Considering the amount of theatricality in an Adam Lambert show, there’s an extreme danger that it could all collapse into a pile of forgettable fluff.
But Lambert is more than a prettily painted pinup able to get both boys and girls to fawn over him.
He is one of the most – if not the most – talented singer “American Idol” has seen in its nine seasons.
So while it’s a hoot to watch him prance around the stage in feathered shoulder pads and a top hat – call it his own Freddie-Mercury-meets-P.T.-Barnum look – his presence is even more gripping when he starts to sing.
At a nearly-sold-out Tabernacle Wednesday night (his second show in as many nights, the first at Woodruff Arts Center), Lambert bopped through an hour-plus set that highlighted his multi-octave voice and solid pop songs that veer from potent ballads to club thumpers.
His supple voice sounded undiminished as he stalked through a haunting version of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” and the disco-tastic “Fever” – impressive considering he’s been on a fairly grueling tour since June and will soon head to Japan and Australia for dates through October.
Lambert is a natural showman who moves fluidly and is vocally capable of taking a song such as “Sleepwalker,” one of the more pedestrian offerings on his “For Your Entertainment” debut album, and making it a highlight thanks to his lovely voice that can swing from a whisper to a wail.
But the most illuminating example of his abilities came on the operatic “Soaked,” a powerful ballad that he handled with the polish and passion of a Broadway vet.
Though Lambert was clearly enjoying himself throughout the show, thrusting his pelvis for a sassy routine with a cane on “Strut,” gleefully aerobicizing the glam rock anthem “Music Again” and even turning the uncomfortable warmth inside the venue into a joke about the “hotness” of the crowd, he was particularly unfettered during a special encore.
It’s usually his bassist, the New Romantic/Flock of Seagulls throwback Tommy Joe Ratliff , who garners most of the non-Lambert attention on stage, but on this night, drummer Longineu Parsons received a tribute that should have the Glam Nation all atwitter.
Since the dreadlocked sticksman is departing Lambert’s tour to return to his band, Yellowcard, Lambert and the other three members of his group donned dreadlocked wigs during a tight and tuneful rendition of T. Rex’s “20th Century Boy” as a cute way to say goodbye.
Expect to find it soon on YouTube, where Lambert’s evolving career is already a digital encyclopedia.
Since the start of his tour, Lambert has given his fellow season eight competitor Allison Iraheta primo visibility with an opening slot.
The upside is that Iraheta, who was recently dropped from her label, gets a chance to remind people that she possesses a brawny set of pipes and the potential to develop a career.
The downside is that, live, Iraheta too often resorts to shouting rather than singing and could use some guidance in steering her vocals.
As with most of the “Idol” alums – especially the also-rans such as David Archuleta, Elliott Yamin and Melinda Doolittle – it was gratifying to see how Iraheta, at only 18, has developed as a performer.
A diminutive figure in black with a maroon mane that she flailed like any good rocker chick, Iraheta connected with the snarling rocker “Don’t Waste the Pretty” and the acoustic “Scars.”
But her messy, breathless version of Pat Benatar’s “Heartbreaker” and the hoarse yelling throughout “Friday I’ll Be Over You” were evidence that Iraheta’s raw edges still need some smoothing.