« Previous Post | Pop & Hiss Home | Next Post »

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

Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by the Los Angeles Times. The Times Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.
Comments () | Archives (67)

Thank you for the great review! Many reviewers seem to find it mandatory to find some fault with Lambert's performance....He can't be THAT good, can he? He is that good! It is a mesmerizing show from one of America's up and coming musical giants! There just is no one else with his vocla skills. He pulled off a captivating show with probably 1/100th of Lady Gaga's budget. Adam is my new musical National Treasure!


Listing the performances by Kris Allen is kind of pointless. This is an article for Adam Lambert fans and we all know who Kris is and if we want to watch him, then we will without your help.

Instead of posting on an Adam Lambert thread, why don't you seek out articles about Kris and share your excitement about him with other Kris fans.

Can't wait for his new album comes out next year. Love from Chicago, IL!...

Shirley, Thanks for the great review. I saw him last month. The crowds were friendly and polite. A group of us met in line and decided to find tickets to a show 3 nights later. Adam is the best live singer I have ever experienced. My only complaint is the 75 minutes felt like 5. It was over way too soon.

Takeachillpill, I didn't get that the article was saying Kris was doing poorly. I think it is saying Kris is the norm Adam is the exception. There is a place for both Kris and Adam. Adam can perform with out all the bells and whistles. He just likes them.


If Kris is being exposed to an audience outside the Idol "bubble" they certainly aren't rushing out to buy his cd so that kind of negates your point. Also, Adam isn't more successful than Kris?? Ummm...yes he is by ALL accounts.

I watched a few of the videos from the first OC and Adam was in fine form, as always.

Thanks for the review.

Great review, I went to the show and was overall blown away, as a production it was not perfect there were some sound issues etc but one of things I loved was how Adam used his musical theatre background to blend the show into part theatre part concert in a sort of rock opera fashion. I loved how the songs were set in a pattern and then the costumes, backgrounds, dancers and choreography were all used to tell a tale, a story. His crazy coat with the fringe hanging down, fur on shoulders and the colors around his eyes were not just cool looking but part of that, he is a voodoo master rising from the ground, at first just a shadowy outline against the full moon backdrop and the fringe and fur are the ground and moss hanging from him as he rises - he's barefoot on stage here to enhance that - then he directs his zombies (dancers) so so cool, I just loved it. Soaked??? holy crap, if you are not enthralled and stunned by then give up and only listen to kidz bop the rest of your life. He designed this all himself (with help) even going on line to get the backdrop pix he wanted, he is so so talented, its all about the vocals but I knew he could sing, the rest blew me away, I love it. PS crowd at my show was really really diverse, def more of the over 40's than your gonna see at say Rhinan but way way more than that there, from 10 to 80, boys girls, goth, biker dudes, pearl clutchers in sweater sets, you name it, all there are loving Adam.

@G-man.You do realize that "For Your Entertainment" will be NEVER performed live in USA again?

Please do not metion that dull Kris Allen in an Adam review. It just brings out his few fans to tell everyone how many instuments he plays thow he is far from really good on them. Adam is a great singer and performer with or without costumes as most people already know. Adam would be a star even with the dreaded and dull plaid on. Adam would be a star even if he hid behind a guitar and pretended that he was good at it. Let us enjoy Adam's talent without putting Kris in his reviews. But thank you for an otherwise great review.

Yes, there's certainly something disproportionate about an audience of females. An audience of females who are over 40, no less... Who wants an audience like that, right?? Why in the world would you express that demographic, in those terms? I'm deeply offended. Remember: if that demographic was "disproportionate" then that's a sign of who holds the economic power at the moment, given Lambert's ticket sales. We're a demographic to cater to, not a demographic to speak of as though we're a plague on the entertainment industry. If any entertainers or venues out there would like to say "no thanks" to the demographic that has apparently filled an Adam Lambert show, just say the word, and we'll be happy to oblige.

You reference Adam's actions during his performance at the AMAs as a "stunt". They weren't planned as you suggest, but rather, they happened in the excitement of the moment. How many times does he have to explain that he was simply interpreting the lyrics? That's what musical artists do. Why do some people refuse to accept that? As a die-hard Glambert, I resent the way you had to insinuate Adam's sezuality into your review. So un-cool.

the costa mesa show on tuesday night sucked. oh yes adam was good, but i did not feel like he really connected with the audience. I think he was just happy to be back in LA and ready to party with his friends later. The place was pretty much packed, people on their feet, but mostly so they could see. It was one of the worst rock concert audiences i have ever been part of. felt more like a sporting event with everyone just talking, laughing, or standing like zombies versus listening and dancing. the reviewer did comment on the sound which was way below par, not loud enough. Unfortunately, we drove several hundred miles and spent too much money to be part of this disappointing experience. i have one more glamnation show to attend and it is general admission. I can't believe i am not looking forward to it. Wondering if my love affair with Adam Lambert may be at the "end of the road."

kris allen rulessss - adam lambert sucks, his fans are bitter old hag who still can't get over the fact adam lost. this author seems to be one of them. this is some of the most over the top juvenile, infantile, butt kissing prose ever penned. i mean, come on - what respectable journalist writes in such a way. lambert is a joke. and this hi class reviewer from the la times proves it, with every word on this monitor.

