Monday, 10 May 2010
In Heaven with Adam
Here is the playlist of the best YouTubes:
*Update* - Well after a quiet few days I've finally managed to get all up to date and write something, so here's my very long review:
After a year of waiting to see a live performance, I was ecstatic to have won tickets for what was going to be the pinnacle of this obsession. I enthusiastically got tickets for some of my friends to go but was a little taken aback when some refused them. I'd been inhabiting a different world to them and had forgotten the musical snobbery that I myself had been guilty of. This reality show stigma is a serious disadvantage here because of the history of identikit manufactured balladeers doing bland material. Yes, they may be good singers and have a #1 single or two, but more often than not they don't make the jump into being artists and as a result, end up singing indistinctive rubbish. No one can give enough of a shit to prop up their album and we soon forget about them. The backlash against these reality shows was best demonstrated by last year's campaign to prevent the X-Factor winner from getting an Xmas #1. Many of my friends had no idea who Adam Lambert was but as soon as they found out about the Idol association, they gave me a WTF? look that said 'I thought you had decent taste in music' because my tastes are usually much more obscure. I tried explaining that Adam is very far removed from typical Idol fare but they weren't swayed. The friends who accepted did so because they wanted a cheesy night out or were just curious as to my choice of gig.
AMA controversy actually works well in Adam's favour here as he can be marketed as the anti-AI guy who was too much for backwards puritannical America to handle. We love to mock them, and any artist who causes them to be outraged can only be doing good in our eyes.
Much of my day was spent waiting in the hope of meeting Adam but I had no such luck because he was so far behind schedule in a very packed day. I was a little disappointed but my priority was always to see him perform. I think that his meeting so many fans here in the UK had bumped up my hopes. Stalking was a last-minute decision that would've just been an added bonus but left me with very little time to queue for a good vantage point at the gig. I told two of my favourite people to amass all their karmic points together and meet at the gates of Heaven. They came with an open mind knowing very little about Adam but felt slightly disturbed by a plastic-looking photo of him. Even though I'd told them to dress up in a glam-kitsch style, I still had to reassure them that they weren't going to see Gareth Gates. One dressed up a little, one didn't have time, but I made quite an effort. I thought about whether I'd enjoy it more going with fans but I tried not to let that dampen my enthusiasm. There were people to make Glamverts out of.
Prior to going to the gig, I'd expected it would be a little less risqué than the G-A-Y one because it was for a 14+ crowd instead of 18+. As I stepped into the club, I saw a very wide range of people. From the concerts in the US, I'd expected there to be lots of middle-aged ladies. But there were so many more excited teenagers and trendy twenty-somethings. There were some older people who looked like they thought they were in a hospital waiting room and some who turned up in striking costumes. The crowd was more female than male but there were plenty of pretty gay boys surrounded by 'fruit flies' and a couple of all-male groups.
The countdown progressed and the bar area was deserted as no one was taking any chances with their spot. Bored staff stood idle at what I'm guessing were record low takings for the night. 9PM passed and there was still no Adam. There'd been no supporting acts and every time a song finished on the speakers, there was a wave of expectant cheering. People started chanting his name. My friend said he'd heard a couple of girls saying that Adam was always late and he asked me whether he was a diva. We recalled a uni event we'd been to many years ago where the main popstrel was very late and the announcer failed to gauge the audience correctly and pissed off the crowd. He overstayed his welcome trying to get us to cheer her on for so long that she ended up entering the stage to a chant of 'Get your tits out for the lads!' and plenty of boos and jeers. The timing of that conversation was funny because the announcer immediately came on stage and said that Adam, by this point half an hour late, had a diva demand that we needed to cheer loud enough otherwise he wouldn't come on. It was met with my facepalm and eyerolls from my friends followed by cheers, but luckily he didn't draw it out.
Then Adam walked onto the stage.
On tiptoes, I tried to get a better look but couldn't see because it was dark. I caught a glimpse of the back of his pompadour from camera flashes as he got into position, then the whip cracks signalled the start of FYE. The excitement had been building up for a while and now it was time to explode.
What hit me before anything else was the awe-inspiring visual element, and throughout this first song I managed to process little else as I tried (and failed) to video it. Adam looked magnificent as a beautiful, captivating, brilliantly dazzling android. This description is so far from what I was expecting from everything I'd seen of him up until then, but it's meant in the best possible sense. His presence was powerful and it made him into a giant commanding figure on stage. Everything about his appearance seemed almost too precise, from his facial expressions to the sculpting of the sleek glossy contour for his hair, to a luminously smooth complexion. I didn't feel that he occupied the human plane of existence. The movements for FYE perhaps contributed to the android description, being swifter, much sharper and too amplified to come from such a statuesque figure. He sparkled from head-to-toe, emanating so much glitter that he had a glowing aura around him. I was far away but even his spats noticeably twinkled at me. Everything about his visual presentation seemed too full-on freakishly perfect to be human and that's something that the videos don't manage to capture in full.
