who knew that it would be on the Billboard charts!”
The crowd was enthralled with the grit in Stough’s vocals and falsetto notes on the song, with one attendee heard on the livestream saying, “This guy’s amazing!” The teen got choked up at the end of the tune and shared, “I told my manager that it’s gonna be hard for me to do it live. It hits me deep every single time – I love it, I love it, I love it, I love it.”
Stough also sang a song he wrote with a buddy in his basement called “Bad Day” before appearing on “Idol” and reflected about how much his life had changed since then. He laughed, “If you took a fish that knows how to swim and you put him on land and he had to learn how to walk, that’s me right here!”
Meanwhile, Danielle wowed the crowd with her vocals, too, playing four songs after Thompson’s set. She walked up to the mic with a cheat sheet of lyrics, which she set on a stool next to her, and admitted that “literally ever time I come on stage, I’m shaking!”
But the nerves didn’t show as she belted out Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” and John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery,” both songs she also performed on “Idol.” Danielle also sang her new single, “Dream Girl,” telling the crowd that it reminds her “anything is possible” with her faith in and relationship with God. She wrapped up her set with Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain.”
On June 8, Danielle posted a series of photos on Instagram from the concert and wrote, “Last night @thevalentinenashville I had so much fun. Thank you God.”
A fan who was at the concert replied, “Best show ever. So fortunate to have met you and get a pick with you. Thank you so much!! You are such a sweet person.”
Fans Swoon Over Iam Tongi, Delivering Gifts & Shouting Their Love During Concert
While all of the “Idol” alumni got warm receptions from the audience, there was a palpable difference in the reaction to Tongi — dressed in shorts, flip-flops, and a dark t-shirt under a white button-up short-sleeve shirt — as the crowd screamed for him before he appeared. Once he was on the stage, the Hawaii native smiled, leaned into the microphone and gave them his signature “Yessah!”
As the laid-back 18-year-old prepared to sing his first single, “I’ll Be Seeing You,” various people yelled out that they loved him. When he replied, “Love you guys,” the crowd went wild. He had the audience’s rapt attention as he sang the song, with many people filming the moment on their phones. At the end of the song, the crowd screamed wildly again and several fans at the front gifted him with necklaces or leis.
Tongi also sang “Cool Down” by Kolohe Kai, which he said was one of his favorite tunes her performed on “American Idol,” and he did a reprise of “Monsters,” the James Blunt song he famously performed during his audition, viewed on YouTube by over 19 million people, and on the finale.
Tongi then performed three original tunes he said he’d written but had yet to release or share with anyone. In one ballad about a lost love, he sang: Love is nothing like the movies, they were selling lies / Still love you anyways but to you, I was just some other guy / You just wasted my time, you wounded my pride / And the love I thought we had, I guess it was all in my mind.
As the band wrapped up their gear, Tongi played one last song to appease the crowd, which clearly didn’t want his set to end. Before singing “Cover Me Up” by Morgan Wallen, he dedicated it to his “Idol” friends Stough and Steele, who was filming him on his phone in the front row and held up lyrics to the song for him.
All eight of the “Idol” alumni who appeared during the concert are also performing during CMA Fest, which will not only be a first for the Top 3, but for Thompson, too, who is scheduled to appear on the Chevy Vibes Stage on June 10, per WYMT.