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Adam Lambert, Prince of Wails

June 17, 2014
QueenLA-ScreenCap

Photo by T. Bren

By Juneau

At last the moment so many of us have waited for is upon us: the eve of the world tour of Queen + Adam Lambert. Last night we were glued to the live stream from the iHeart Theater in Los Angeles, where our Idols test-drove an abbreviated version of their tour set.

What a heart-stopping thrill to watch Adam strut onto that stage, into the waving, open arms of the fans who had packed the theater. He got the crowd clapping and stomping with “We Will Rock You” and “Another One Bites the Dust,” even getting into some riffing and call and response (he could have gone crazier with this, but didn’t). Then the band swung into “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” where Adam could and did channel his inner Elvis.

Having thoroughly warmed up the crowd, Adam then introduce the next song, “Love Kills,” described by Lyndsey Parker as “Freddie Mercury’s first song recorded as a solo artist, and was featured on electronic music legend Giorgio Moroder’s soundtrack for the 1984 rerelease of Fritz Lang’s classic 1927 silent film, Metropolis.” The band had never performed it before, and Adam debuted its live incarnation as an operatic ballad. This was the Adam we fans love so much – the high-wire artist who dares to tackle the most sacred peaks, transforming a death-defying stunt into something transcendent, effortless, perfect.

It’s worth watching again, and again:

Since the purpose of previews like this is to gauge the audience response and fine-tune the on-stage chemistry, I hope y’all won’t lob too many rotten tomatoes at what I need to say next.

Perhaps it wasn’t the best programming decision to follow the sublime, time-stopping climax of “Love Kills” with a romping, ridiculous song like “Fat Bottomed Girls,” but this difficult segue precipitated a rare, cringe-worthy moment with that “fat-assed bitches” line. It felt so forced and tone-deaf with regard to the affection and desire straight men (and gay Freddie) genuinely feel for amply endowed women, which Adam then compounded with his “PC” joke. It felt as though the oxygen got sucked out of the room at that moment. I fervently hopes he expunges this nonsense from his tour patter and just gives a heartfelt shout out to the fans. (“This is for all you gorgeous, lusty ladies” will do quite nicely, thank you.)

From here on out, it felt as though Adam’s performance faltered and became…tentative. The body language, the glances between Roger and Adam, Brian and Adam, hinted at a fairly high state of anxiety. I became acutely aware that the show hadn’t quite jelled. The focus fell on getting the notes right rather than cutting loose. That’s understandable this early in the game, and I trust it will dissipate as the band and Adam find their groove. (Granted, as Roger said, this is all live, no click tracks, and that element of danger in a live performance is also one of its thrills.)

But even making allowances for that uncomfortable gaffe, what really hit me last night was how often Adam directed his attention towards Brian or Roger on the stage, rather than towards the audience. Granted, eye-contact is needed for tight, live ensemble playing. But there was something beyond that. It was as though Adam felt he didn’t have the right to engage the fans directly. As though Adam felt he didn’t have permission to flirt with the audience, an audience that is in perpetual mourning for Freddie Mercury; as though to do so would be to seduce these fans into betraying Freddie.

All of this came across to me as Adam hoping to win the approval of the fans by demonstrating his reverence for the surviving band members. I’m not sure he still needs to do this. In his words and deeds, he has already declared his intention to pay tribute rather than to imitate the inimitable.

What I would love to see him do now — now that he has fully earned the trust and support not only of Brian and Rodger, but also of hundreds of thousands of fans who snapped up tickets — is to seize onto these songs and own them just the way he did with the iconic songs he performed on American Idol. What was so extraordinary then was how he completely inhabited each song and used every inch of his being to channel the emotion directly into the limbic system of the listener. He resurrected the songs from the dead, our latter-day Orpheus, and that is what he can now do with Queen’s music. That would be the ultimate tribute, to make the most die-hard fan forget that Freddie is gone, and by bringing this music fully to life, resurrect Freddie’s spirit.

And in so doing, Adam will graduate from rock prince-in-waiting to becoming its once and future king.

25 Comments leave one →
  1. Judi permalink
    June 17, 2014 6:11 pm

    Adam has used that tongue-in-cheek “fat-assed” comment before…forget of it was in Europe, London, or the IHeart festival, but no one seemed to mind…. Who was at this show on Monday? …bunch of tight-assed oldsters? I am old, but will never be that uptight!

