Great Wednesday performances vault Bradenton's Sam Woolf into 'American Idol' elite 5

mclear@bradenton.comApril 25, 2014 

Sam Woolf's fans have grown used to white-knuckle evenings.

More often than not in recent weeks they've had to wait until the last seconds of Thursday's "American Idol" to find out whether Woolf is staying on the show for one more week.

The Bradenton singer-songwriter has come closer to elimination than any other remaining contestant. He's been near the bottom of the vote tallies several times. A few weeks back, he earned the lowest vote total, but the judges used their one save of the season to keep him on.

This week, the voters and "American Idol" producers gave Woolf fans a break.

He was the first of six remaining contestants to learn he was safe for another week.

Despite all the close calls, it wasn't especially surprising Woolf, who turned 18 over the weekend, was promoted to the final five. He turned in his strongest performance yet Wednesday with an energetic rendition of the Imagine Dragons' song "It's Time."

Judges Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr. all raved about his performance. They also liked his second song Wednesday, Shania Twain's "You're Still the One," but weren't quite as enthusiastic in their praise.

On Thursday's results show, Randy Jackson, the former "Idol" judge who now coaches contestants, said Woolf's performance this week would probably move him up a notch or two in the rankings.

Then host Ryan Seacrest summoned Woolf, Caleb Johnson and C.J. Harris onto the stage. He immediately announced Woolf was safe. Then Johnson. Harris was one of the two cellar-dwellers for the week.

Jessica Meuse joined Harris in the bottom two, but it was Harris who ended up being eliminated.

Harris performed the Marshall Tucker Band's "Can't You See?" as his farewell song.

Woolf is now one of only five contestants remaining out of roughly 75,000 who auditioned for "American Idol" this season.

He'll perform live again next week on a two-hour show scheduled to start at 8 p.m. Wednesday on Fox.

A live results show the next night will let his fans know whether he's made it to the top four.

Woolf and the other top 10 finishers will tour the country this summer with the "American idol Live!" tour. It's scheduled to stop July 17 at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota.

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

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