A good fireworks blast is usually mesmeric enough to hold everyone’s rapt attention, but when Adam Lambert and his band hit the sky running just after midnight struck in Hollywood at the Gridlock 2010 New Year’s Eve bash, all other light and sound fizzled out. The main stage of the fabricated Times Square in the Paramount Studios back lot exploded into a sonic festivity of pyrotechnics – a dazzling kaleidoscope of flash and boom in the form of a flame of ebony hair up-swept into a wild pompadour rock hawk. A dashing black tuxedo trench coat with an array of sparkling jet-black jeweled nuggets dribbling over shoulders and down lapels; matching trousers trimmed with sequined side seams; and one prismatic pair of boots. Somewhere out there a groove club is missing the skin of a mirror-ball or two.
Glittering roguishly and smiling widely, Adam Lambert bid farewell to Pamela Anderson and strode to the front edge of the stage, greeting the crowd with a lusty “Happy New Year!” The chilly night air suddenly rose noticeably in temperature.
And with Adam there came the band: renowned, powerhouse shredder Monte Pittman on lead guitar; Lisa Harriton, the skilled, poised woman in residence on keyboard and synths, who delivers powerful backup vocals; luminously elfin and energetic Tommy Joe Ratliff fingering deftly on bass; and glorious Longineu “Animal” Parsons, skillful brandisher of lighted drum sticks to thrill on his new lustrous black-glitter Tama kit.
As Lambert readied his mic stand and surveyed the starry night and eager crowd, his electrifying eyes darkened to cobalt and glinted with his trademark desire – to throat out compelling, sexy music and fully entertain those gathered to their core: “Imma give it to you and give it to you real good.” His afternoon twitter message had promised to bring on the wild. Now was his time, this was his stage and he was ready to rock. “Do I look like a firework?” he flirted, pointing to his heavily glittered face where rhinestones winked from his eyes and brows.
Seconds later, 2010 was yanked forward through the club-door by the hand of music as this fiery orchestra tore into a no-holds-barred instruction on rocking in the New Year the right way with a riveting stream of up-tempo songs from Lambert’s debut album For Your Entertainment.
Launching into the first track from the disc, the ripping party-starter Music Again, the night air became charged with crackling intensity. Lambert’s multilayered voice and lithe body played dominant over the buoyant opening tune as he swiveled loose hips and spun, long coattails flapping with cheeky flair. He energetically growled his way through the song, punching upwards into that delicious falsetto which truly showcases, among the other vibrant notes he can hit, his superior range and fine control over it. Music Again was not only a great tune to fire up the party, but gave the message that the experience, feeling and memory of music is important. Dump the trash of wasted energy on regrets, petty discussions, superficial pursuits, and false judgments out the back door of 2009 and let 2010 and beyond be a forward-striving crusade of melody, love and human unity.
The group rolled the party along as Lambert, flanked by throbbing bass lines and pulsing drum beats, strutted and sashayed his way across the stage to the upbeat, clubby If I Had You – a tune as form-fitting to him as his trademark leather gloves.
Then into a powerful execution of Whataya Want From Me, the new single with more live-performance mileage. Confident vocal execution fused seamlessly with Pittman’s staccato riffs and Harriton’s strong backup delivery echoed the entire group’s joyful cohesiveness. The up-tempo ballad fueled Ratcliff and Pittman to prowl the stage with Lambert, showcasing the trio’s roguish ability to play well off of one another.
Strut was an energetic psychedelic trip of echo and stomp. Lambert really got into his dance groove with this one: a loose-limbed, thrusting performance of swagger and pelvic rippling, where the entire stage was his runway and vibrant high notes his accessories. His later delivery of the buoyant underground glam-disco Down the Rabbit Hole and the sizzling, sexually-charged Fever were similarly alluring.
“Oooh I got my dance on there…you guys gettin’ your dance on?” Lambert crowed, before cavorting into the irresistible Sure Fire Winners, where aggressive vocals and glam-funk took precedence. Lambert was in his element throughout the irresistible track, wailing and strutting the stage with raw precociousness. “Gonna take you to the top to the brink of what u believe” he breathed with Zepplinish force. Visions of Lambert and Pittman’s Citizen Vein performances rose to mind, while Harriton gained the opportunity to further shine on keyboards.
