'American Idol' judges rave over Bradenton's Sam Woolf

mclear@bradenton.comApril 24, 2014 

Sam Woolf finally gave the "American Idol" judges the performance they been asking him for Wednesday.

"I really felt with that song that you came into your own as an artist," celebrity judge Jennifer Lopez said after Woolf's first of two performances. "That gave me goosies."

It was the first "Idol" performance for Bradenton's Woolf since he turned 18 over the weekend. He celebrated, he said, by jamming with the other finalists -- and having cupcakes.

Woolf and the five other remaining finalists were required to sing two songs on the show -- one rock and one country. Woolf was second to perform after Jena Irene had rocked Heart's "Barracuda."

Woolf came onstage to the usual screams from girls in the audience, including a very loud "I love you Sam!"

He played an acoustic guitar backed by an onstage band, and sang "It's Time" by Imagine Dragons.

All three judges raved.

"You're really blossoming man," said celebrity judge Harry Connick Jr. "It's great to watch. I'm really proud of you."

Lopez repeated Woolf gave her "goosies" a couple of times.

Celebrity judge Keith Urban praised the hint of "gravitas" in the performance.

Votes at the midpoint of the two-hour show put Woolf in third place. He only has to come in fifth or better to stay on the show another week.

He led off the second half of the show with Shania Twain's "You're Still the One." Singing without his guitar, he walked to edge of the stage at one point in the song to let swooning girls touch his hand.

Judges were complimentary but not nearly as enthusiastic as they had been about his first song.

"You should just relax more," Urban said.

Urban noted girls in the audience were "going crazy" for Woolf.

"The song was a good song for you," said Lopez. "You sang it well."

She also noted Woolf was "so cute it's crazy."

Connick advised Woolf not to sing quite so "perfectly" and work on his dynamics.

Most contestants fared better on their rock songs than their country songs, according to judges. Caleb Johnson and Irene got the most consistent reactions, though judges liked their rock songs somewhat better.

But only fan votes matter at this point. The judges have no say because they used their only save of the season few weeks back when Woolf got the lowest vote total.

Host Ryan Seacrest updated voting totals from Tennessee at the end of the show because contestants had just sung country songs. Woolf was in fourth place.

Woolf and his fans will find out whether he'll make it to the top five in a half-hour results show scheduled to air at 9 p.m. Thursday on Fox.

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

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