Date / Venue: Friday January 22nd, 2016 – Town Hall, Auckland
For those of you who are not so familiar with Adam Lambert – he’s a chart topping, multi award winning, multi platinum selling, singer, songwriter and one hell of a performer! All that after finishing as runner up in the 2009 series of American Idol!
When I heard he was back in New Zealand for The Original High tour, and playing Auckland Town Hall, I just knew it was going to feel like a private party!
Running almost 30 minutes behind schedule due to the mammoth task of cramming everyone into the sold out venue, queues were still forming down the street with only 5 minutes to go til stage time! A warm buzz filled the humid hall as thousands of “Glamberts” excitedly awaited their favourite of all the Idols
Eventually the stage lights up as his band appears, and a silhouette of Adam appears as graphics on the backing screen, just a short teaser before the man himself bounces larger than life onto a podium to a loud cheer from his audience. Dressed in a futuristic style, cape like sleeveless jacket and knee high, white Doc Martens, he almost looks like a super hero.
He opens with Evil In The Night from the tours namesake album The Original High album and follows up with For Your Entertainment from 2009, just to remind us of where he began. Then without hesitation, he launches straight back into the new stuff with Ghost Town.
After an extremely energetic start to the night, a slightly more laid back sound with Rumours which was originally recorded with female vocalist Tove Lo. Mid song, what sounded like a gunshot fired, a blown amp perhaps? This happened another 3 times throughout the night, but we didn’t loose sound and Adam wasn’t phased at all and continued on like nothing happened!
Accompanied by a male and female backing vocals/dancers, the three of them bounced off one another radiating a fiery energy.
Adam has created a pretty unique sound with this album; I can clearly hear influences of dance, house and also a bit of funk. As he begins Runaway, his female vocalist/dancer takes to the centre platform and performs some suggestive pole dancer moves and super high kicks, while black and white scenes of a strip club played out behind her.
The lead guitarist then takes a turn on the platform while Adam disappears for a short but a well-deserved breather, and we hear an impressive long guitar solo. Adam returns to the stage looking every inch the star in a cerise suit and a catchy beat fills the room. The crowd are clapping in time as the tempo of After Hours builds like a classic club anthem.
He hasn’t really said much to this point, preferring to jump from one track straight to the next, but now takes a moment to have a wee chat with his fans. He thanks Auckland for coming to see his first show on the “Oceania” leg of the tour, and admits he had never even heard of Oceania – “What’s up with that? Where the fuck is it?!!”
He tells us that The Original High tour is a journey, and that there are evils in this world, but it’s up to us to fill it with love! “Fuck that darkness” he pronounces! He took us back in time with a heartfelt rendition of Mad World from the Donny Darko soundtrack and then back to the happy feeling sounds with There I Said It.
A single blue spotlight on a darkened stage set an appropriate scene for Another Lonely Night and I suddenly noticed the lack of cell phones illuminated throughout the crowd. This I have become accustomed to seeing at concerts in this digital age, and it was nice to see the audience engrossed in the performance instead of being busy recording it on their tiny screens! All eyes were on Adam and captured by his theatrical presence.
Another short interval begins as coloured disco lights bounce around the Town Hall, and graphics that remind me of 80’s video games dance on the big screen.
Then as if to say ‘Yeah we are 80’s babies’, he returns with his stage mates all dressed in 80’s/90’s fashion! The male backing dancer is now in multi coloured overalls and a green baseball cap, and his lady colleague in fluoro hot pants! Adam is now in green cargo pants and adorned in a shiny gold bomber jacket as he gives us The Original High. The lyrics really do have a reminiscent feel to them, reflected well by their choice of outfits, this one is bouncy and anyone who wasn’t already on their feet, certainly are now.
He surprised us with an absolutely awesome cover of David Bowie’s Let’s Dance, of which I’m pretty sure the legend himself would have been proud of! This performance was certainly deserving of the roaring applause it received! He also gave a nod to Queen who will be joining him later on in his tour, with Another One Bites The Dust.
At the very end he introduces us to his awesome band one by one, and lets them take the spotlight for a solo each as he sits to the side and takes a much-needed rest! I really have no idea where this guy gets his energy from!