A notable highlight of the show arose when Lambert, perched on a stool, took the party over to the knife-edge of heartache with the angst-driven Soaked. The symphonic intro streamed out, flowed upward, then gently released to make way for Lambert’s rich, compelling voice to speak of the desperation in the search for elusive love. He opened his instrument up fully to wring out, with bell-like clarity, the verses of pain, matched by a haunting wretchedness in his eyes. As the instrumental mid-section swelled urgently, the singer suddenly became further engulfed in dramatics. An expression of deep despondency ripped across his features, a fire of angst and loneliness flickered in his eyes and he shuddered forward, hand cradling his head, fingers splayed on his cheek. As despair ravaged his features, his arm reached slowly across his chest, leathered hand slipping into jacket breast pocket. Rising to his feet he simultaneously jerked out a shining silver flask and held it high. The crowd, who had hushed into mesmerized delight as this glum narrative unfolded, burst into astonished laughter and loud cheers. Ignoring the din, Lambert deftly unscrewed the cap, tipped his head back and took a long swig before dragging a sleeve across his lips and slipping the container back in his pocket, in time to belt out the resuming chorus of a broken man.
Winding down, Lambert paced, wavering out the verse’s final note to dwindle like a sobbing violin. Silently he resumed his seat and paused for a full eighteen seconds, gazing out at the crowd with an expression of forlorn dignity. Cheers roused up then hushed reverently as he eased out the final verse with a tender caress. In this performance, the singer’s vocal mastery, twinned with his deeply expressive showmanship framed the perfect portrayal of one utterly thrashed by the cycle of searching for real love yet reaching for one-night stands to assuage the agony of loneliness. With fine instrumentation from Lambert’s band, along with his soaring vocals and a sulk laced with strut, the inspirational chameleon had gifted the crowd of near 5,000 with an immaculately raw, deadly passionate epic rendition of the heart-wrenching ballad. It is highly likely that Simon Cowell – wherever he was at that particular moment in time – found himself suddenly, inexplicably drawn to his feet and clapping vigorously.
Lambert then brightened the mood and brought the dance back with his mischievous title track For Your Entertainment. Almost self-consciously, he dialed back on the wild flamboyance of acting out the lyrics, but his strident rock scream near the end of the song was thrillingly delivered.
Sleepwalker engaged the group in another exquisite music movement when Lambert gifted the dolled-up ballad with a more psych-infused vibe. I felt this version of the song resonated David Essex’s iconic “Rock On” and perhaps Love & Rockets’ “Holiday On the Moon,” twisted with fierce grit delivered by Pittman in weighty riffs, lending great power to the tune and raising an expression of spirited inspiration to the face of his lead man and longtime friend in music. Lambert’s satisfied smile said it all: this was genuine rock and roll energy in its purest form. His abandonment to raw joy flowed into the final chorus, climaxing into a sumptuous feast of his trademark stratospheric rock wails, leaving a delicious glittery tang on the tongue of an enthralled audience.
For his encore, Lambert strutted back out to the excited crowd, pulling out another surprise from his infinite bag of tricks. His tightly-wound Whole Lotta Love, was gritty and snarling: the vibe was a full-on body explosion of pure sex. After giving the band some breathing room to romp and play, Lambert dropped to his knees in the climax, tearing into an off-the-leash howl that would make even a banshee envious. He rose to his feet and into a fever pitch of multiple stiletto rock wails that seared the midnight air and should have shattered every glass within a 100-mile radius. In essence, the blistering rendition managed to exceed the scorching executions of the epic Led Zeppelin tune that Lambert had delivered throughout the summer of 2009 on the American Idols Live Tour.
Much of the heat also flowed from Longineu’s sonic thunder of a solo and Pittman’s bracing shreds and riffs. Pittman has a rock-god presence of his own, arising from his well-honed, skilled riffs that come from a connection of love and devotion to his instrument over a long and distinguished musical career. And Longineu is highly esteemed for his mad skills as drummer for Yellowcard. Lambert demonstrated his ability to immerse himself in this, and every performance – freely launching both body and spirit completely into a frenzy of music and spectacle – yet keeping a firm, leather-fisted grasp on his frame and instrument, and timing of step and note. Like a true fireworks exhibit, he was controlled chaos, a well-engineered and orchestrated storm of grace and fury.
With his high-energy, immense talents, smoldering grace and cheeky wit, Adam Lambert was the party, the celebration, the revelry – here to give music for our entertainment. Neither he nor his skilled band was concerned about crowd size or whether their show would be publicly broadcasted. This orchestra of fire and fury embodied the resplendent, heady, let-it-all-go-loose carnival spirit inherent in both New Year’s Eve and good-time rock and roll. They did so by delivering a tight, electrically-charged show: making a re-constructed New York City the only place one needed to be to properly rock in the year 2010.
Gridlock New Year’s Eve, Paramount Lot
Dec. 31, 2009
Los Angeles, California
Review By: Lori (feet) A-Leung , RockStar Weekly
Photos By Lori (feet) A-Leung and Barbara Dengel