BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — As the lights dimmed Tuesday in the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena and the familiar “American Idol” theme-song blared, a loud roar rose from the audience.
The cheers grew even more intense as 18-year-old Sam Woolf of Bradenton stepped onstage for a solo in the opening number, “Counting Stars,” by One Republic.
Woolf helped open the “American Idol Live!” summer tour following his successful fifth-place finish in the popular reality TV show competition. The tour features the top 10 contestants of season 13, giving each performer time to shine in individual and group arrangements of hit pop, rock, folk and country songs.
During the first act, Woolf was featured two small group songs.
He first sang on an upbeat cover of “Let Her Go” by Passenger, along with his “Idol” buddy Alex Preston. Woolf and Preston played acoustic guitars.
Woolf’s guitar was replaced by drums as he was featured in a trio alongside Preston and C.J. Harris covering “Pompeii” by Bastille. To close out the first act, the trio sang a funky rendition of Pharrell’s “Happy.”
The “Woolfpack’s” presence could be heard each time the Braden River High School graduate stepped onstage. Screams from young girls rang throughout the arena each time his image was projected on the large screen, as well as calls of “I love you, Sam!” when the noise died down. Cassandra Geertzens of Binghamton wore a T-shirt with “Mrs. Sam Woolf” imprinted in handmade letters. She also held a poster reading “#woolfpack. Sam Woolf is life. Sam Woolf is love.”
“I feel like he’s done really, really well so far,” Geertzens, 16, said during intermission. “And being at such a young age, he’s done really well for his age.”
New Jersey native Molly Mavorah, 16, chose to attend the concert while spending the summer in Binghamton. She bought a Sam Woolf T-shirt from tour apparel vendors before the concert.
“When I first saw him audition I was like ‘Oh my god,’ and I fell in love with him the second I saw him,” Mavorah said. “He’s gorgeous and he sings amazing. And he’s so sweet and funny. I want to be best friends with him.”
Prerecorded footage of contestants played on a large screen during transitions between songs. In one clip, Woolf demonstrated his sense of humor as he donned a brown wig and gave his best impression of “Idol” judge and pop star Jennifer Lopez.
In an interview during rehearsals prior to the tour’s opening, Woolf said he felt ready to tour.
“I think I’m already prepared for it,” Woolf said.
Reunited with his “Idol” castmates, Woolf said the tour was much less stressful than the competition.
“We’re doing the same show every night so we’re getting in the routine of it,” Woolf said. “I think by the end, or by the middle at least, we’ll have it pretty good. I feel that in the beginning we might make a few mistakes because it’s always (like that) the first show. It will get better, I feel.”
Woolf entered for a solo during the second number of the second act’s opening, “Story of My Life,” by One Direction. Much to many of Woolf fans’ delight, he returned to perform Ed Sheeran’s “Lego House,” the single that brought him recognition during the competition.
He remained onstage to perform David Gray’s “Sail Away,” another hit reprised from the show. This simulated his “Idol” performance with the screen displaying a replication of the digital graphics featured on the show. Woolf played guitar for both pieces. In the second act, Woolf performed background vocals for various performances by other contestants.
Throughout the concert, Woolf made many wardrobe and guitar changes, a bona fide pop star in the making.
The concert closed with the full group performing “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons, which brought the audience to its feet.
After the tour ends Aug. 24 in Redmond, Wash., Woolf said he plans to record an album and possibly move to Los Angeles before attending Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Until then, he will pack headphones on the tour bus and write music on the road.
The tour will stop July 17 at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota. Woolf said he is looking forward to performing in his home state.
“It’s just been a great experience so far,” Woolf said, “and I’m sure it’s going to be even better when we start on the road.”