I was beginning to wonder if all the true artistry will be buried along with greats such as Bowie, but Adam Lambert is living proof that the theatrical side to music will live on in the next generation.
I left tonight having had an absolute ball, smiled heaps and enjoyed every second of his performance! I’m totally sold, and if he returns to NZ, I will most definitely go see him again!
The former American Idol contestant, current Queen frontman and Glee guest star has figured out where he belongs – and, more importantly, how to bring his audience with him.
Nearly every introduction to Adam Lambert includes a reference to American Idol. He is, after Carrie Underwood and Jennifer Hudson, arguably the most successful artist to emerge from the television franchise, even if – or because? – he didn’t win.
If you haven’t followed his trajectory since then, you’d be forgiven for thinking he peddled middle-of-the-road pop/rock with a fallible voice. He doesn’t.
But the Idol tag is a hard one to shake, particularly when your hardcore fanbase remains wedded to the version of you presented on a reality show. It’s even harder when you’re a pragmatist when it comes to your audience’s role in your artistic survival. Figuring out how to balance who you are with who your fans think you are is a challenge, to say the least.
This, in essence, has been Lambert’s post-Idol conundrum since day one: how to fill in the blanks for people, to give them a path to accept his progression from the artist who performed on the Idol finale with Queen in heavy eyeliner, a leather studded jacket and six-inch platform boots, to a popstar unapologetically influenced by contemporary club culture, sporting facial hair and sick dance moves.
On The Original High tour, it feels like he has finally accomplished that. On Friday night at the Auckland Town Hall he took the audience on a 24-song sprint through all three of his full-length albums. The nearly two-hour set was heavy on the dance music, covering almost the entirety of The Original High plus the most synth- and funk-laden offerings from his previous two records (Trespassing and For Your Entertainment, respectively).
The most obvious change since his last proper solo tour in 2012 can be summed up thusly: his musical director back then was an accomplished metal guitarist; now, his musical director sits behind two keyboards and three laptops.
Lambert didn’t banish his history from the stage, though, with ‘Lucy’ (originally featuring Queen’s Brian May) and Queen’s ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ providing some wailing guitars to mix up the night. He also didn’t ignore the fan favourites from his debut For Your Entertainment, including his biggest single ‘Whaddaya Want From Me’ and ‘Mad World’ from his time on Idol.
Lambert set this tone in the first 15 minutes of the show with a surprising but telling move. He played ‘For Your Entertainment’, his first post-Idol single (remembered primarily for his AMA performance, when he kissed his male guitar player on live network television) back-to-back with ‘Ghost Town’, the lead single from The Original High. Bookending the old and the new was a statement of intent: we were here to cross that bridge with him, to acknowledge his past iterations but not remain shackled to them.
Running the gauntlet from WeHo Gay Club to 70s glam rock didn’t feel forced or inauthentic, however. The musical breadth showcased both his versatility as an artist and the insane diversity of his audience. The septuagenarian couple directly in front of me were bopping along happily to everything from Lambert’s cover of Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’ to the club-banger ‘Kickin’ In’… just like the 17-year-olds on the floor, and the 30-something couple with their child in the circle seats. Lambert managed to start a full-on rave in the Town Hall as he entered the last third of his set.
Unlike the Beyoncés of the world who sacrifice nearly all their choruses in order to deliver high-energy choreography, Lambert makes scarce use of backing vocals. His vocal strength is undeniable, even as his choreography ramped up towards the end of the show, and something he clearly does not compromise on; even when, four songs in, what sounded like a gunshot cut the house PA for a split second. Lambert was utterly unfazed.
Six more times the PA blew and cut out for a number of seconds (apparently a signal failure, not an overload, despite the substantial production at work on this show), and six more times, Lambert continued as though nothing had happened, in seemingly great spirits. One can only imagine what was running through his head, because he gave literally nothing away. He is committed to The Show as only a former Broadway actor can be.
In a rare voice break about halfway through his set, Lambert told the Town Hall audience: “This show is a journey,” one that was meant to take us from the darkness to the light. While that musical and emotional arc may well have been true, the real journey is the one his fans have made with him. No small feat for the boy who found them by singing covers each week.