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Live review: Adam Lambert at the Pacific Amphitheater

Ks8wljnc With fur epaulets accenting his purple fringed coat, the color palette of an old Italian movie poster brushed around his eyes, and a feather in his super-sized top hat which happens to be adorned with a sparkly, blood-red letter A, everything about Adam Lambert screams “look at me.” It’s one reason the San Diego native first tried his hand at musical theater as a kid and later auditioned for what’s arguably the country’s biggest stage, “American Idol.”

Lambert didn’t win that competition, coming in second to Kris Allen on Season 8, but in the post-“Idol” success race, there is no contest. While Allen opened for Barenaked Ladies at the Greek Theater last week, a perfectly respectable booking in addition to warmup slots for Keith Urban and Maroon 5, Lambert was headlining a second sold-out show at the Pacific Amphitheater on Wednesday, halfway through a world tour that has him playing to near-capacity crowds from now until December.

As for that summer concert slump we all keep reading about? It may be plaguing the Season 9 Idols Live outing, but it was nowhere to be seen at the Costa Mesa stop of the Glamnation Tour, where Adam Lambert devotees -- or Glamberts, as they’re affectionately known -- from all walks of life (disproportionately heavy on the female, over- 40 variety) filled nearly every one of the venue’s 8,500 seats. What they got in return for their $39.50 (besides free entry to the O.C. Fair)? A show, in every sense of the word.

Fellow “Idol” alum Allison Iraheta kicked off the evening at sunset, followed by guitar prodigy Orianthi. Both  offered strong sets but delivered double the punch when they jammed together on Allison’s addictive new single, “Don’t Waste the Pretty.”

Setting a slightly more subdued tone, Lambert’s 65-minute set opened with two deep cuts from his debut album “For Your Entertainment”: the moody “Voodoo,” with a projection of the moon as its backdrop, and the seductive “Down the Rabbit Hole,” which beckons an allegorical animal -- played by one of four dancers -- to “come on and follow me” through a rainbow-colored laser jungle.

And so they did -- the crowd, that is. A reprise of Lambert’s Middle Eastern-flavored take on “Ring of Fire,” a favorite from his “Idol” run, was met with shrieks befitting a bona fide rock star, while “Fever,” co-written by Lady Gaga, featured a playful but full-on lick of bassist Tommy Joe Ratliff’s face, perhaps to remind fans that Lambert’s 2009 American Music Awards stunt wasn’t so much the exception as the rule.

On the flip side, and borrowing a line from his own song, “Whataya Want From Me,” Lambert was equally adept at slowing it down. He delivered the Pink-penned tune with only an acoustic accompaniment by longtime guitarist and friend Monte Pittman. It gave the radio hit more emotional resonance. On the dramatic “Sleepwalker,” with its winding melodies, and “Soaked,” with its sparse arrangement, Lambert put his octave-defying vocal reach on full display, mesmerizing first-timers and prompting at least one of the aforementioned cougars to angrily shush a couple nearby for talking too loudly during his impassioned performance.

In truth, there were areas in the amphitheater where the vocal volume was severely lacking. Any die-hard would want Lambert’s live voice to pierce their very being, so while turning it up to 11 was probably an O.C. Fair no-go, in some spots the sound barely cracked seven. Fortunately, as the tempo picked up with songs like “Music Again” and the Scissor Sisters-esque “If I Had You,” the energy of the crowd, singing along to every word with arms in the air, gave it the fullness it deserved.

Three fierce knee-length coats and one suggestive walking cane later, Lambert’s encore offered a quick “Idol” flashback: an up-tempo version of “Mad World,” widely regarded as one of his finest moments on the show, which segued into a slowed-down rendition of “Whole Lotta Love.” Both songs exhibited the bold vocal twists and turns that have become Adam Lambert’s trademark, albeit without the production bells and whistles that a No. 1 TV show can buy.

Indeed, the five or so stairs on Lambert’s stage are much smaller than the ones on “Idol,” the lighting setup simpler and the band more compact. The end result: All eyes naturally fixate on the frontman. So go ahead and gawk. Adam Lambert wants you to.

-- Shirley Halperin

Photo: Adam Lambert. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

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Comments () | Archives (67)

Adam Lambert is a STAR and I definitely can't take my eyes of that man. His singing was impeccable, his stage presence intoxicating and he is beyond gorgeous and off the charts SEXY!!! A great time was had by all and he had the entire audience in the palm of his hands. I had to shush a loud, obnoxious drunk girl in front of me, too. My 10 year old behaved better than she did, seriously, who talks that loud when someone is singing a beautiful ballad? Whenever Adam performs in L.A., I will be there!!