  2. frances grady permalink
    June 17, 2014 7:47 pm

    Adam kicked it out of the park with
    Queen in London….he just needs to be himself .Adam….just let it go.

  3. June 17, 2014 11:04 pm

    I agree, I didn’t like the bitches comment, or Adam’s use of the “F” word, although we all say it. It just seems like Queen and Adam should be above that. Also, although Adam is lead singer, it just seemed like Roger or Brian should have been the one talking about the songs and leading the audience with most of the talk. The way it was, it seemed like Adam was totally in charge of the group, and Brian and Roger now tag along and are underlings. Does anyone else agree? I mean, Adam should be able to talk, but I just thought like when the song never heard before was played, Brian or Roger should have been the ones to talk about it, and a few other times as well.

    • June 17, 2014 11:40 pm

      PS – At the same time, after what I just said above, I also think Adam should cut loose and get wild and crazy up there and make each song his own. Thus, I know I sound contradictory. This is probably how Adam feels–confused where he fits. I don’t think he should think of himself as a replacement, but get very comfortable in his role. It’s just I think the talking in between songs should be shared between the three–Adam, Brian and Roger.

    • Linda Vastardis permalink
      June 18, 2014 4:15 pm

      Do we know whether or not Brian & Roger & Adam had meetings about who was going to do most of the onstage chatter, etc.? I would think that this was all discussed & arranged among them beforehand and that’s why Adam was the spokesperson.

  4. Evelyn permalink
    June 17, 2014 11:34 pm

    Yesterday, was a magical day. All day I waited for the Iheart concert and I watched it just like a 1000% Glambert. When Adam sang Love Kills, I didn’t know what to do, cry, scream or just melt. Nothing was apparent to me but that Adam was there singing those songs to pay tribute to Freddie’s memory, interpreting them in his unique way the spirit of those songs. And as we all know Adam has that talent and he did just that yesterday. I read the comments of Nick Weymouth, that wonderful Brit who was in charge of the Queen + Adam Logistics in the tour he wrote that “Love Kills” was an utter delight! I think so too, and more.

  5. rosemary permalink
    June 18, 2014 1:33 am

    I agree with some of the comments here about Adam needing to relate more to the audience and less to the band onstage. I know this will get better and better with each concert, but we all so want Adam to wow them at every concert that it’s hard to be patient. I’ve said it before in The Lounge, but I don’t think stage patter is one of Adam’s strengths. He’s improving, but, he should stick to his strengths–his singing voice and stage presence. Anyway, I agree that Brian and Roger should at least be sharing the patter. I think less talk from Adam will also help him “inhabit” better the music (as Juneau wrote) and go crazy wild which is, of course, what we want to see!

  6. barbara kleinschmidt permalink
    June 18, 2014 11:23 am

    very well written…have to agree with all observations….i had the same feelings about his overt attention to the band and slight insecurity!  was very surprised after seeing the confidence in vegas in september….hopefully he loosens up to his real self!  thanks    Barbara…

  7. barbara kleinschmidt permalink
    June 18, 2014 11:47 am

    i have to add to my remarks that on monday nite i was totally entranced by Adam himself!…….!’LOVE KILLS’ was over the top and should be released as a single right away to take advantage of the tour…….and hopefully they can get the ear mikes fixed! fiddling is distracting…….Im sure he will take over on the road….cant wait to see him live!

  8. June 19, 2014 11:21 pm

    Thanks for all the comments. Well, I just watched the livestream from Chicago and Adam completely blew it out of the park!! Maybe he was just setting modest expectations at iHeart Theater. He LOVES to surprise us and he sure did!! This tour with Queen is everything and more than we ever dreamed of!!! The energy in the arena!! Those Queen fans went crazy!!! I couldn’t be more proud of “our boy” tonight! xoxox J

  9. frances grady permalink
    June 19, 2014 11:42 pm

    I think he is the sly thing and did not EVEN give us a true preview as to what happened tonight. I was reduced to a bowl of jelly. PERFECTION ON EARTH.

  10. lpaulick permalink
    June 20, 2014 6:36 pm

    Juneau, that’s a thoughtful and very well-put assessment. I can imagine that little achy glitch and uncomfortable wording, although forgivable, had something to do with what appeared to follow it? Every comment above this one, is clear and makes sense (I wasn’t there…). June, do you know if Adam will be reading this, or can you send it to him or whatever? He might find it interesting (if he didn’t already see it himself). Surely, glitches will become gold through the intelligence that operates between these fellows.

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