By People Staff
Updated March 17, 2010 12:00 AM
Credit: Michael Becker/PictureGroup

The first night out for the top 12 was dedicated to the Rolling Stones — you know, they … sing that Susan Boyle song, “Wild Horses.” I love that song!

In fact, Katie Stevens chose to do the Susan Boyle song, and managed to come up with a … new, power-ballad interpretation in a belting voice. The judges agreed this … was her least problematic – which is to say, most successful – performance. “This … is the first time I think you connected with a song,” said Simon. “Well done.”

The wildest moment of the night was Siobhan Magnus, made over in a sleek … dress and curled hair, singing an intensely melodramatic cover of “Paint It Black.” … The Judging Four were thrilled, especially when it ended with another of her … roof-rattling shrieks. “Like Snooki’s pouf,” Ellen said, Siobhan had risen above everyone … else. Kara thought it was the best turn of the night, and so did Simon: “The standout.” … He added, however, that a lot of would hate it.

That includes me. She looked like a French pop star struck by lightning.

Crystal Bowersox, the one singer you might have expected to have a knockout … with this sort of blues-rock, didn’t quite connect with “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” She … just sort of strummed along, comfortably and even respectfully melodic, but the song … didn’t build to anything. “This is the first time where I think you were beaten by somebody,” … said Simon, “and that was Siobhan. … You’ve got to come on that stage, and you’ve got to kill.”

The disaster of the night? That would be Tim Urban. He sang a reggae “Under My Thumb,” perhaps … trying to sound like early Police. The sexual aggression of the original was gone, and that left … nothing. “I felt like I was at a resort and drinking a pina colada,” said Ellen.

Didi Benami cemented her comeback singing a slowed-down, sexed-up “Playing With Fire.” It … didn’t really convey the threat of the lyrics – she’s not a singer who carries a lot of matches. … But the judges were pleased. “Didi, you’re on fire tonight,” said Randy. Kara: “You got dark.” Ellen … liked her phrasing: “You made the word ‘fire’ two syllables, which I thought was gr-eat.”

Casey James had rollicking fun doing “It’s All Over Now” with his electric guitar. Ellen made a … cute little joke about not being about to appreciate him as a straight sex symbol – that his … appeal doesn’t work for “ like me … blonds” – but she thought he was “fantastic.” Simon … carped that it felt like an audition – Casey wasn’t pushing himself. “There’s got to be more.”

Lacey Brown sang “Ruby Tuesday” to a stupid string arrangement that made it sound like the … Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.” Ellen thought it was “a tiny tiny bit sleepy.”

Andrew Garcia took “Gimme Shelter,” with its rumblings of danger, and turned it into something … like a lounge performance in the shadow of the apocalypse. The judges were split. Ellen called it his … “best performance yet.” When Kara complained that he had defanged the song’s imagery of war, … Simon countered: “Did you want him to come onstage with a tank?” Well, yes.

Lee Dewyze’s version of “Beast of Burden” particularly impressed Kara (“You are growing faster than … anybody… Tremendous growth”) and particularly frustrated Simon – he thinks Lee has yet to have … that big “moment” of onstage electricity, and should. He does have a way of just … standing there.

Paige Miles, who’s had a troubled run up to now, nonetheless happens to have a very good voice – … and despite laryngitis, and hardly any rehearsal, still pushed her way through “Honky Tonk Woman.” … The judges seemed to think she’d at least recovered some of the ground that had been … slipping away in recent weeks. ENOUGH ground, though?

Aaron Kelly, in a simple, understated performance, managed to capture the tender sadness of … “Angie.” The judges all ranked it as one of his best nights yet.

Michael Lynche was confidently smooth on “Miss You.” Kara, invoking Mick Jagger himself, praised … him for being “hot onstage.” Simon, though, cautioned that his moves were a bit corny and “a tiny bit desperate.”

This led to a weird faceoff between Simon and Ryan.

Ryan asked Simon to clarify his criticism and Simon, in effect, told Ryan to mind his own beeswax. Ryan at that … point marched down off the stage, leaned across the judges’ table and tersely informed Simon he was … just trying to make it clear that Michael understood Simon’s critique. “I’m actually trying to help out a little, buddy,” he told Simon, as if they were having an altercation in a diner. Simon waved him back toward the stage.

What on earth did any of it mean?

Most in danger: Tim, Andrew, Paige, Lacey.

— Tom Gliatto

Michael Becker/PictureGroup