American Idol 2009 winner Kris Allen took to the stage in U.S. Army Garrison Bamberg\'s Basics Building Oct. 3 wearing a white T-shirt and black jeans, sporting a pin near the left pocket. For more than an hour Allen and his band entertained crowd members with a mix of original material, classic rock and arrangements on current pop songs. The pin, a gift from Bamberg's Special Troops Battalion, 16th Sustainment Brigade bearing the unit crest, was presented to Allen before the show. The pin emphasized the reason for the concert, something Allen repeated throughout interviews and on stage. "It's such an honor to be here," Allen told the audience of Soldiers, family members and Army employees. "This is our thank you to you." Warner Barracks was just one stop on Allen and his band's United Service Organizations' tour, which began in the Netherlands and ended in Bamberg after several Germany installation concerts. Though no stranger to crowds and seemingly comfortable on stage, Allen said it took years of performing musically to become comfortable in front of an audience. "I've sung since I was a little kid," Allen said. "The singing in front of people and the songwriting thing didn't happen until probably my senior year of high school. I was always a really shy kid and it was hard for me to showcase that for people; it was a little weird for me." Allen said that as he grew older he gained confidence and overcame that timidity- somewhat. "It's still hard to sing for small groups," he said. In preparing for the USO tour, the band fo-cused on providing an entertaining 'night off' for Soldiers and their Families from the strenuous day-to-day of an Army at war. "We are here for these people, to entertain them and so hopefully they can have a good time tonight," Allen said prior to the show. "We're not worried about us looking good or anything like that. We're going to try to do as many songs as we can that they would know and that they can really get into." Band members Andrew Deroberts, Cale Mills, Chris Torres and Ryland Steen agree. "We're glad to do our part," Deroberts said. For Courtney Carnes, spouse of a deployed Soldier in the 4-319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, the show was the first she had attended since moving to Warner Barracks. "I was definitely impressed," Carnes said. "Being able to go on post and have a real concert was definitely really's nice to feel like you're back home for a little while." Carnes said Allen's graciousness was a good reminder of the support many back home express for men and women in uniform. "It makes you feel like it's worth it because you donAca,!A,t feel like that all the time," she said. "They came all the way over here to do a free concert and as thankful as they were for know that you're not forgotten." While Allen's rise to fame happened quickly once he was selected to perform on American Idol, the road to the Louisville, Kentucky tryout and eventual win was a long one. After graduating from high school, Allen enrolled in college, but his heart wasn't in it. "I was a business major and I was like man, I'm not happy doing this, I know what I want to do so why don't I just try it," Allen said. "And so I took a couple years off and made a CD and played a bunch of places and it was great." Though he was doing what he wanted, Allen knew he couldn't support himself through local gigs. He was also planning to marry his longtime girlfriend Katy. "I was actually on my way back (to school) when all this stuff happened," Allen said. "I'm glad I didn't have to go back." Taking a chance on an American Idol tryout proved to be advantageous for the Arkansas-native, who won the title in Season 8. That risk-taking spirit is evident in Allen's debut single, "Live Like WeAca,!A,re Dying." The song, which has risen to the top 10 in three charts (No. 3 on Adult Pup Song, No. 10 on Pop Songs and No. 10 on Adult Contemporary), expounds on Allen's personal take on life, one he thinks resonates in military communities. "It's about every day and trying to make the most of every day," Allen said. "I think definitely Soldiers and people in the troops have to do that. Who knows what's going to happen. I think a lot of them take advantage of every day they have. It's tough and I think it definitely means something to them. If it was to mean something to anybody, it would mean something to them." The American Idol competition and touring the world as a musician has meant Allen and his wife are often apart for weeks at a time. "We actually had a long-distance relationship for about four years, so we were kind of used to it," Allen said. "It wasn't easy at all; it's not easy. There were plenty of times when I was like, I'm ready to be done with this because I just want to be with her. I can definitely understand that (separation)." Allen said the couple overcomes the distance through mutual support. "I have a great wife and she's really understanding," Allen said. "For me to do what I want to do, it involves this. She's happy that I'm happy." The band played a variety of hits and classics including "Live Like WeAca,!A,re Dying," "Truth" and "Falling Slowly," all singles from Allen's self-titled album, "Man in the Mirror" by Michael Jackson and "Come Together" by the Beatles. Allen also sang his original rendition of "Heartless" by Kanye West. Fans joined in during several of the songs and Allen often left the stage to sing in the crowd. After the show audience members were invited to meet the singer for photos and autographs. To see more concert photos, visit (ALLEN continued from page 1) Ashley Bateman Performing in Warner Barracks' Basics Building Oct. 3, Kris Allen leaves the stage to mingle with screaming fans. Allen and his band en-couraged fans to sing along and spent time after the show chatting with audience members and signing autographs.