« 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)

@Emma ... OH! PLEEEZE!!! Andy Williams variety show!! Do you realize what a RIDICULOUS assimilation that is?? What part of the GLAM NATION TOUR even remotely resembles an Andy Williams variety show?? The 'body rolls'?? Oh! Definitely the way old Andy danced around the stage back in the day! Perhaps it's the staging & lasers & New Orleans setting ... or better yet the background!! Am I getting close yet?? ADAM has an INCOMPARABLE VOICE the likes of which Andy Williams never had plus the SENSUALITY that ADAM exhibits while he is performing is so far REMOVED from old Andy that it is laughable for you to even compare the two artists. I would say Andy is in the same category as Perry Como .... NEITHER artist as animated as ADAM nor as GIFTED!! LOL

Kris Allen's fans need to go away. Molly and her Allen music post are rude. There is no argument. Adam has been far more successful since the end of Idol even though his win was stolen. How can Kris's fans be excited when he can only sell out 500 seat venues? Adam will be the worldwide star that Simon predicted. Adam is being inundated with television, movie and modeling offers. Who wants Allen for anything?

Just got back from the big road trip to see Adam! Me and my roommates hit the epic Sunday Warfield show (grrr couldn't get tix for Friday's) then hopped in the car to drive to meet my cousins and hit both Costa Mesa shows, YESSS! OMG at the Warfield we were so close, just 4 people back in the pit, so much excitement eeeeeee! Awesome. Srsly. So I thought maybe since the CM shows were so big, they wouldn't have the same energy, but I was so wrong. Being with such a huuuge crowd, all there for Adam, was the coolest thing ever. LOL I dunno where you boring people sat, but me and my cousins and all the people around us screamed, swayed and danced our asses off both nites. The sound for the Tuesday show wasn't as good as the Warfield, but I expected that, it's a frickin amphitheater, and I could still totally hear that crazy awesome voice no prob. But they musta changed something becuz Wednesday the sound was just as good as the Warfield! o_O I met a ton of superfun people walking around the fair, and OMG so many cuuute gay boyz, and even people by our seats who I thought weren't gonna be fun were totally dancin along with us by the time we hit Strut. Well, except for those vidding, and since I luv the idea of reliving the awesome thru utubes, I totes cut them slack LOL. And even though we weren't as close to Adam as we were at the Warfield, I loved it just as much. Dang that dude can siiing, his voice makes my jaw frickin drop, his dancing was lulzy and perfect, hah cane-ography FTMFW, and he SOOO brought the sexxay.


Huh, just saw the second page with more snotty comments. Jeez ppl are weird. I luv Kris, IDK why people keep comparing them and fighting over them tho with Idol looong over, they're totes different kinds of artists. And LOL isn't Andy Williamns some super old person? LOL whatevs. Won't miss ya at the next show Grandma. More room for me and my friends to DANCE! *brb savin my monies for a road trip to the Washington State tour date!*

Yeah, why are Kris fans here at all and why are they trying to say he is more successful than Adam? He is not on any front - CD sales, singles sales, or concert sales. Check out this link:


In the link, none of Kris's headlining concerts were sold out and only had 42-72% attendance and all venues were less than 1K capacity. He recently sold out tiny venues in San Diego (I heard combined less than 1K) whereas Adam was able to sell out 2 8,500 capacity concerts. Also, Adam is not opening for anyone, he did not have to.

Kris fans seem to love to brag about how well LLWD did, best of Season 8, etc. but it was released 2 months before WWFM. Several people now think that WWFM sales will surpass LLWD, especially with the recent Oprah bump, and it might not take 2 months. IIHY is doing much better than TT, and FYE also sold several hundred in US. Internationally, there is no contest.

The only front that Kris is doing better is number of radio plays, and that is mainly because PDs refuse to play Adam and they seem to like Kris better. So it is pretty amazing that Adam is still able to get singles sales even though getting him added to radio stations has been like pulling teeth.