Strong vocal and a showman. But certainly shows as his first tour. Was choppy with long dull breaks. Sound was terrible at times. Never deal full on hits which he should have rocked out such as "Whataya Want From Me" and never did "For Your Entertainment" other than the opening recording. Needs better production.

And gawk we do! I've been to two of his shows this summer and get to see two more next month. I would go to every single one of them if I could. He's a one-of-a-kind performer. Nice review. Thank you!

Thank you Shirley Halperin - an INFORMED review. I never mind a GNT concert review that is critical of Lambert, ever, if it is an INFORMED review...but so often that is not the case. Happily here I am reading a GNT review that is both informed and positive, but again, even if it hadn't been primarily positive, I would have appreciated the well researched POV that it clearly came from. Thank you. To anyone reading, run don't walk to see this Tour if you still have any possibility of doing so. You absolutely do not have to love the whole Lambert package, you can be even less than just a casual fan - but this guy's vocals are once in a generation and absolutely something to behold... and oh yeah, it's thoroughly entertaining and a whole lotta fun. I am a fan, I must admit, but truly, being an uber fan is irrelevant when it comes to Lambert, especially his live performances, they are simply something that can be enjoyed by just about anybody. The dude is special, there's no denying it. This is just the beginning for this amazingly talented artist...and I'm sure glad I've been able to hit a few of these relatively intimate concerts, as arena tours are surely to follow.

Thanks for your insightful review. Beg, borrow or steal (and you may have to just to get one!) a ticket for this tour. To hear Adam sing live can't be really described, it must be experienced.

A few concert photos would've been cool, just sayin'

Adam's concert was an evening of spectacular singing, joyous fun, solid entertainment. Adam is a magnificently talented artist and his concert is just pure fun, very much fun. I already can't wait till all his forthcoming tours; I have my blue hair spray, lots of glitter too. Besides Adam's incredible singing, attending his concert is a grand pleasure in itself - just because of him.

Fabulous review of what appears to have been a fabulous night of true talent and charisma. You talked about the audience responding to Adam Lambert as if he were a bona fide rock star.
I'm here to tell you, he is that.
Finally, there is one again.
See you in Vegas, rock star!

Great review. I was there both nights and the second night they even opened the lawn behind the theater and sold "lawn" seats which don't exist. It was awesome. Adam's singing leaves you speechless, awed and wanting more. *Off to scalp tickets to next venue within driving range..*

I was at both Costa Mesa concerts---without a doubt Adam Lambert is a huge star. He wowed the audiences both nights. He's amazing in every way...the voice is sublime, the charisma amazing, and his gorgeousness...wow!!! Thanx for the accurate review. He indeed rocked!!!

This review is much more like what I saw and felt last night than the OC Register review, which is awful. It was a great show for my husband, kids, and myself.

I'm female, but in my 20s, and all the people around me were girls and boys in their teens. I hope Adam knows he has an awesome young and mixed fanbase as well.

Fever, Strut and Sleepwalker were my favorite songs of the night! Amazing concert.

This was a great review but I get annoyed when writers bring up Adam's loss on American Idol and do not mention how Adam lost. It is a well known fact that the less popular Allen had a little unfair help from his Arkansas pals that were able to deliver millions of votes with the help of rogue AT&T executive, Matt Jordan. Jordan gave away free phones and taught power texting to about 3,000 people in a stadium at the University of Central Arkansas. Ten thousand votes each adds up to 30,000,000 votes, enough to swing the victory. The book "American Idol Vote Scam" delivers a compelling tale, one that proves that Adam was always the most popular contestant in 49 states during Season 8. How could Adam have lost fairly and immediately had five times as many fans on his official fansite, or sold more albums and be so much more successful on tour?

Puuuhhhlease. Do not compare Adam to Kris. They are completely different artists. I don't deny that Adam is talented, but I'm so glad Kris has performance style, beautiful vocals, easy-on-the-eyes looks and crazy musical talent, playing numerous instruments without needing all the costumes. Maybe you need to check out some of Kris's performances. Here you go:

Kris performing Heartless (Kanye West cover):

A song Kris co-wrote from his new album:

Paranoid Android (Radiohead cover):

Maybe (Alison Krauss cover):

Keith Urban and Kris on Boys of Summer:

And those are just some I grabbed from my favs. Bottom line: they're completely different so let the competition end finally please?

