Adam Lambert is, by far, the greatest vocalist American Idol has ever produced.
In concert, at a sold-out Hard Rock Live Sunday night in Hollywood, Lambert's voice was an incredible instrument - pure, operatically strong, rich and resonant. As a singer he's grown greatly from the polarizing Californian who sometimes oversang on American Idol two seasons ago to impress judges for whom the big, screeching glory note is unfortunately all-important.
Post-Idol, Lambert, 28, now headlining his Glam Nation Tour with fellow Season Eight Idol finalist Allison Iraheta as his opening act, even improved on several songs from his current album, For Your Entertainment.
On a spare "Aftermath", for instance, the new acoustic arrangement stripped the once generic song of its overproduction and showcased the tender artistry of Lambert's voice. On considerably better material, such as "Sleepwalker" and the striking "Soaked", Lambert sang with confidence and the innate understanding of a lyric performer.
Whitney, Christina, Mariah, let Mr. Lambert show you how to really put across a song with feeling and finesse.
Pity, then, that Lambert's handlers lack similar confidence in their high-profile star. Apparently, little money from corporate was spent on this visually lackluster Glam Nation Tour.
The staging was, for the most part, minor and uninteresting. Laser lights that were considered cool in the days of ELO and Pink Floyd were about the sole extravagance and Pink Floyd did the light show better in 1977.
Worse, a video camera person wasn't employed so Lambert wasn't shown on screen. Only those near the stage could see him clearly. Less can be more, but at today's ticket prices ($52-$72.50 for this gig) it's not too much to ask for a view of the performer, especially one known for his flamboyance and showmanship.
We know Mr. Lambert isn't always fond of cameras - ahem - but this was ridiculous.
For the record, Lambert arrived on stage in a long, fringed jacket and feathered top hat for his three-part medley of "Voodoo", a dance track from a remix download, "Down the Rabbit Hole", an iTunes bonus cut, and an Idol highlight, "Ring of Fire", which was stripped of its exotica.
But Lambert doesn't escape without some blame. He performed for barely 70 minutes and, unlike the energetic Iraheta, wasn't on stage the entire time. A few too many songs were abbreviated and, unlike some dates where he sang covers of "Mad World" and "Whole Lotta Love" during the encore, Hard Rock fans only got one song at the end, a passable take on T. Rex's 1973 oldie, "20th Century Boy".
The spitfire Iraheta, 18, would also prove a more natural conversationalist on stage, with patter far beyond her years. ``You look back and go, man, I went through that in my life,'' the whiskey-voiced dynamo announced before performing Scars.
Iraheta, who also improved upon her overproduced debut album with spikier, tougher arrangements of "Friday I'll Be Over U" and her Pat Benatar cover ("Heartbreaker") won over a crowd that seemed to range in age from 8 to 80.
Lambert, by comparison, offered stilted, scripted platitudes, such as this disingenuous bon mot: ``The key to true love and making it work is loving yourself.''
Daytime television viewers get enough of that talk. When Lambert chose to sing he was amazing. Next time, more of that and more show, please.