Vince Benenati, who already has some rock-star credentials, still had to wait outside a downtown Toronto rock club starting at 7 a.m. yesterday, just one of the hundreds of would-be superstars lined up in the early-morning drizzle. Everyone wound up having to wait five hours or so to get inside just to sing one verse and one chorus to some TV producers in the hope making it to the televised finals of the reality show Rock Star.
This is serious business. The majority of those auditioning are already in bands and work hard at their music. Most perform regularly in Toronto or in home towns such as Guelph or Burlington. Benenati is also in a rock group called Hello Libido, which gigs around Toronto and is planning to record an album.
Benenati, a 25-year-old auto mechanic, made it to the top 12 on CTV's Canadian Idol last season and is now taking another run at fame with CBS's Rock Star, which will air this summer in Canada on Global. "Whatever way it takes to get there, we will get there," he said outside in the line, motioning to his friend and band mate Luca Caracciolo.
In Rock Star's first season last year, Toronto singer J. D. Fortune won, becoming the new front man for veteran rock band INXS. Those auditioning yesterday had no idea what band they are ultimately trying out for. Rumours in the music industry -- and the industry does pay a lot of attention to these popular reality shows -- speculated that it could be Van Halen looking for a new singer or even Queen. Yesterday, the producers would only say that it wouldn't be a long-standing act, but a super group comprised of famous rockers from past bands.
As the auditions move from city to city for the rest of the month, Vancouver on March 23 is the only other Canadian stop.
Around noon, Benenati finally got his turn and sang a few bars of Stairway To Heaven with Caracciolo . They avoided the cringe factor by not trying to imitate Robert Plant and, in fact, sang and harmonized well.
Immediately after they played, one of the producers walked over to them in the dark, noisy club, and asked them to come to a callback on Wednesday.
The two also had an interview with Entertainment Tonight, which never lets a hyped-up, reality-show mob scene go to waste.
But there were many great auditions that will never past the test. Call it the true reality behind the reality show.
There was Steve Curtis, 25 from Peterborough, Ont. An imposing figure on stage, he sang the Peggy Lee standard Fever soulfully and without irony. It was a gamble, he conceded afterwards, but, "If I can be the first big, fat, gay guy to win Rock Star, then rock on!"
Grant Erlick, 33, of Burlington, sang the Star-Spangled Banner with maximum vocal gymnastics, like a male Mariah Carey. He had waited since 6 a.m. to perform.
Joy Thompson, 27, a Toronto singer-songwriter who works in a call centre by day, sang Oasis's Hello. A short black woman with long braided hair, she sounded nothing like Oasis singer Liam Gallagher, but handled the song very well.
"It's really nerve-racking at first, because you're waiting in line for so long. And then right before I'm going on, I completely blanked and I forgot the words and everything. But I had to do it," she said.
Then there was musician Jason Taylor, 31, of Guelph, who performed pop-punk band Simple Plan's Untitled and thought he utterly failed.Accompanying himself on guitar, he nervously rolled his eyes at the occasional missed notes. Right after breaking into the chorus, "How can this happen to me/I've made my mistakes," he fell apart and even said into the mike how much he was messing up.
Taylor may have felt he had blown it, but it was perfect rock-star timing, given the words he had just sung.
"I practise a lot, a lot, a lot and I totally messed up huge," Taylor said moments later, still racked with nerves.
But as a clever send-up of the whole audition process, the performance was brilliant. When told this, and how fine his singing actually was, his eyes lit up.