Great music should carry you somewhere beyond yourself, to places recollected and imagined. Adam Lambert’s first solo concert at the Fantasy Springs Resort in Indio, California was like riding such a sonic wave into memory and fantasy. Under laser beams pulsing emerald to the beat of the electro-hip For Your Entertainment – title track to his Gold record – Lambert shimmered onto the stage from inky shadows to rock both night and spirit to life. Stalking the stage and yowling his primal call to dance, he glittered majestically from his diamond-flecked hair, rivers of silver chains and a glorious halter necklace trimmed with sapphire jewels. Yet, draped in what he described as his “witchy clothes” – gossamer exhalations of fabrics – his raven locks woven with feathers of azure and peacock trailing over shoulders and hip, Lambert appeared to have loosened his glossy fashion edginess to an exotic earthiness.
An avian-like creature exuding mysticism, he opened heart, mind and instrument to convey thirteen lyrical messages to the enthralled listeners of loving fans, friends and family. A proficient ensemble also delivered the musical fiesta, consisting of Rock-God guitarist Monte Pittman clad in a fringed poncho, drummer Longineu Parsons baring tattoos, bassist Tommy Joe Ratliff tossing a fluffy platinum-blond do, and Zac Baird tickling keyboards and synths. Doug Anderson skillfully engineered the sound. The packed auditorium felt transformed into an expansive desert where bodies swayed freely. Toes no longer aware of shoes dug into shifting sands well traversed by generations of the Cahuilla peoples, by explorers and tourists, and even quite possibly by the one known as the Lizard King.
Hotly anticipated new single If I Had You, the flashy Sure Fire Winners and pulsing Strut set feet among the 3,500-strong crowd at the sold-out extravaganza pounding the floor, accented by their deafening whoops, whistles, and cheers.
Following with a constellation of ballads and acoustic renditions of original tracks and two famous covers he had performed on American Idol, Adam’s vocal interpretations straddled the place where the sun’s sizzle yields to the starry-eyed calm of an indigo sky. Soaked was a powerful lament of optimistic despair, lending a dramatic lead-in to an acoustic version of hot single Whataya Want From Me. Lambert forged a strong connection to the assembled throng as evidenced when the lines “I’m a freak” and “thanks for loving me…’cause you’re doing it perfectly” drew thrilled cries to the air. The lyrics were accessorized by Baird’s piano notes trickling along like a canyon’s brook. Lambert then delved into Mad World, the haunting melody made even more ethereal complemented by Pittman and Ratliff’s thoughtful strums, along with Parsons’ palmed thumps on the djembe.
The crowd had barely drifted back to the cooling sand when Broken Open was breathed into life with crystalline vocals pure and raw, while Ratliff’s gentle strums on classic guitar pulsed perfectly with Lambert’s bell-like instrumentation. The tune co-penned by the singer which speaks of laying oneself bare to love in order to find comfort tugged tears to the corners of many an eye.
In the most stunning moment of the night, Lambert abandoned himself to passion’s fire with an acoustic blues-rock interpretation of Whole Lotta Love; lithely unraveling the driving beat and frenetic energy of the song into a seven-minute sensual burn. Kneeling, surrounded by a turquoise bliss of chunky bass lines, sitar-like twangs and languid drumbeats, Lambert reached into his inner depths, drawing out a primal query of desire from his soul; a powerful, spiritual offering of love and sex. Electrically-charged emotions flowing, man and music melded seamlessly as he arose, licking heated cries up to the stars, torso rippling fluidly. Stretching out the pace of the song to render breathing space to the band’s sultry vibe, he warbled with lingering intensity, vocal echoes reverberating in the air as if he stood beneath the Palm Canyon walls. Lambert then bore down with fevered thrust into a cascade of lilting moans, while the absorbed crowd’s screams of pleasure swelled and receded around him. Throating desire to the darkened sand, he slipped back to his knees, fervent wails surging forth in waves. Then, spent and satiated, he caressed the sonic dream to its end with a naked whisper tenderly laid to rest beside a final wistful guitar twang. As the elated crowd roused themselves from the spell, Adam confided the mesmeric compilation had been sparsely conceptualized and virtually unrehearsed. The thunderous response to this conveyed to the gifted chameleon that he and his band had successfully coaxed a funky, impromptu enchantment of raw love as oral art out of the iconic Zeppelin tune. Lambert’s unique artistic integrity from that performance ought to educate critics who dismiss him as merely a “reality star” devoid of lasting substance.
The shamanistic vocalist pulsed things back up into throbbing tempo with the robust Music Again before launching into Sleepwalker, the hauntingly beautiful melody tinged by nightmarish heartache.
Strutting back to the stage in a jaunty fedora and garbed in a vest densely collared with quivering obsidian plumes, Lambert dialed up the prowl and preen to stomp into Fever. Like a desert vixen, the singer’s every feather, bauble and limb pranced and fluttered to the track penned by the brilliant Lady Gaga, while the crowd lost themselves to the wildly campy vibe, dancing blisters to the surface of skin. The heat even overwhelmed Lambert, who fanned himself dramatically at the close of the hedonistic tune.
The finale brought loose-limbed funk from Lambert’s deliciously weird Down The Rabbit Hole, whereby he succumbed to cyclonic gyration and twist before imparting a final entreat towards self-reflection. “Who Are You?” he boomed out to all 3,500-plus minds of those gathered before him, including his eldest fan, 89-year-old Isabel Paquette. On this note, he closed a most successful show, having conveyed true rock and roll artistry and versatility by capably playing to the participants in his journey, a group comprised of both genders of virtually every age.
Like the smoldering embers of a lingering fire, Adam Lambert wrapped his listeners with emotion, magnetizing them to his voice and granting them passage to fantasy through his sonic art. Isabel’s face as she was wheeled out of the auditorium radiated a mingling of joy and glitter she would savour for the rest of her life. Adam had led her, along with everyone else, to the spaces inside ourselves where memory of what is most beautiful in life mingles with wonder at what future elation’s we may stumble upon in the lush oases of music, art and love.
Fantasy Springs Resort
February 27, 2010
By Lori Atkinson-Leung
Photos: Barbara Dengel