"Despite being dressed like the archetypal US rock star – yellow-tinted aviator shades, black leather fingerless gloves, immaculate facial topiary – American Idol alumnus and adopted Queen frontman Adam Lambert is telling possibly the least rock’n’roll story ever. The night before our interview, he was kept awake at an unnamed London hotel by a “full-ass party” in the next room. “I called four different times, all this shit, and they wouldn’t shut it down,” he huffs, trying to contort his not inconsiderable frame into a tiny chair in his PR’s office. “We just found out it was a celebrity,” he adds, refusing to name names. Here for a whistlestop press tour ahead of another European jaunt with Queen, he’s now half rock cosplayer, half sleep-deprived octogenarian.
We talk about getting older. Lambert is 36, having started his pop journey in 2009 on season eight of American Idol. He likes certain things about being in his 30s. “I’ve got myself pretty well sorted. I get who I am. I can call myself out, but man, these hangovers last way too long, don’t they?” he cackles, as he does often. “I do feel my age, but in some ways, it’s a bit of a Peter Pan thing. I play dressup and sing for a living.”
As a kid growing up in California, he was inspired to play dressup and sing by “Bowie and Freddie and Boy George”. Lambert – a self-proclaimed “outsider” – found solace in musical theatre. “When I was in middle school, I didn’t have any friends. I was a weird kid. Also, as a gay person, it takes your body changing to go: ‘Oh right, this is how I’m different.’” At the age of 18, shortly after graduating from high school, he came out to his family and friends, eventually side-stepping college and moving to Los Angeles to live out his fantasy of being an entertainer. A 10-month stint on a cruise ship was followed by a role alongside Val Kilmer in The Ten Commandments: The Musical. In 2008, he auditioned for American Idol, performing – somewhat prophetically – Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Thanks to his paint-stripping vocals and scenery-chewing stage presence, he became a favourite to win. In the end, he finished runner-up to the decidedly more vanilla Kris Allen, a shock result that seemed to have been influenced by the emergence of photos of Lambert, who hadn’t discussed his sexuality on the show, kissing his ex-boyfriend.