On a night dedicated to the songs of artists in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the final four were more like the final three -- plus one. It was clear who the judges thought ought to go.
His name is Jason Castro.
Randy Jackson laughed off his cover of Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff" as "really karaoke."
Simon Cowell, his sensibilities clearly attacked by reggae and a guitar, used the word "massacre" and said, "I can't imagine what you were thinking."
Castro followed up with Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man," which should have been a natural for him. But he forgot almost an entire line in the first verse. Paula Abdul thanked him for just existing -- or something kind and vague.
Simon pronounced: "I'd pack your suitcase."
The show's emotional highpoint came courtesy of the only female left, Syesha Mercado.
Her version of Tina Turner's "Proud Mary" wowed Randy Jackson and Paula, although Simon shrugged it off as a bad impersonation.
In the second half of the hour, she came out in a gold gown that screamed "diva" and delivered a big, passionate cover of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come." Randy thought it felt "disconnected," but Paula called it "a superstar performance." She added, "Welcome to your dream." With that, Syesha turned on the waterworks.
David Cook underwhelmed the judges with his version of Duran Duran's "Hungry Like the Wolf." Simon thought it was "a little bit copycat." But Cook rebounded when he sang the classic Who anthem "Baba O'Riley." The judges all loved it. "Welcome back, David Cook," Simon said.
David Archuleta, the contestant furthest away from rock, ended up having the best evening, scoring twice. He started with what Randy described as a "hot" cover of Ben E. King's "Stand by Me." David confessed, "I always sing it in my room, by myself." (Note to David: Keep such thoughts in head.) He ended the night with a version of Elvis Presley's "Love Me Tender," that was, indeed, tender.
Simon said: "You didn't beat the competition. You crushed the competition." --Tom Gliatto
Tell us: Who rocked American Idol? Who will be sent home?Frank Micelotta/FOX