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CEDAR FALLS — The Cedar Valley’s own “American Idol” winner gave a surprise concert at a local pizza place Friday night.

Urban Pie posted three videos to Facebook of Maddie Poppe — who won last year’s “American Idol” singing competition show — singing and accompanying herself on guitar and piano.

In one video, Poppe asks the outdoor crowd if they attended the Butler County Fair in Allison, where she and fellow “Idol” finalist Caleb Lee Hutchinson performed June 21. Not many hands went up.

Maddie Poppe performs for a hometown crowd

“That wasn’t a coffee-shop show, but I just want to let you all know that we’re back to the coffee-shop-style music,” Poppe said. “That’s what we’re doing tonight. Just giving you guys a warning.”

Indeed, the videos showed a less polished, more comfortable feel: Poppe stopped to change keys after she had begun Linda Ronstadt’s “Blue Bayou,” and chatted with the crowd between and during tunes. She even stopped halfway through a cover of “Dog Days Are Over” by Florence and the Machine.

“That note is too high,” she sang, in lieu of the real lyric. “That’s just cruel,” she said of the note, ending the song, to laughter.

Blake Keating, co-owner of Urban Pie, said Poppe has played at the business before she became a worldwide sensation on the reality show. He had a chance run-in with her at an airport.

“She said, ‘I’ll come back and play again,’” Keating said. “But she said, ‘Whenever I do, we just can’t advertise it.’ Sure enough, she messaged me and we started making plans.”

Keating and his business partners had a couple of days to get ready for the show, but were careful to not let the cat out of the bag. Urban Pie was busy anyway Friday night, Keating said, and then when Poppe was spotted, word spread quickly.

“It was amazing — everybody that was there loved it,” Keating said. “I, unfortunately, was washing a lot of dishes.”

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The videos feature Poppe playing cover songs like “Who Knew” by Pink and “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding, as the sun set and day turned into night.

She talked about the songwriting process, including a Swedish couple who wrote her a song, “Wildflowers,” about a girl from Iowa, even though some of the lyrics made Poppe cringe.

“It’s like, ‘I’m counting every single plane that passes by,’ like I just sit in my backyard, ‘Ohp, there’s another one,’” she said, to laughter. “It’s kind of funny just to see what other people think Iowa is like.”

She admitted to insecurities about playing her new songs for the first time.

“I wanna play some of my own songs, but I’m so scared I’m gonna mess ‘em up,” she said, as the audience urged her on before she played “Nothing Good Comes Out of California.”

Halfway through, at an instrumental break, she admitted surprise: “I remembered the chords,” she said, to applause. “I didn’t think that was gonna happen.”

The audience cheered. “Wow, you guys are so nice,” Poppe said, before beginning the second verse.

Keating said his customers appreciated the concert.

“I’ve gotten messages all day and night — just how amazing it was, and how cool it was for her do something like that,” he said.

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Staff Writer

Staff writer at The Courier 2005 (college intern), 2007-2012, 2015-present. Graduate of UNI 2006. Three-time Iowa APME award winner (investigative reporting 2008, lifestyle feature 2016, business feature 2018)

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