updated 05/15/2014 AT 2:00 AM ET
•originally published 05/15/2014 AT 6:30 AM ET
There was no place like home on Wednesday’s American Idol, which celebrated its 500th episode with well wishes from former winners, as the final three visited their hometowns and had memorable performances in the lead-up to Tuesday’s finale.
Powerhouse teen Jena Irene, hard rocker Caleb Johnson and indie artist Alex Preston each sang three songs, the first one selected by Randy Jackson, the second one by the judges and the final one picked by their hometowns.
It was not an easy night for Johnson, who was forced to sing with a small vocal cord hemorrhage that a doctor compared to “a runner running with a badly bruised ankle.”
And it affected his first two performances, “Never Tear Us Apart” and “Demons.”
Though the judges admired Johnson’s fortitude and emotion, they all noted his strained voice, with Harry Connick Jr. saying, “Our only real concern is that you don’t hurt yourself tonight.”
“I’m so feeling for you,” said Keith Urban. “I had vocal surgery.”