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Adam Lambert: Before he was an American Idol

April 8, 2009 |  2:38 pm

Now, Culture Monster isn't one to play favorites, and we're generally too modest to toot our own horn. But after watching Adam Lambert's show-closing, show-stopping performance on "American Idol" last night, we thought we needed to single out this contestant and, at the same time, share a moment of prescience on our part.

We take you back to 2004, when Los Angeles theatergoers were treated to a spectacle like no other (although some audience members of Achim Freyer's "Ring" productions at Los Angeles Opera may argue otherwise). The occasion was a multimillion-dollar production of “The Ten Commandments,” a pop musical that starred Val Kilmer as a singing Moses.

Produced by fashion designer Max Azria, founder of the design house BCBG Max Azria, the musical played at the Kodak Theatre in -- how shall we put this? – a less than well-reviewed run. As our critic, Mark Swed, wrote:

" 'The Ten Commandments" is such effective theater that, after 2 1/2 hours of cheesy stagecraft and innocuous, blaring upbeat music, we don't just understand Moses, don't just aspire to be Moses, we actually become Moses. That is to say, 'The Ten Commandments' has the power to leave a epiphany-seeking theatergoer speechless."

But our intrepid reviewer did appear to more or less enjoy at least one performer. A then-"unknown" Lambert, who played the slave Joshua (video clip above).

"Indeed, given that there is no dialogue and everyone sings similarly styled music, 'The Ten Commandments' does become, in a funny way, less a story of individuals than a saga of larger emotions. The cast is huge, some 50 strong, and everyone is beautiful. Few singers or dancers distinguish themselves with a personal sound or style. High notes are calculated to get applause. Adam Lambert, as Joshua, does the best in 'Is Anybody Listening?' It is also the best song."

So, instead of saying “you heard it here first,” we’ll just offer Lambert our best wishes in the competition. As far as we’re concerned, this guy has truly paid his dues. 

-- Lisa Fung

Comments () | Archives (44)

Thank you for sharing that old YouTube clip. It just goes to show, once again, that those who complain that Adam is a 'screecher' have got it all wrong. This young man can sing just about anything he puts his mind to. If he knew Latin, he could be performing in operas!

It's time to recognize that his time has come and there is nothing that can stop the speeding train that he is on. He WILL be the next American Idol and will go on from there to have a very successful musical career.

Thanks for sharing the video!

I am so glad that you did single him out, because Adam Lambert is brilliant. He is my favorite contestant in the whole history of the show. His voice and versatility, his stage presence and sensuality, his originality and artistry, his humble personality off-stage and varied transformations on stage, the good looks... The list goes on and on.
And as you correctly point out, he has worked very hard to perfect his craft, doing what he loves day in and day out, so yes, he deserves to win this more than anyone.

Haunting performance. Excellent talent. I get goose bumps when he sings. What a creative spirit.

Adam certainly has paid his dues, and it shows. He can draw upon emotion and depths that no other performer in our generation can come close to achieving. He is truly magical and a genius performer. His awesome good looks complete the package of the first bonafide superstar of the 21st Century, who leaves all others in the dust.

WOW!!!!!! ADAM is something else!!!! I had never seen this video. I am impressed!

Thank you so much for posting this. I have loved Adam since I saw his audition onto Idol. I have read things here and there about him and seen some interviews and I am so happy for him , after paying his dues, he is realizing the reality of becoming one of the truely great stars of our time. I think he is phenomenal, while being so humble and gracious! He is one smart man, and of course just so handsome. Good on ya Adam , you will always be my American Idol, or I should say World Idol as I believe you will rule the world!

Adam rocks the world. His vocal skills are out of this world. GO TEAM ADAM!

Simply awesome performance of Mad World by Adam Lambert. Powerful, moving, exciting, magical and definitely re-watchable many times over. It's this type of singular performance that makes AI still must see TV.

