On trial: It wasn't just the contestants who got to perform live for the first time, it was also a first for new judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez on tonight's American Idol
After the long rounds of auditions and the drawn out knock out stages, the final 12 male contestants finally got the chance to perform for America tonight.
After months of vying to win over the judges, suddenly it was all about the viewer at home, as contestants including Casey Abrams, Scotty McCreery and Jacob Lusk sang their hearts out.
But it wasn't just their dreams on the line.
For the first time viewers got the chance to see the new judges in action, unedited. And their personalities shone through, with Steve Tyler keeping producers on their toes, bleeping out his colourful language.
First time experience: The judges got chance to comment on performances from the top 12 boys in the competition
Jennifer Lopez was equally passionate, although kept her comments suitable for a family audience.
But while opinionated, both seemed reluctant to criticise their hand-picked contestants, leaving Randy Jackson to take on the role of the bad guy, to much booing from the crowd.
But there were some contestants that even Lopez and Tyler had to let down, however gently.
First up was Clint Jun Gamboa who kicked off the show with Stevie Wonder's Superstition
Thumbs up: Clint Jun Gamboa got the show off to a good start with Stevie Wonder's Superstition; the judges praised him, although said he looked a little 'jittery'
With his round glasses and cheeky smile he won a big cheer from the audience, although seemed a little nervous.
But the judges couldn't have been more positive.
Jackson praised him, adding: 'There's no karaoke singer in the world that's got that kind of vocal talent. This is a singing competition and that was brilliant.'
Heartthrobs: Jovany Barreto was next to take to the stage, before Jordan Dorsey performed Usher's OMG
Daunting: The live show was the first time many of the contestants have performed in such a large audience
Lopez said she hoped the audience could see what a talent he was, adding: 'You must have felt good, you got it out.'
Not getting as positive a reception was Jovany Barreto, the former port worker who sang Edwin McCain's I'll Be.
Lopez loved it. 'People got to see you I think for the first time, I mean really really see what you can do, and you know what you did it,' she said excitedly. But Barreto was brought back down to earth to Jackson.
Getting ready: Tim Halperin chats to host Ryan Seacrest ahead of his performance
Impressive: Tim won praise from the judges for his rendition of Rob Thomas' Streetcorner Serenade 'For me it felt very karaoke,' he said bluntly. 'The thing about doing cover songs is that you can bring whatever you want to it but it doesn't sound as good as the original.'
Angry Lopez responded, telling him: 'You should be very, very proud.' But Jackson replied: 'You've had to many biscuits.'
Next up was Jordan Dorsey, who performed Usher's O.M.G. The judges seemed unanimous in their dislike of the song choice.
Lopez told him: 'You know I love you, I do, and I have from the beginning. But I'm not sure that's who you really are. Is that who you want to be?'
After Dorsey admitted that the song didn't suit him, she finished: 'It didn't show off your voice, the voice that we know you have.'
He then told host Ryan Seacrest: ''I had to act because it's an Usher song and he moves a lot. I had to add some extra.'
Next up was Tim Halperin, who distinguished himself throughout the audition process with his use of instruments.
But tonight it was just his voice on show as he sang Rob Thomas's Streetcorner Symphony (Come On Over).
The judges missed his individual style.
To boos from the audience Tyler told him: 'Tim, I'm not sure if that song did you any justice man. I've heard you sing so many other better songs behind the piano.'
Lopez backed him up: 'It's not that you didn't do it well, you did do it well, but it didn't show America who you are as an artist.'
'That song is a cool, song but that's what I wouldn't equate you with,' finished Jackson. 'It really wasn't the best try today.'
But the criticism didn't dent Halperin's confidence: 'I felt it went pretty good to me and I hope America would agree with that.'
Following him on stage was the undeniably individual Brett Loewenstern.
Tossing his red curls around he bounced around the stage singing The Doors' classic Light My Fire.
Tyler loved it: 'You brought it home man you were on fire.'
And Lopez was impressed: 'That was like more hair tossing than me and Beyonce over the last ten years!'
Jackson had been counting.
'There were 14 hair shakes, that's a lot man. The things that were cool about that was that you were definitely fun and definitely bold.'
