Music News

David Cook's Heartbreaking Return to Performing

05/09/2009 at 12:15 PM EDT

David Cook's Heartbreaking Return to Performing
David Cook
Frazer Harrison/Getty

David Cook

David Cook

David Cook started singing a slow song, stopped and turned away from the audience.

"It's gonna be tough for me," the Idol champ told the crowd of 450 at the Musica theater in Akron, Ohio, on Friday night. "Hold on. I'm sorry. Do you mind if I sing a different song?"

Taking the beat up a notch, Cook then energized the crowd, who passed up flowers and cards and held up signs in honor of his brother, Adam, who died May 2 at age 37 of cancer.

It was a night of emotional extremes for Cook, 26, now back on tour after Adam's death. Speaking of his brother throughout the night, he struggled through some songs – even walking out in the middle of one of them – but exhibited swagger on others.

A Long Road

"It has been a long road for David, and we've seen how tough it has been on him," singer Ryan Star, who has toured with Cook since Feb. 14, tells PEOPLE. " I think he's doing the best he can."

The show opened with Cook walking on stage and singing "Heroes," then raising his guitar to show fans the large black initials "AC" on the front.

At other points, Cook was cheerful, teasing fans and calling himself, "Old Dave" as he chewed gum. But when he covered Fleetwood Mac's "Tell Me Lies," he became emotional at the line, "If I could turn the page."

Then he abruptly left the stage while singing "Come Back to Me," and his band followed. The crowd chanted for his return as he stood in a hallway with his hand to his face, talking to his fellow band members.

A drummer came out and played a solo, and Cook returned in about five minutes, telling the crowd, "It's been a hell of a week. It's good to be here tonight."

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