I am getting very tired of Culture Monster finding every opportunity to knock the LA Opera Ring. Just went to the sold out performance today and the audience went nuts after each act. Just because a few people have gripped about the non-traditional production of our Ring doesn't not mean that is how the majority of people feel about this important and critically well received production.

I am also stunned by this man's prodigious talents as a performer. It goes beyond his absolutely magnificent tones and spectacular range. His interpretation of songs, even those whose arrangements have been covered by those before him, is unique, and becomes magical. I am no teenager, and yet, that's how I feel when watching him perform. I get goosebumps and can hardly catch my breath. He is someone who I will love for the rest of my life, or as long as he records.

Seeing him perform in this mediocre show only reinforces my belief in his talent.

I cannot wait to buy his songs, and to see him in person. I have not felt this way about any performer since I was a kid and cried when watching Duran Duran. It's almost embarrassing, but, Adam is one of a kind, a uniquely gifted and charismatic performer.

Bravo to you and Bravo to Adam!! ADAM IS without any doubt THE BEST contestant on the American Idol in its entire history!! His unique mixture of incredible skills and his charisma make him a frontrunner not only on this show but also in the entire music industry (globally). Let;s support Adam all the way ..and forever;-) because he is a true gem and he certainly deserves it!!

If you really want to hear a phenom performance, listen to his "come to me "from Brigadoon 2004. Oh good lord.

It will be a disgrace if Adam Lambert doesn’t win American Idol. He appeals to all age groups. I am 53 and my son is 18 and we both think he is a true talent. I can’t wait to see each performance. You cannot take your eyes off him whilst he is performing, and while not performing for that matter. He has an Elvis Presley look about him. His performance last night almost brought me to tears. His fashion sense is impeccable. I could go on and on about this guy. He is simply fabulous and I look forward to him making the world stage and hope to see him in Australia sometime.

EVERYONE was talking about Adam today! My 70 year old dad loved him as much as my 10 year old niece, using the same expressions of awe and reverence in praising this once in a lifetime performer.

While he is absolutely unique, the only comparable comparison we could manage was to compare his spine-tingling greatness to Barbra Streisand.
While he has the heart-rendering beauty, and massive sex appeal of Elvis, he actually eclipses him, vocally, while radiating the same magical essence.

Then, when you see him in previous work, like with the opera company, or doing repetoire work, in years past, it makes sense why he has the amount of depth and brilliance, given his God-given talent. He has more than paid his dues, and it's paid off, thrilling and captivating the world.

I honestly believe he may be one of the greatest stars in our lifetimes, and I am jazzed thinking of how I will tell my grandchildren how it felt to see Adam for the first time on American Idol, when I was young.

WOW!!! Where has this young man been all these years? A standing ovation from me while I'm typing this. ADAM IS ABOUT TO BE CROWNED THE MOST TALENTED AND VERSATILE AMERICAN IDOL -- EVER!!!!! LOVE HIM!

The only problem with Adam is that I am actually suffering, knowing it is another full SIX DAYS until we he performs again. I cannot WAIT that long!!!!
I've watched his "Mad World" video 40 times. I appreciate the LATimes giving us another great video to add to our Adam list.

I have to add that in addition to his artistry, and being incredibly handsome, that he has the most endearing, pleasant and sweet personality. When the judges critique him, unlike some of the other singers, he doesn't sass them back, dismiss their wisdom, or talk over them acting like he is beyond their suggestions.. He seems like a truly noble and humble soul.

Here's another video to prove what we already know about Adam, that he is the "overnight sensation" whose been honing and working it out all these years waiting for this moment to arise. BRAVO ADAM! Thank U Latimes for giving us more of this phenomenal artist's work before he became the proverbial "overnight success."


I had hoped to get the memory of seeing this horrendous musical out of my head... but what a surprise to actually enjoy a clip. Thanks Adam Lambert for keeping L.A. classy.

This kid just lights up the stage. I have enjoyed all of his performances on American Idol thus far. There is no question in my mind that he is going to be a star.

Best wishes Adam.


Adam is brilliant! Blessed with a gift many wish to have or mimic.

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