July 22nd, 2010 | by JEFF ROSENBERG Music | Posted In: Columns, Live Cuts

Live Review: Adam Lambert, July 21 at Crystal Ballroom

lambert!BREAKING NEWS: Glambert is the real deal.

And not just because he introduced lasers to the Crystal Ballroom for the first time in memory last night. Because he's a supremely confident performer who nonetheless projects a charming soupçon of humility onstage. Because his show is precisely ordered and choreographed, yet he still found time to get silly with his dancers and the audience. Because he doesn't need to stick strictly to the melodies of his songs, but at the same time doesn't get lost in a mist of melismas. Because he had the balls and taste to perform his hit single, "What Do You Want From Me", in a stripped-down version accompanied only by acoustic guitar, and played his popular American Idol cover, "Mad World", in a sped-up and funkier take than the one he did on the show. Because in his exotic recasting of "Ring of Fire", the gay subtext gives the line "I went down, down, down" a sly new shade of meaning, and because he sings "I fell for you like a cheeeyiiild" with an Axl Rose inflection. Because his skills allow him to transcend sometimes mediocre material. Because his dancers, sets and lighting are beautifully campy without getting Gaga-diculous about it, especially on one number featuring a rear projection of a neon-colored skull in a style reminiscent of native art accompanied by skull-masked dancers (a troupe of four who performed intermittently throughout the night). Because even his in-ear monitors were bedecked with glitter. Because his tight band celebrates diversity with a woman keyboardist, dreadlocked African-American drummer, and, um, Jewish maybe? lead guitarist and musical director, who also happens to play guitar for Madonna (Lambert himself has a Jewish background, by the way; and the band's bassist was absent on the night due to a family emergency, but wasn't sorely missed musically). Because he drew a somewhat diverse crowd, if a bit heavy on Beaverton tweens and their soccer moms gleefully singing along to every word. Because his elastic voice requires no auto-tune, yet every run, scream, and growl stays precisely on pitch. Because he ended his show with "Whole Lotta Love," substituting the gender-neutral "Baby, you need love" for "Woman...."

Because this culture hasn't been able to tolerate a male glam superstar since Freddie Mercury died, and if someone's gotta do the job, this good-natured up-and-comer might as well be it. No, of course, he's no Freddie, nor, seemingly, much of a provocateur (despite kissing a dude at the American Music Awards). His 21st-century take on glam is tamer, less freaky and more squeaky-clean and readily marketable than the style's past. But an openly gay, creatively open-minded, widely popular artist who can really sing is a very good thing, regardless of what "reality" he may have emerged from. Long may he reign.

Terrifying illustration of Lambert by Casey Jarman.

Links:
Adam Lambert!
Video proof of lasers at the Crystal.
 
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