I recognised the clothes as being from the morning's GMTV, smart, resplendent and glittery. Adam's penchant for the three piece suit made me think that perhaps this was his modern glammed-up take on the eccentric aristocratic English gent. The stage was small and seemed a little too crowded with him, the band, and the dancers all sharing it together. The kooky dancers didn't do much to detract from the focus of our attention, shadowing and lurking like feral creatures from the glam underworld. FYE passed me by in what was mostly a blur as I was processing all this. It sounded much better live with the band, which delivered a version that was a little more rock and less electronic. Throughout the song, Adam's voice boomed but it was the glory notes I'd been most excited about. I'd wanted to hear them for so long so when they came, it was like a release. They sounded full and startlingly strong and I was floored. This performance was somewhat contradictorily both very camp and very fierce as we all turned into his bitches.
Next up was a little banter and I love that his sets are sprinkled with it because it makes him more real and personable. It's always a pleasure to be killed by his charmicide. What surprised me about his velvety speaking voice was that its pitch was much higher than I expected, perhaps a little in the Michael Jackson sense. He introduced Music Again, which I'd been a big fan of since the Gridlock performance. It was a punchy stompfest that I couldn't resist but sing along to. I held my breath for the falsetto part as it's sometimes been a little off, but he nailed it. The guitar solo rocked and included a little Tommy moment which outed all the Adommy/Lambliff shippers with their loud screams. This was a really fun one to be outrageous to, with air guitar firmly in hand.
I cracked up when the tit banter came up, because of the earlier conversation I'd had with my friends. I had no idea what was really going on as I couldn't hear that people wanted to see his teeth. The charmicide was out again, and another one of my favourite moments came when he gave us a shoulder shimmy. He did this so quickly and so well that I was convinced that he'd had prior experience of shaking nipple tassles. I'd gotten a little bored of hearing so much of WWFM but this perfomance made me fall in love with it all over again. The club being flooded with the song was a moving experience as we all sang it back to Adam in unison. His voice was much more affecting live than in any recording, having a grainy and tender texture to it. There was a huge cheer from the crowd as Adam gave thanks in the lyrics. Being so familiar with the song, it was easy to notice all the changes and the belting at the end was nothing short of spectacular. The final note, though not particularly remarkable in Adam terms, marked the moment I was really blown away. It was the closest I'd gotten to hearing him a cappella and I was surprised at how effortless it was for him. It seemed so easy, the vibrato so controlled, and it was backed with power and volume without even a trace of strain. I was awestruck.
After a little more banter, the introduction and a thin shaft of spotlight abruptly shifted the mood for Sleepwalker. The instrumentals made this a very atmospheric one and is up there with my favourites. Adam came in early with the most honeyed of tones, and sang the hell out of it. I yelped with joy as Adam swapped the falsetto with full belt and continued to riff. I was mightily impressed by the band and by Monte's amazing solo. It seems that Adam, not wanting to be outdone by the guitar, went into a spot of improvisation, giving us some of the most mind-blowing notes and staggering runs. Surely he couldn't be human.
When it finished, I had an urge to grab Adam and make him perform some more. I felt slightly stunned by the whole thing, not quite believing that it was the end and wanting much more. It was disappointingly shorter than expected and I hoped that we'd get an encore or at least I'd get to hear DTRH but that wasn't the case. Everyone hurried off and the club was cleared soon after. My friends were pleasantly surprised because Adam was far from what they'd expected. One of them commented that his trousers were indecently tight but they both thought Adam had huge stage presence and made a charismatic frontman. They compared him to Freddie Mercury without any prompting from me. They also thought that the band were a tight and talented bunch. They're not quite fans yet, but they do have a newfound appreciation of Adam.
Although the sound mix was good throughout, the instrumentals did somewhat mask the quality of Adam's freak-of-nature vocals. I'd been a bit of a sceptic when people had said that the videos made Adam seem a little out-of-tune. I thought they were rabid fans who were in denial that Adam could sing anything imperfectly but now I take it back. I listened carefully and prepared myself for when I was expecting an iffy note but I must emphasise that there was not a single dud note that came from Adam. I've watched the videos and there are a few that didn't quite hit the spot, but live in the club, he sounded pitch perfect throughout. He is truly exceptional. I wish I'd managed to get up close so I could've heard his pure voice unprocessed by the mic and speakers. It's something I've wanted to do ever since being dumbfounded after hearing it on the RoF mentor session. Adam hasn't even made it here in the UK, yet it was already so difficult to get close. He incites such passion, his demand is only going to increase over time, making him even less accessible. I don't believe it'll ever be possible to experience him from a front row spot with drink in hand and space to dance. Being squashed in the front will only be the reserve of those hardcore fans who have earned it through all-day queueing and being parched. So I left feeling slightly wistful but also very relieved to have finally been able to see him after following him all this time. I also felt privileged to have been able to experience Adam's rise and witness him in one of his first UK concerts, before he becomes a huge phenomenon.
The feel of this concert was one that was highly glammed-up compared to the other recent ones, being very slick and polished. The set list was energetic with a considerable share of upbeat dance numbers. As Adam is so multi-faceted it's difficult to experience all of him as it would mean an acoustic interlude and multiple costume, hair and make-up changes within the set. This choreographed production, though an exciting sensory spectacle, came at the expense of the loose, free-spirited, spontaneous hippy Adam of Indio. What's exciting is that I'm sure there are so many more facets he has yet to reveal. I left the gig having had a little slice of Heaven but greedily want much more, resolving to make it my next mission to see every side of him.