Elliott Yamin Feels Right at Home in Richmond

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Elliott Yamin Live
Elliott Yamin tightly hugged his willowy girlfriend, Jamie, clapped brother Scott on the back and took a swig from a bottle of diet Mountain Dew.

His band -- actually Taylor Hicks' Little Memphis Blues Orchestra -- had just cruised onstage to ear-splitting screams, easing into the seductive strains of Bill Withers' "Use Me."

Yamin peeked at the crowd of about 4,200, already on its feet awaiting his grand entrance, flashed his trademark grin and casually ambled out to his homecoming, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.

In his first local appearance since July's stop with fellow American Idols, the Virginia native and third-place Idol finisher quickly fell into a groove.

"It was so comfortable -- almost too comfortable," he was overheard saying backstage.

Endless ripples of excitement raced through an audience filled with families -- many with little kids who wouldn't know Elliott Yamin from T.S. Eliot -- as "Use Me" segued into Bad Company's "Ready for Love."

On the first few songs of his R&B-heavy set of covers, Yamin, who has successfully bounced back from minor surgery a week ago, mostly held the microphone stand and swayed. But his stage movement increased once LMBO, a rich, funky outfit that deserves better than the dank clubs of Birmingham, Ala., tore into "I Believe to My Soul," Yamin's swan song on American Idol.

Throughout the hour-long set -- also his first full, solo concert -- Yamin's voice sounded strong and healthy. He broke into the Elliott head-bob-and-saunter move during an electrifying keyboard solo on "Believe" and effortlessly navigated the layers of percussion and saxophone for Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On."

Hopefully, American Idol winner Hicks can use his newfound clout to elevate LMBO to bigger arenas, as this six-piece outfit simply smokes.

Yamin, 28, also has that natural gift.

He knows his way around a soulful ballad, and he feels what he sings - it's obvious in his body language and the dreamy look that coats his face during a song. He also loves music to the extent that he can flip from Carole King's "You've Got a Friend," recast with a subtle jazz vibe, to the Allman Brothers' "Whipping Post," the frenetic set-closer (and Bo Bice's cover of choice) that showcases his comfort with rock.

Yamin's confidence has certainly developed, but he still keeps the focus on his technically flawless voice. He projects a laid-back charisma and appeared grateful for the support of his fans, whom the thanked often. But the test will be how -- and if -- he continues to stand out once a new crop of American Idol stars arrives in January, and the spotlight turns.

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.