Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. might be considered a media-savvy, polished politician, but at his inauguration on Monday even he couldn't compete with David Archuleta for the screams and shrieks of young audience members.
Archuleta, the Murray 18-year-old who finished second in the most recent season of FOX's TV juggernaut "American Idol," made a brief appearance on the south steps of the Utah State Capital for the governor's swearing-in ceremony. The singer performed the national anthem, again, at the request of the governor, four years after the then-14-year-old sang at Huntsman's first inaugural ceremony.
On Monday, Archuleta's appearance drew many young teen and pre-teen girls to the brief outdoor ceremony. Clad in a dark brown sweater, plaid scarf and black skinny jeans, the faux-hawked Archuleta looked much different than he did during his first inaugural performance. Then he wore a schoolboy's busy tie, demin shirt and dark suit, his bowl-cut hair combed down onto his forehead.
Four years ago, Archuleta's performance of the national anthem was strong yet slightly tentative, and the singer stumbled a bit on the phrase "broad stripes and bright stars." Then he verged precariously close to being off-pitch, especially early in the song as he nervously licked his lips. At the conclusion, he received a smattering of polite applause.
On Monday, in contrast Archuleta was shaking, but only because of the cold temperatures, as he performed without a hat, jacket or gloves. When the teen began the song, it was obvious that performing in front of millions of people in the last year, both on tour and in front of a national TV audience, had bolstered his confidence. The soulful tenor was dramatic, his phrasing marked with melismas -- that is, singing single syllables while moving between several different notes -- but not overly showy. The highlight came when his voice soared at the end of the song, on the lyrics "Oh, say does that star spangled banner yet wave," hitting the high notes that have doomed many an anthem singer at baseball stadiums.
Unlike four years ago, he was rewarded with squeals from young fans, and as well as a pat on the back from Thomas Monson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
After his performance, Archuleta exited the ceremony by cutting through the Capitol, while scores of girls playing hooky from school followed him. The 18-year-oldmet fans in the State Reception Room, where Huntsman a half-hour later would greet well-wishers and the media. The singer cheerfully responded to fan requests, placing cell phone calls to friends, or hugging daughters and mothers while signing autographs of his self-titled CD.
He apologized for shaking during the ceremony. "I don't handle cold very well," he said.
Afterward, 15-year-old Megan Smith was grinning as she told her friend, "He touched my marker!"
-- Robert Gehrke contributed to this story.