The Next Great American Band goes to one hour this week, and they’ve dumped the "original song" component of the competition. I didn’t realize they were looking for the Next Great American Cover Band.

I don’t know if the producers always planned to cut the show down to an hour, or if this move was brought on by less-than-Idol ratings (and to have the second hour replaced by Don’t Forget the Lyrics — ouch!), but it’s a disservice to the concept of the show. We were supposed to be judging these bands not only on what they can do with someone else’s song, but also what they come up with themselves. Some of the bands are going to suffer for this change while others will benefit. Light of Doom is probably thanking god for the change right now.

You had to be a spoiler, dincha, had to prove it to the crowd…

First order of business: The cuts. I totally called it! The Muggs and Rocket go home. Dicko diagnoses it as two cases of "death by lead singer." That pretty much says it all.

This week, everyone is singing Billy Joel. Let’s see how they did.

Franklin Bridge rocks out on "Big Shot." They’ve listened to the judges and stripped out a lot of the flourishes, but you can still tell what amazing musicians they are. It’s a great version. Sheila warns them not to get cocky, but I think that was a holdover from last week, not a response to this week’s attitude.

Cliff Wagner and the Old #7 performs a gentle country swing version of  "You May Be Right." While the song fits well with the rhythm they choose, it seems a bit too calm to me. I have to agree with Dicko that they went into a "sleepy, soporific" mode for the song. I don’t know how it will play out with the voters.

Denver and the Mile High Orchestra do their usual exemplary job at "Tell Her About It." My one complaint? It’s a cheat for them to choose that song, since it was already horn-heavy. Still, the arrangement is great, Denver is getting more and more adorable every time I see him, and the horn players are shining, coming up front and interacting with the audience. John asks how they’re going to break the boundaries of genre, and Denver tells people to vote for them and find out next week. I hope they make it through and do show us, because I think Dicko is right on the money when he tells them that at the moment, they’re most likely to be a great corporate-gig band, not the sort of independent artists that sell out arenas. I still love them, though.

Dot Dot Dot does "Pressure," and they’ve really been listening to the judges. The manic theatrics are mostly gone, and it’s a very straight version of the song. It still rocks, and they add their own flourish at the end with guitar and bass coming forward to rock out with Adam. The judges love it and compliment the band, but I kind of miss my manic emo leprechaun.

Sixwire plays "Always a Woman" mostly straight, adding a bit of twangy guitar and country harmonies to make it their own. They sing the last bit a cappella, which is nice, and the harmonies are lovely. The judges love them.

Tres Bien! does a slightly bouncy version of "Moving Out." It’s nothing special. Sheila comments that "you guys look like you’re having fun up there." I’d interpret that as meaning the audience doesn’t have half as much fun listening to them. Dicko blows them a raspberry. It’s the weakest performance of the night.

The Clark Brothers arrange "She’s Got a Way" for dobro, fiddle and guitar, and they completely own it. I adore them. The judges are gobsmacked. "I don’t think we’ve got anyone in this competition who can invest so much conviction and emotion into a lyric as you can," Dicko says. He’s right. Gorgeous.

I was prepared to dismiss Light of Doom this week, but they take "The Stranger" and turn it into a credible head-banger. The judges compliment them for obviously working on their musicianship, and Dicko loves that Erik totally commits to what he’s singing. I was impressed.

Highlights, quotes and odds and ends

  • When they reveal the bands that aren’t going through, they spend a lot of time focusing on the Muggs and not showing Rocket. I wonder what Rocket women were doing? I’m picturing a variety of obscene gestures, but I could be wrong.
  • It sounded like Rocket was prepared to do "We Didn’t Start The Fire." Thank you, America, for not allowing them to inflict that upon us.
  • Dicko loves the angry, spiteful song. I adore that about him. He asks who Curt of Franklin Bridge  was singing "Big Shot" about. Curt pleads the Fifth. "Good work, but grow a backbone, sunshine," Dicko responds.
  • We find out Denver’s wife had a baby two days ago. Congratulations, Denver and Mrs. Denver!
  • The Clark Brothers’ guitar player insists on using a splayed-leg power-rock stance even when they’re playing a gentle ballad. That will never not be funny to me.
  • Dicko on Cliff Wagner and the Old #7 — "You took [the song] into this soporific, sleepy, dreary mode, like it was a song for a back porch on a humid night. I suppose I should be thankful ’cause I did sleep with half the audience during that song." I’m assuming he meant he and half the audience napped, not engaged in two minutes of nookie at breakneck speed.
  • Dot Dot Dot looked almost apprehensive when the judges spoke — they had obviously followed the judge’s advice, and it was a very different performance than they were used to giving. Adam and bassist Little Lisa dropped to their knees in amazement when Dicko complimented them. Hee!
  • Sheila on Sixwire: "Andy, if a woman could ever ask a guy to marry her, I would." First off, what the hell century are you living in, Ms. E? And second — ooh, look at Andy blush!
  • Dicko calls Sixwire out for picking "a woman-hating tale of misogyny." To be honest, I’ve never interpreted the song like that, although upon reflection… Andy has a graceful comeback: "I don’t think it’s a woman-hating song — I think it’s about celebrating all the different aspects of what women are. They’re not always perfect ,but they’re great."
  • Dicko on Light of Doom: "Just making some calculation to see if we can get these Light of Doom toys out for the Christmas rush…" They’d probably sell like crazy.

Next week, only one band gets ousted. I’m guessing it will be Cliff Wagner and the Old #7, although I think it should be Tres Bien. The remaining bands will play the songs of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who, I will admit, I had to Google. Think lots of early Elvis ("Hound Dog", "Jailhouse Rock"), some stuff I’d almost regard as novelty songs ("Charlie Brown", "Love Potion #9"), and one fabulous song made famous by (and written with) Ben E. King ("Stand By Me"). It’ll be interested to see what everyone does.

Posted by:Sarah Jersild