“American Idol” Returns: Live Blogging Season Nine’s Debut

Paula Abdul? Gone! Simon Cowell? Nearly gone. Kelly Clarkson? Sings “Already Gone.” Tonight, to mark the return of the ninth season of the in-flux American Idol, Rolling Stone will be following the action as it happens in our first live blog of the new decade. The auditions begin in Boston, where Victoria Beckham (a.k.a. “Posh” Spice) will be filling in as guest judge (Ellen DeGeneres doesn’t arrive until early February’s Hollywood Week episodes). Join as we track the best and worst hopefuls and remember some of Paula’s best moments.

Look back at photos, interviews and more of our essential Idol coverage.

8:00 pm: Remember when Kris Allen beat Adam Lambert? And then Paula Abdul left Idol? And then Ellen DeGeneres got her job? Ryan Seacrest is introducing “a new beginning.”

While we’re on the subject of Lambert, check out his personal favorite Paula memory:

8:03 pm: Nine seasons and they still haven’t changed that weird cheesy opening.

8:05 pm: 9,000 hopefuls in Beantown for Kara DioGuardi, Randy Jackson, Simon Cowell and Victoria Beckham.

8:06 pm: “We’re so coordinated, we look like we’re on a night out,” Posh (in red) says to a PA (in red) who is having the best moment of his life.

8:08 pm: OK, first singer Janet McNamara has already plugged the Idol video game, pumped herself up in a bathroom, said “wicked” and murdered “Pocket Full of Sunshine.” Perhaps it’s a good time for our first Paula memory?

Remember when Paula spat her gum on Simon during an audition?

8:14 pm: Maddy Curtis is 16 and has three siblings with Down Syndrome. She evidently hasn’t heard that Leonard Cohen has called for a “Hallelujah” moratorium, but we like her. She’s going to Hollywood!

8:19 pm: Oh look, a cranky hipster! Who is not amused by the perky guy who’s “not scared to be myself,” Pat Ford. Ford is auditioning with Britney Spears’ “Womanizer.” And doing more choreography than she managed on her Circus tour.

8:22 pm: Big ups to the girl who auditioned with Mr. Big’s “To Be With You”!

You know who we’d like to be with right now? Paula Abdul. Here’s another moment: Remember when Paula and Simon kissed in a parallel universe?

8:30 pm: Amadeo Diriccio likes to be Italian and sing Muddy Waters. Cowell says he has a “likability thing.” Golden ticket! Is this guy the antidote to the Situation or what?

8:33 pm: Derrick the hippie likes long nature walks and “gragitating to music” (a combination of gravitating and graduating, we presume?). Even better, he clearly missed Chris Brown’s “situation” and calls himself an unabashed fan of the embattled singer. Then he imitates Elton John.

8:39 pm: A montage of people crying? The only cure of this mess is … another mess!

Remember when Paula saw a Jason Castro performance that never happened thanks to a tear in the space-time continuum?

8:43 pm: Is it just us, or do 99 percent of people who want to sing Janis Joplin at Idol auditions seem a little … off? Mere Doyle was “verging on terrible,” quoth Simon.

8:45 pm: A pair of solid guy singers from New York blow up the Boston audition. There’s a Yankees-Red Sox joke to be made here, but wait — it’s time for cranky hipster guy!

8:47 pm: You can tell Andrew Fenlon fancies himself a Rivers Cuomo type. A mean Rivers Cuomo type. He sings a slightly theatrical version of “House of the Rising Sun” and then gets a tongue-lashing from Kara over his ‘tude.

Fenlon was confrontational, but nowhere near as nutty as Paul Marturano, Paula’s mega-fan who rhymed “stalker” with “Peter Falk-er” and “Jimmy Walker” during his audition two years ago.

9:00 pm: Berklee College of Music student Ashley Rodriguez handles Alicia Keys pretty damn well. Kara likes her look. And voice. But did she mention the look? Maybe it’s because Rodriguez isn’t Paula Abdul fell … over her dog Tulip and broke her nose?

9:11 pm: Ill-advised attempt at humor — some sort of history lesson involving Boston and the birth of America.

9:12 pm: Lisa Olivero is a waitress who made a reference to being a diva before she butchered Mariah Carey’s “Vision of Love.” Don’t make Kara get up there and sing that song, Lisa.

9:15 pm: Mike Davis is an actor who works on speedboat, which apparently gives him the confidence to transfix Posh with his version of the Beatles’ “Yesterday” and ask Kara out on a date.

Time for more Paula! Remember when Abdul blew everyone’s minds performing “I’m Just Here for the Music” on Idol?

9:22 pm: Katie Stevens is seriously making us cry with her story about her grandmother with Alzheimer’s Disease. She’s going to Hollywood! Ryan Seacrest is crying! We’re all crying!

9:28 pm: What does it mean when Randy Jackson tells you “I can see you in a new group that sings Spandau Ballet kind of music”? Nice guy Joshua Blaylock will have time to figure it out in Hollywood.

And we can’t help it:

9:36 pm: Justin Williams was diagnosed with cancer at 20 and beat it. Perfect Idol redemption story? You bet. And he sings “Feeling Good.” Game. Set. Match. Williams.

9:40 pm: Is everyone seeing this commercial where people are singing about I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter to “Turn the Beat Around” starring Megan Mullally, or are we having some sort of Paula Abdul moment over here?

9:44 pm: We’ve been waiting for Norberto Guerrero all night. Dressed like Tommy Lee, singing Cascada. “I’m going to inspire people like Michael Jackson inspired me, like Adam Lambert inspired me,” he says. Simon kills Norberto’s dream — and ours — pretty fast.

9:48 pm: Bosa Mora is the son of Nigerian immigrants whose story is more compelling than his vocals, according to Simon. Posh dares to disagree and turns into Paula for a split second, calling Cowell out on his irritating eye rolls. Mora gets through anyway.

9:56 pm: Long Islander Leah Laurenti grew up with lots of church time and not much secular music. It worked for Kings of Leon, and it works for her: the judges adore her “Blue Skies.”

9:58 pm: A total of 32 hopefuls will get the chance to meet Ellen DeGeneres during Hollywood Week. Tomorrow’s audition show will capture the action in Atlanta.

10:00 pm: And that’s it for us! Except for one last Paula moment, of course: Remember when Paula loved David Archuleta’s “Imagine” so much she threatened to “squish you, squeeze your head off and dangle you from my rear-view mirror”? Don’t worry, we gave Archie a chance at revenge.

Stick with Rolling Stone for updates on Idol’s Paula and Simon-free future, Ellen’s arrival and much more.

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