Good review. I saw Adam in June with Glam Nation and was blown away by him visually and vocally. I have never heard anyone sing like he does or dance like he does either. I'd say he is the best thing around right now. Allison is also a show stopper...but her set is too short. I have tickets to 2 more venues...so, it's a great summer thanks to Adam!

Please people get off of the Adam vs Kris stuff. They never pitted themselves in a battle, some fans and media have kept it going for a year and a half now, enough is enough. They are both talented artists, just in different ways. I am without a doubt an Adam lover (not literally, but you know what I mean), but I am one those that just can't get enough of him. Go Adam, Go Kris-my best wishes for success to you both.

Thank you for an excellent review! I picked Adam to win AI from his first audition, and eagerly waited each week to see his next performance. I saw him live Wednesday night and if it is any testament to how much I loved the concert, it is that my voice is still hoarse, two days later. He is an extraordinary performer, with a vocal range I think few can emulate. I only wish his set was longer and that he coupled with Allison for a tune or two. I've seen plenty of concerts, but none match this one!

Shirley, thank you for this review. You did a wonderful job. Very informed and wonderfully descriptive. I was there both nights at Costa Mesa and you nailed it!

I'm not a fan of his music, but I'm blown away by the devotion of his fans here and the fact that this dude sold out two nights at the Amp in OC, no less. And they opened up the lawn on night two for his fans is pretty cool.

I hope that some day in the not too distant future the media will review Adam's concerts without any mention of Kris, and will review Kris's concerts without any mention of Adam. They are totally different as musicians and believe it or not, BOTH are actually doing quite well on their tours and on the radio. There is absolutely no need to insult one to try and pump up the other, or to make any comparisons. How hard is it to simply be happy for both guys, who are getting to live out their dream of performing their music for many many people? The whole fanwar crap was old a year ago -- it's now become totally pathetic.

Will Adam and Allison do a song together on any part of this tour? HIs Slow Ride with her last year on the Idol circuit was a crowd favourite.

I love Adam. He is a star in his own rights and this is just the beginning. We will be seeing Adam for a longggggggg time. Enjoy it ALL Adam. Stunning. You need to come to Western Australia!!!!!!

Nice review. Some critiques and a good overall sense of the experience. I attended the show with friends who had never seen Lambert perform -- and were not particularly inclined to like his music. Both agreed that his connection to both song/lyrics and audience is superb. They were shocked at his talent as a vocalist. For myself, this being my second opportunity to see him live (and one that took me cross country) it surely did not disappoint. I was surrounded by such energy -- everyone up on his feet, singing, whistling, transfixed by that man on stage -- such that the sound quality, breaks for costume changes what have you -- none of these details mattered. There was sheer joy and excitement in the air; and though I am an avid concert goer, this was still a rare experience. What a performer.

Thank you for the great review. There is NO ONE like Adam Lambert. I have never been so excited about a performer in my life. And this is an amazing first solor tour - he really puts on a wonderful show. His vocals are second to none. Absolutely brilliant. He is going to be the one to watch for years to come.

This was a good review. I am going to a concert in September and can't wait. I have watched videos of concerts around the country, In the close ups of the ballads such as "Aftermath", you can see the emotion and joy in his face and eyes, and the sincerity with which he delivers a performance. In addtion to the fantastic vocals, that is something else in Adam that we diehard fans love as well. I read another article in which he was criticized for not "bantering" with the audience enough...I say, who cares. I am going just to listen to his beauitiful voice, and watch this gorgous, sexy man perform, and I can't imagine anything that Adam does is boring or choppy as stated below. Possibly the sound issues were the result of a venue with poor acoustics, not attributable to the artist. I love this young and his music, and will go and see him perform as many times as I can afford to.

I think it says a lot about what an incredible artist Adam is that he has fans in every age category. His vocal talent and showmanship are appreciated by so many people.

« | 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: