Last night went about as well as I could've hoped for, with a good turnout, fun feature and exciting slam. Top three ended up being Roger, Omar & Dawn, with Omar holding on to 2nd by a mere 0.2 points. The judges were consistently in the 25-26 range, with a few spikes into higher territory reserved for some truly special moments of the night.
Sabrina got the short end of the stick with a low first round score and couldn't recover. I felt bad about flip-flopping on my initial advice about the piece she did as I wasn't confident that it had the energy required to lead off a slam. Good judges are almost always waiting to be wowed before getting off the high scores and more thoughtful work usually suffers early on because of that. Always go with your first instinct! She didn't let it get her down, though, performing each successive piece beautifully and ultimately scratching her way into fourth.
Dawn was consistent throughout and was very smart in her choice of first round piece. It was political, grounded and easy-to-digest and got her out of the first round solidly in the mix. Someone with her depth and experience, that was all she needed to be competitive. At first glance, she's easy to underestimate but she's got the kind of range that makes her a formidable talent. Coming in third puts her at a slight disadvantage for the Finals but she's someone that can overcome an early slot.
Oscar nailed his first piece, so much so that it could be argued it might've better served him in the second or third round. With the first two poets not scoring all that high, he could've went with something else, stayed with the pack and broke out the signature piece later when the energy had shifted. Instead, he peaked early and lost steam as the night went on. No shame, though, as he represented himself well each round and is sure to build on the experience and be in the mix again next year.
Roger was Roger but in a most impressive way, nailing his pieces with an energy you don't often see from someone that's been around the slam as long as he has been. Taking nothing for granted, he laid it out there each round and the judges rewarded him for it, especially in the 3rd round when he got a 30 for the Buffalo-remix. Perhaps the year off did him some good? At this point, he has to be considered a front-runner for making the team again.
Finally, Omar. Talk about someone being dialed in and focused. He connected with the audience in a way I haven't seen him do in...well, ever, I'd have to say. Particularly with his third piece, the one he did for the CD recording in January that got a completely wrong reaction (uncomfortable laughter in all the wrong places) from the crowd. This time, he did it following Roger's 30 - the only thing worse than going first in a slam is following a 30 - and gave a most intense, you-will-understand-where-this-piece-is-coming-from performance that held the audience entranced. The scores weren't great but they were good enough to keep him in second.
All in all, it was a good slam and I'm happy with the results. To be honest, any combination of the five would have been great. As for the betting pool, though, I blew it, picking Dawn, Roger & Sabrina as my expected top three. What the hell do I know? ;-)