Sunday, July 22, 2012

Adam Lambert concert review: Costa Mesa, Calif.

photo by Kelly Swift
A version of my review originally appeared at 

Extremely popular “American Idol” contestants made a major showing during the Orange County Fair concert series this week. First up was 2011 winner Scotty McCreery on Wednesday; Season 8 runner-up Adam Lambert followed Thursday.

Over the past few weeks, the latter singer has popped up in entertainment news reports on a regular basis. He had the rare distinction of serving as Queen’s front man during half a dozen European live dates and got rave reviews in London. The YouTube clips were so good that the band should team up with Lambert again in America sometime soon.

Among the rumored replacements for departing “Idol” judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez - a far better proposal than Mariah Carey - Lambert will also have a cameo role on the ABC Family series “Pretty Little Liars” in October.

This past spring, the San Diego native’s sophomore album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. The infectious songs are more dance music-oriented this time around, with contributions from Pharrell Williams, Bruno Mars, Chic’s Nile Rodgers, Sam Sparro and others. Lambert co-wrote all but one of the tracks, which he describes as “more honest and self-aware. It paints a clearer picture of who I am.”

Inside the Pacific Amphitheatre, many devoted fans (known as “Glamberts”) dressed in black and yellow striped attire, just like the artwork that adorns the latest album “Trespassing.” Some even waved homemade cardboard signs and cutouts. One middle-aged woman and two teenage girls all wore matching blue hair extensions.

Although the venue curfew might’ve been a factor, Lambert’s hour-long, 13-song set (the exact length of his July 2010 performance here, despite having double the amount of original material to pull from) still seemed awfully short. I would’ve axed middling opening Nashville electronic rock group This is She to provide more breathing room.

photo by Kelly Swift
Clad in a sheer horse print blazer, Lambert and his six-member band kicked everything off with the energetic, fierce attitude of “Trespassing.”

They primarily focused on newer material. “Kickin’ In” found a sassy Lambert singing about a club going guy with “a dirty mind” waiting for the affects of alcohol to take affect. It boasted a seething, old school Prince-style groove.

Whenever the singer did a flirtatious body move or engaged in trademark vocal acrobatics, the crowd reacted wildly.

Keeping with the already sexual theme, Lambert said, “we’ll get a little sleazy now” to introduce the slinky sounds of “Shady.”

The female backing vocal duo really elevated the soulful vibe throughout various songs. Meanwhile, the band’s subtly tweaked live arrangements allowed the dance songs to breathe more.

A stripped down segment, beginning with a piano-led “Whataya Want from Me,” was quietly effective. Backed by subtle electric guitar and a single drum, Lambert’s tender delivery on the personal “Outlaws of Love” (concerning discrimination against gays and lesbians) was magnificent and a set highlight.

Later, several concertgoers waved glow sticks during the slamming, electronica-tinged “Naked Love,” where a jubilant Lambert engaged in some call and response action. Double entendre-laden “Pop That Lock” was a tour debut. The rousing electronic rock number included fun and quick synchronized dance moves by Lambert and the backing vocalists, who added a snatch of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” at the end.

Having removed his shoes earlier, Lambert looked comfortable, said he already felt as if he knew everybody “at least on Twitter” and described how the experience with Queen re-energized him as a performer. This would’ve been a prime opportunity to do a Queen cover (coincidentally, tribute band Queen Nation appeared nearby at The Hangar).

Instead, another vibrant “Trespassing” selection, the Mars-assisted single “Never Close Our Eyes,” came next. Wrapping up with “Cuckoo,” people yelled for an encore to no avail. Despite the brevity, Lambert still put on a solid, satisfying show. 

Adam Lambert, Pacific Amphitheatre, Costa Mesa, July 19, 2012
Setlist: Trespassing/Kickin’ In/Shady/Fever/Whataya Want from Me/Outlaws of Love/Chokehold/Broken English/Naked Love/If I Had You/Pop That Lock/Never Close Our Eyes/Cuckoo

No comments: