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Clay, Kelly Rock RBC Center

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Raleigh's Clay Aiken was in town Monday for stop No. 5 on his 30-city concert tour with "American Idol" Kelly Clarkson.

Aiken and Clarkson sang their hits to a sold-out crowd at the RBC Center.A couple of fans hyperventilated during the concert, but were treated and are fine.

The excitement is a lot for Aiken, too. This time last year he was competing on "Americal Idol 2."

Aiken says even though he and Clarkson -- who won the competition two years ago -- just got to know each other three weeks ago, the two share a special bond.

"I've never really had anybody who's gone through the exact same stuff that I've been through," he said.

While in Raleigh, Aiken invited WRAL backstage, which included an exclusive tour of the tour bus he shares with Clarkson and bodyguard Jerome.

"[Kelly and I] both said that would be going to sleep as soon as we got on the bus and for the past three nights we've been the last ones to go to sleep. We sit up and talk for the entire night," Aiken said.

Aiken's trip on the road to stardom brought him back to WRAL, wherehe joined Lynda Loveland and Bill Leslie Monday on WRAL's Noon News.

Raleigh's singing sensation talked about about many subjects, including what fans can expect at his concerts, what the future holds and negative press.

"I take it all like I take ("American Idol" judge) Simon (Cowell). Kelly says Simon was the way to prepare us for the critics, because not everyone is going to like you every minute and sometimes they're just going to say things for the sake of being mean. If they were any better at it, they'd be doing it themselves," Aiken said.

Aiken said he has enjoyed all the special appearances -- especially Saturday Night Live -- and music awards, but he refuses to let it all go to his head.

Monday morning, Claymates lined up at WRAL-FM Mix 101.5, where Aiken joined Bill Jordan and Sheri Logan on the air.

Some fans came from as far as Canada, Texas, Boston and New York for the Raleigh concert and a chance to see their favorite pop star up close.

Ginger Strazzulla, 70, of Boston, and her niece, Karlyn Fuller, were among those in the crowd.

"He has a wonderful voice. He is the type of voice for every generation," Strazzulla said. "I really feel as though he is a role model for the younger people of today. It is so refreshing to listen to him and not have to turn my ears away when some of the words come out."

Strazulla and Fuller plan to attend the shows in Long Island and Massachusetts.

Others in the crowd said they are among friends -- meeting each other in person after chatting with each another in Clay Aiken chat rooms over the past year.

The duo performs in Winston-Salem on March 13.

On March 16, Aiken's new single featuring "The Way" and "Solitaire" is scheduled for release.

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