Heaven was bursting at the seams on Monday night. The famous London nightclub, with a standing capacity of around 1000 people, was the venue for an exclusive Adam Lambert show for HMV competition winners that drew ardent fans from all over the UK. Before reviewing the performance proper however, I feel impelled to write about the audience because, for the fans attending, this was no ordinary date in the Adam Lambert concert calendar.
When Adam stepped out onto Heaven’s stage, looking every inch a dazzling star, it was uncertain whether the crowd would fall into a stunned and disbelieving silence or explode with an outpouring of long-contained excitement.
Fortunately for Adam it was the latter. But the majority of the fans there had waited more than a year to see this man perform live, had been teased with some very close encounters with Adam just a month earlier, and had endured stress levels not even inflicted on laboratory rats as they suffered weeks of uncertainty over whether or not they would win tickets. Just when it all looked sure to happen and the fans breathed a collective sigh of relief, an unpronounceable Icelandic volcano dumped its ash all over their dreams and Adam was unable to get to the UK.
Eventually, however, after the ash cloud was deemed safe and after yet more waiting in queues and inside the venue (but what’s a few more hours after over a year?) Jeremy Joseph, Heaven’s owner, introduced Adam to a wildly excited and intensely relieved crowd. The fans remained madly enthusiastic throughout but fell silent whenever Adam spoke, not wanting to miss a thing. Most of them were seeing him for the first time and knew that it could be a long time before they got a similar opportunity, especially in such an intimate setting.
The strong connection between Adam and the audience was evident as he chatted easily and comfortably with them between songs. When he asked how many were Londoners and how many had travelled from elsewhere, he seemed genuinely delighted that the latter question got the bigger cheer.
I was in a central position, just four rows from the front, but as we were tightly jammed together, that distance was roughly three yards from the stage. From that position I was able to notice something interesting that confirmed that sense of connection. Live performers generally look at the crowd when singing and their gaze will naturally rest a while on individual faces. Adam of course is no exception. But in the second and third songs particularly, Music Again and Whataya Want from Me, where there was no choreographed dancing, it looked as if he was really seeing individual fans, recognizing them and wanting to acknowledge a number of faces. As the UK fanbase is still small and Adam has met and chatted to many of these supporters, some several times, over the last month, it’s not impossible that this is what he was doing. But even if didn’t actually recognize a single face, he’s a master of eye contact and uses it to considerable effect.
So what about the performance itself? This show was yet further proof that for all his excellence as a recording artist, Adam Lambert really comes into his own on a stage, as a live performer.
Even at this early stage in his career, when budgets are small and he’s still feeling his way, his live performances are electrifying. While Adam has talked of wanting fireworks, dancers, lasers and more on stage, Monday night proved that it isn’t those external ‘props’ that create the magic. Instead it is the things that are inseparable from Adam himself and that were already there long before he was famous: his incredible vocal gifts that instill the listener with complete confidence that he will deliver a flawless and usually fresh version of a recorded song; his huge and palpable presence and charisma; his physical attractiveness; his willingness to move and dance in a way that almost no other current male mainstream performer is; but most of all, an internal energy that has little do with physical movement and everything to do with how he completely lives inside every song he performs. All this was fully in evidence during the Heaven show.
The set consisted of seven songs (For Your Entertainment, Music Again, Whataya Want From Me, Strut, Sleepwalker, Fever and If I Had You) and each one was a vocal masterpiece that took the audience on a journey. For example, in Sleepwalker Adam was using the best of his voice not to display his technical skills but to tell a story which, in that moment, was the most compelling tale we’d ever heard because he was effectively reliving the experience. But when the music ends he shocks you back to another side of him as he breaks into a disarming smile that says “it’s ok, it was only a song”, even though we know it’s telling his story, or at least one chapter of it.
During parts of the show he gave free rein to his camp side, particularly in Strut where the cane dance was a chance for him to truly strut around the stage, and Fever, which was in parts playful and energetic and in others powerfully hypnotic.
Three of the songs – Fever, For Your Entertainment and Strut – featured his four dancers (he introduced them by name: Terence, Taylor, Sasha and Brooke) who were a refreshing change from the usual army of clones all snapping to the same moves in perfect time, that we often see with other performers. Adam champions the full expression of individuality and sensuality and in that respect the dancers were a perfect reflection of that ideal. Nevertheless, Adam’s startlingly powerful charisma prevented them from ever detracting from his performance. When Adam danced along with them, what had been a pleasing bonus became a visual feast that very effectively enhanced the music and gave Adam the chance to show off his dance skills.
The vocal brilliance and sheer energy that was radiating from that stage throughout the evening made me wonder how the security men, who had to remain focused on the audience and therefore had their backs to Adam, could resist turning to see the source of that power. But sure enough, during Fever I did notice at least one them sneak a peek.
Adam may or may not have been conscious of the fact that this show was the first for most fans and could be their last for a long time. Regardless, this immensely hard-working perfectionist whose jam-packed schedule and jet-lag caused him almost to cancel a live webchat a few days earlier, pumped so much energy into every aspect of his Heaven performance that one wonders how he was still standing at the end. And yet he was shining as brightly at the close of the show as when it opened. A true star.
See this YouTube channel for Heaven videos. More being added shortly.
April 26, 2010
By Etty Payne
RockStar Weekly UK Correspondent
Photo by Ki55andTell