Next up was James Durbin who brought a new level of energy to the stage as he rocked the room with the unexpected choice of Judas Priest's Got Another Thing Coming. He also added the unusual touch of a zebra print scarf trailing behind him like a tail.
Tyler was thrilled, with the censors jumping into action to bleep out his dirty language.
'I think that's the first Judas Priest song that we've had on the show, ever,' he said.
Equally impressed was Lopez: 'I love the way you perform. I love the way you sing, where it comes from, it's organic it's real. You do it so naturally, it's insane.'
Jackson thought the performance should inspire the other performers. 'This is right here how you do it,' he told him. 'That was great man.'
Here comes Brett: Brett Loewenstern, the last boy to make it through to the top 24, sang The Doors' Light My Fire
Robbie Rosen performed Sarah McLachlan's Angel and with his puppy dog eyes and thick hair seemed designed to appeal to a female audience.
Tyler told him: 'Beautiful. Everyone right in the audience was hearing right what I'm hearing.'
Lopez agreed: 'I've said to you before that when you sing songs you have to tell a story and you do.'
Judgement time: Brett nervously awaits his comments from the judges, but received only praise from the judges
Young stars: James Durbin (left) and Robbie Rosen impressed the judges with their performances
Lopez agreed: 'There are just some people who are born to do something. You're born to sing country music.'
And Jackson found nothing to criticise.
'You know what's cool about you, you're like a throwback country boy. You're not trying to crossover. You're pure country.'
McCreery was the only one without a thing to say. 'It's been a dream,' he said. 'But I don't even know man, what in the world!'
Country strong: Scotty McCreery, who was voted through on account of his astonishingly low voice, impressed yet again
Stefano Langone couldn't have been a bigger change as he belted out Bruno Mars' Just the Way You Are.
Jackson loved it, despite the occasional duff high note.
'This kid could be on the radio right now and that's what we're looking for. A real star,' he told him.
And Langone was looking for extra votes as he told Seacrest: 'That song it was for all the ladies out there. I love all you jut the way you are.'
Taking on a modern hit: Stefano Langone took a risk by performing one of the biggest hits of last year - Bruno Mars' Just The Way You Are
Paul McDonald chose Rod Stewart's Maggie May.
Tyler was impressed: 'The way you shake it off and just are, I love that character in you.'
As were his fellow contestants, with Lopez saying: 'You have real character in the way you move.
'That smile you have it lights up the whole place. I love someone who smiles when they are singing.'
Rocking out: McDonald impressed the judges with his rendition of Rod Stewart's Maggie May
Jacob Lusk then added some soul to the proceedings with Luther Vandross' A House Is Not a Home, which frequent viewers will remember from the audition stage.
It was clear he was Lopez's favourite, as she led the judges in comparing him to Luther Vandross: 'He's gone, but now we have you.'
Ending the show was Casey Abrams, the contestant who nearly dropped out of Idol this week when he was hospitalised.
The new Luther Vandross: Jacob Lusk floored the judges with his performance of Luther Vandross' A House Is Not A Home
With anticipation for his performance heightened, he belted out I Put A Spell On You, flirting with Lopez throughout with little smiles.
He was the first contestant of the night to get the audience on their feet for a standing ovation, ending the show on a high note.
'Girls, what do you think about this man?' asked Tyler, to screams from the audience. 'As good as it get's, crazy good.'
Lopez told him: 'Casey, you're sexy Casey. I don't have to tell you, they told you. 'You took it, you ate it. I loved it, I loved it.'
Belting it out: Casey Abrams sings his heart out as he performs I Put A Spell On You; he was hospitalised earlier in the week with stomach problems, putting his appearance on the show in doubt
After his performance Seacrest questioned him about his hospitalisation. 'My stomach just wasn't in the right place,' Abrams admitted, honestly.
The girls will perform on Wednesday at 8pm before the final 12 are revealed on Thursday night's show.
Ten finalists will be voted for by the public, with another two selected as 'wild cards' by the judges.
American Idol Scotty McCreery March 1, 2011
American Idol Jordan Dorsey March 1, 2011
American Idol 2011 Top 12 Guys Perform - Brett Loewenstern (Light My Fire)
American Idol Jovany Barreto March 1, 2011
American Idol Casey Abrams March 1, 2011
American Idol 2011 Top 12 Guys Perform - Tim Halperin (Sweet Corner Symphony)