Thanks so much for "getting" Adam Lambert. He is without a doubt the most exciting and charismatic performer all of us have ever seen. His voice stirs something in all of us that has been long buried - a thrilling and passionate love of music. As much as his music stirs my soul, your review touched my heart and made me smile. Yes, that's Adam!

AWWWWWWWWWWW...LOVE THIS REVIEW! The show and it truly is a SHOW was as good for you as it was for me! Adam delivers pure "satisfaction"(you know what I mean ladies and gentlemen) I have seen 2 shows and it is NOT enough-thank you Adam for just being you.

Good review of a great show. The people came because they knew he would deliver vocal perfection and he didn't disappoint.

Shirley...just because YOU are a Glambert and don't follow or like Kris Allen, please don't insult the intelligence of the human race by spouting dribble like there is no contest and Adam wins hands down.

That makes you sound so unprofessional. First of all...get a grip. The competition is OVER. Second, while Kris is not only opening for major acts he is playing to sold out venues and has headlined. While it's wonderful that many of the venues Adam is headlining have been, as we hear, sold out, THIS does not mean he is more successful than Kris. Kris, by opening for major acts, is exposing himself to fans other than of the Idol kind. Secondly...all the reviews of Kris' have been flowing with praise. Why don't you read the OC Register who was actually in attendance at one of his shows.

So please...you want to love Adam. Fine. Great. He's a superstar. He's a Rock God. He's Elvis, Jr. Whatever. But please do NOT, repeat do not denounce the talent that is Kris Allen because of some bitterness you still harbor from over a year ago.

Two outstanding nights of entertainment - so much talent on one stage; Allison, Orianthi & Adam - all so crowd pleasing! These two concerts were Adam's largest venue to date for the Glam Nation tour - and were sold out. Anyone who enjoys Adam but hasn't heard him sing live must treat themselves, as he is truly amazing.

Now that is a review........felt like I was there. ( I have seen his show and I just re-lived it) and it was great!!!

Counting down to I get to redo it again in Atlanta, 2 nights in a row!!!

Loving Adam Lambert!!!

I caught the show. I heard there is a curfew for how late a band can play at the OC amphitheater. Is that true? Where I sat the sound was great. But the place is really big so maybe again an oridance or something. I've been to his concert in San Franscisco & now the one Wednesday night. Obviously I thoroughly enjoyed it because I went back for seconds. I find the crowd fun to watch. Like the OC, The Warfield had I think every age group, both sexes, ever race and nationality there. It's amazing the diversity of his audience but then again he always speaks of exceptance & diversity. When I mingled with some of the fans before and after the concert I found that people had flown in from different parts of the world to be there last night.
In an interview Adam said he wished he was given a bigger budget for the concert but he certainly has stretched that budget far.

Kris Allen fans need to go AWAY..so childish, he is a loser in every sense of the word. Can't stand ANY of his music.... And stop Advertising his songs on an Adam article. Next Kris article I see I am doing the same rude thing..yeah I am talking to you (MOLLY)
Adams show was unbelievable, first time I heard him I was picking my mouth up off the floor..looking for more tickets for Vegas and I am having no luck..#@%$

I saw both shows in Costa Mesa this week. I wish there was a third show! It was so amazing! Adam's talent is limitless and very diverse.I heard the guy next to me, who didn't want to go woth his girlfriend, say "This guy's pretty good, Wow!" Adam touches everyone with his music and just puts himself out there being himself. That's what so awesome!

To the Kris fans posting. This story is about Adam Lambert, not Kris Allen. Why are you even on this post? Why are you bothering to look up reviews of Adam so you can post about Kris.

I am a Adam fan and I don't bother looking for the Kris reviews and I would not take the time to post as I am not a big fan of his. I don't dis-like him but I don't follow him either.

Please find a Kris fan-site or article and post your little hearts out.

Thanks for the great review, from a reviewer who knows and understands Adam. LOL at the Kris fans rushing here to defend him and state "how much more successful he is than Adam." Keep trying. Nothing against KA as he is a nice guy and is talented. I am glad he has fans and a career. Adam Lambert is a STAR. Sure, this is his first tour show, and although it may not be perfect, the thought that this phenomenon will only improve with time is mind boggling. What Adam is trying to do, establish himself as the first openly gay pop/rock artist, is not an easy path to take. It has affected sales and radio play opportunities for him. That is why I am so happy to see him take off in the fall on a world tour. He is doing well in lots of countries around the world, countries which have lucrative touring markets and are more sophisticated about sexuality and artists than here in the US. The sky is the limit for him. Go Adam!

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