Why is the "truth" about Kris Allen an insult??? If you are a fan, you shouldn't be ashamed of his current status. Maybe you should try promoting him somewhere else other than a rave review at one of Adam's sold out venues.

I loved your review. I think you "get" Adam, and conveyed that with your interesting, descriptive prose. His concert is amazingly entertaining, his band and dancers add to the talent, and Adam runs the show with a fun, flamboyant attitude. The theme of his show is love and connection with each other, and his fans respond to him in the same enthusiastic way that he relates to them.
Thank you for the great review!

It is so interesting to read the comments gushing over Adam Lambert. I was at the concert last night and found it serviceable, solid, a nice show, but certainly not moving in any memorable way. It would be very at home in Las Vegas and seems very dated in its emphasis on slick professional vocals and well rehearsed choreography. It was a pleasant evening but in no way art. I actually commented it seemed reminiscent of an Andy Williams variety show from long ago with different costume changes and song stylings. To each his own, I guess.

to molly and takeachillpill,
Kris is an average guy with average vocal ability who managed to win over middle america with his " aww shucks, i'm a nice christian" schtick. I liked him until i heard he made fun off middle aged women dancing and an elderly disabled woman gambling. Not very christian. He's a loser and a talentless tool. About 3 months ago when they were bothin michigan Adam headlined and sold out a 2000+ seat venue. Kris was in the same city in the same week and couldn't sell even 800 seats in a coffee house. I think we all know who the true winner is ;)

I forgot to add. I'm a Kris Allen fan who wasn't even at the concert! Thanks!

The OC Amphitheater used to be in an enclosed building until Adam Lambert blew the top off it last night!! He had the crowd on their feet from beginning to end. The whole venue was sold out all 8.5k seats to see Adam Lambert headline! They even sold lawn seats which they stopped doing years ago! On top of all of that there was another 8.5k people there the night before to see him. Adam has been selling out venues all across the country even in this poor concert season. He is a must see. Loved that song Soaked.

I think Kris fans are angry because Adam did not ask Kris to open for him. Hahaa...instead he is opening for the unknown Bare Naked Ladies.

I was there last night and Adam did put on an epic show. That was the best concert I have ever experienced. Adam is the best male vocalist in the world and he will be a legend.

I seriously find it hysterical to read the accounts of Adam's concert by Kris Allen fans pretending to have attended. Your subterfuge is actually quite entertaining. Perhaps if you attend one of Allen's concerts then he'd actually sell out one or two?

I was at the Costa Mesa concert last night and I thought it was fantastic. Lambert has a voice that occurs once in a generation. He's remarkable.

I love everything about Adam. Great performer and vocals. I'm so glad he came into our sphere.

I went to the concert both nights and there was a noticable difference in the sound in that arena depending on where you sat - I think different people had different experiences because of that. I sat in center the first night and the people right around me were too subdued and the sound was just okay (didn't seem rich and full). The second night I was down in front of the stage and Adam kicked buns! He gave 110% (as usual) and his voice was remarkable. I had friends sitting in different areas and some loved it and one couple who also were at the SF concert said the sound dispersed too much where they were and didn't get the full effect. Not Adam's fault it was the venue. I personally had a blast the second night as did my teenage son, his girl friend and my husband. Adam is remarkable and it is a fantastic show!!

Wow! All these bitter Kris Allen fans storming the article! How pathetic! Pretending they went to the show. Lol you're way too transparent.

Thank you so much Shirley for your great review of Adam's awesome concert. You get Adam and you did your homework and was well aware of the story Adam was conveying. Adam's vocals and showmanship are undeniable. I was at the first OC concert and was TOTALLY BLOWN AWAY !!!!

I'm sure you and all of us fans realize that anytime something very positive about Adam is written, the stalkers come out with their negative drival.

@ohbabs: As Adam would say, if you found his show so disappointing, by all means, stop following him. Post your ticket online to sell. I'm sure someone will be anxious to take your spot.

@Emma: Comparing Adam's concert to an Andy Williams Variety Show ?? You must be kidding me. I'm also old enough to remember that show and laughed at your comment. Maybe that's where your tastes still lie. You should watch the Kris Allen videos so nicely posted by Molly. He seems more your taste. From what I hear I'm sure you would have no problem getting tickets to one of his "opening act" shows. Unlike Adam, they are readily available. Cheers !!

Cameron: I think Adam does know that--he's said several times in tour interviews that it's been really exciting to see the diversity of the tour audiences--young kids and teenagers and young adults as well as their parents. :) And a lot of reviews have commented on that as well, from the ones I've read.

btw, my experience was similar--I'm 21 and the people around me seemed to be mostly in their 20s with a sprinkling of people anywhere from 10 to 60. :) It was pretty cool, just having all those different people be so into the same thing. And the 10-year-old was so cute.

The show was amazing. Adam's just really great and special.

« | 1 2 3 | »


Recommended on Facebook

In Case You Missed It...


Recent Posts

Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.



Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: