SAFFORD — There must be something about The Venue on Main that brings out the best in singers.
For the second year in a row, judges broke the format and picked four singers to advance to the 2023 Gila Idol finals at the preliminary at The Venue on Main on Thursday.
Typically, judges pick three finalists at each preliminary in order to have a field of 20 at the finals March 23 at the David M. Player Center for the Arts.
Qualifying for the finals was Andy Davis, who sang “I Like It, I Love It”; and first-time performer Natawni Layton, who sang “Redneck Woman.”
“I decided to audition because I had a baby a few months ago, and I wanted to do something for myself,” Layton said. “I wanted to do something that I love and I’m passionate about.”
Moving away from Country was finalist Tanner Johnson, a former Battle of the Bands winner who performed the Rock song “Hemorrhage.”
“It’s a whole different experience than playing on stage, I can say that,” Johnson said. “I guess that it’s just because it’s so raw, and you don’t have a guitar or bass player to cover your mess ups.”
The fourth finalist was Tyler King, who opted for the Pop song “Power of Love.” Her performance captivated the judges.
“I don’t consider myself a perfomer per se, but I sing every day on stage,” King said. “Performers are incredible creatures (and) I hope to be one someday.”
Two singers will get another chance at making the finals, when they perform at call back night at the Graham County Chamber of Commerce on March 9. They are Rachel Flatt, who performed “Could Have Been Me,” and Hunter Chamberlin, who performed “It Will Rain.”
The judges also selected one alternate, Payton Raban, who sang “Story of My Life.” An alternate will be selected at each preliminary and, in the week before the finals, the public will vote on the performances on GilaValleyCentral.net. The top vote-getter will become a finalist.
Judges were 2018 Gila Idol winner Pete McCormick, who also opened the night with a performance of the song, “Whatever It Is,” 2008 winner Adam Crohn and 2016 winner Brianna Morris.
2017 Darryn Kamae winner performed during the judges’ deliberation, singing “Time of Your Life” and “Redemption Song.”
All of Thursday’s performances can be viewed at Gila Idol 2023 Double R Grill | GilaValleyCentral.Net.
The next preliminary will take place Thursday, Feb. 9, at 6:30 p.m. at Safford Bowl, sponsored by Richard’s Music.
The winner of the March 23 finals will receive $2,000 in cash.
Sponsors for 2023 Gila Idol include Valley Telecom Group; Mack’s NAPA Auto Parts; Richard’s Music Co.; the Double R Bar and Grill; Freeport-McMoRan; Valley Furniture and Appliance; Tyson Richins – Edward Jones Investments; Swire Coca-Cola; Trophies ‘N Tees; Advanced Air Systems; and the Double R Communications family of radio stations, Kat Kountry 94.5 FM, Sunny 102.3 FM and KATO 1230 AM.