I wasn’t in the slightest bit surprised when I heard that the most searched for words on Google UK on 1st January were “Adam Lambert”. I was on there with all the others trying to find out a bit more about him, and how on earth he had ended up on stage with Queen. It was one hell of an evolution.
My initial searches led me to some very interesting pieces of information:
Adam had a background in music theatre before auditioning for American Idol. That answered a lot of queries for me; music theatre is one of the most demanding disciplines for any performer. To survive in it, you need a solid technique, the ability to sing, dance and act, often all at the same time, and also you need the boundless energy and vocal stamina to help you perform up to 8 shows a week.
In comparison, if you are a principal opera singer in an established company (such as the Royal Opera House), you may only sing your role two, or maybe three times a week. If you’re in a smaller company or doing minor roles and/or chorus, then this ratio increases somewhat as the average chorus member will end up performing every night and the workload on your voice is higher. This requires stamina but at least you have the backup of being surrounded by other singers.
I take my hat off to the guys who do music theatre; it’s bloody difficult and exhausting, and because of the hours you have to keep, you end up in a twilight existence that only other theatre people understand. It’s true that one of the differences between music theatre and opera is that you are only ever amplified in opera for a massive scale performance, such as at these outdoor opera festivals in Europe. The rest of the time it’s entirely down to you and your body to get the sound out into the auditorium. This is incredibly taxing and the reason why opera singers usually get more rest in between performances.
Therefore Adam had the advantage of a solid technical training to help him handle Queen’s music. It’s obvious from listening to him that he has an astounding natural voice (or the “instrument”, as singers like to label it, if you’ll allow me to be arty-farty for a moment), but on top of that there has been a lot of coaching and hard work in the practice studio. The combination of natural talent + training + practice means that in performance we get that beautiful, seamless voice, a relaxed, natural delivery and the added bonus of the words being properly communicated. One of my lifelong beefs with rock singers is that so many of them shut their eyes and sing in their own little world. They think they’re being intense, but they’re just shutting the audience out; a huge amount of singing is done with your eyes.
The next thing I discovered (when I finally realised that YouTube could help me out) was a whistlestop tour of his journey through American Idol. He had sung Bo Rhap at his audition. Looking at that initial piece of footage, I was amazed at how far he had evolved and “grown up” in that 5-year period. At the audition, he came across to me as a cute and endearing kid with a very good voice and more than a touch of the glam rocker about him. He almost didn’t make it through the initial cut as Simon Cowell thought he was a bit too theatrical (actually Simon, “theatrical” is great, as it makes a better all-round performer. Put me on a judging panel and I would always pick people with previous stage experience if they had a good voice). There was no time to listen to the other rounds; I could catch up with them later, but I skipped ahead to the final as I’d seen a note that he performed with Queen. Things were starting to make sense.
On finals night, Adam and fellow finalist Kris Allen got to sing Queen’s mega-anthem We are the Champions with Brian and Roger; what a blast that must have been for both of them. Comparing their two voices, Adam was so far ahead he was out of sight – and it was blindingly obvious Brian and Roger thought that as well. And he looked right; he was comfortable and the music suited him in terms of vocal range and style.
(video from MyGlamChannel’s YouTube collection)
At the end of the song, Brian hugged Adam with stars in his eyes (I watched the vid two or three times to make sure) and it was clear that as far as he was concerned, Adam was the winner. However, the voting public didn’t think that way and put Kris Allen in first place, but thinking ahead to today, they probably did him an enormous favour as he may never have had the contractual freedom to hook up with Queen again later.
And I also discovered that Adam’s gayness had enraged conservative Americans; he had kissed his bass player on stage and caused extensive pearl-clutching amongst TV audiences. What a laugh – I’ve always loved pushing the boundaries and I’m absolutely into equality. You wanna kiss someone, then kiss ‘em (as long as they’re up for it too). A fellow badass – how splendid!
This satisfied my curiosity for now; it looked as though I was going to be in for a good concert on January 23rd.