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Glam Nation Live
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Glam Nation Live

Filmed live on August 31, 2010 at Clowes Hall in Indianapolis, singer Adam Lambert turns in an unforgettable performance in front of a sold-out hometown crowd.

An 'Idol' Runner-Up Meets His Moment

3 Min Read

Before he joined Queen, before he was named the first openly gay artist to have an album debut at No. 1 on the Billboard charts, Adam Lambert was the breakout star of season eight of “American Idol” in 2009. Though not the show’s winner, the former musical theater performer established himself as a clear fan favorite and must-see every week. Post-“Idol,” Lambert inked a deal with RCA and delivered his debut album, “For Your Entertainment,” later that year.

In 2010, on his premiere solo tour as a bonafide pop artist, Lambert played more than 100 shows across four continents. “Glam Nation Live” puts a magnifying glass on the singer’s budding stardom — and how he cemented his nickname, “Glambert.” Taped at Clowes Memorial Hall on the Butler University campus in Indianapolis, his birthplace, the concert features standout “For Your Entertainment” singles (“Fever,” “Whataya Want from Me,” “If I Had You”) and some of his most acclaimed “Idol” covers, including Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” and T. Rex’s “20th Century Boy.”

Lambert’s well-documented theatricality — from overly accessorized crotch-rock costumes that give off “Ringmaster from Glam Hell” vibes to stiff choreography and ill-conceived camp — is on full display from the start of the show. Then again, at the time, maximalism was pop music’s code thanks to the boundary-less creations of its then-reigning queen, Lady Gaga. Lambert’s early aesthetic was the clearest, male-identified parallel to Gaga’s glittery club kid. Gaga even penned “Fever” when she was playing clubs like Cutting Room in New York City circa 2006.

Still green as a headliner, Lambert demonstrates a commanding stage presence but relies on tropes similar to those popular at the time — modern dancers, same-sex French kissing, getting barefoot to sing the ballads — with a lower budget than that of his peers. Though his theater training prepared him for the spotlight, this video captures bits of adjustment and a “fake-it-‘til-you-make-it” persistence, a glimpse at a young artist still figuring out who he is.

Ultimately, Lambert performances aren’t so much about what’s happening around him as his voice. And he delivers.

Often praised for his vocal control on ‘Idol,’ he maintains deftness while exploring how far he can push himself.

A technically proficient singer with an “unlimited range,” as suggested by noted producer Rob Cavallo (Green Day, Eric Clapton, Meat Loaf), Lambert rarely misses a note. Often praised for his vocal control on “Idol,” he maintains deftness while exploring how far he can push himself. At times, he sounds like he’s yelling at his audience, indulging in histrionics rather than channeling the spirit that has inhabited singers like Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera and Robert Plant.

Lambert finds his sweet spot after his band’s second instrumental and a quick outfit change. Free of his heavy, purple fringe coat, layered necklaces and sequined bell-bottoms, the vocalist emerges reenergized in a sleeveless tuxedo, showing off a combat-Chippendales look. He’s finally able to move. Bringing the concert to an uproarious finale, Lambert basks in the audience singing the lyrics to “If I Had You” back to him. It’s the moment a young artist dreams about, and “Glam Nation Live” allows us to time-travel back to Lambert’s first taste of it.

Jessi Roti is a music and culture journalist from Chicago, Illinois, and columnist for Audiofemme. After three years at Chicago Tribune, covering music and lifestyles, she began freelancing in 2020. A finalist for Best Music Coverage at the 2019 Lisagor Awards, her work can be read in Chicago Reader, The Triibe, Illinois Entertainer, Thrillist, Condé Nast Traveler and more. Previously, she was part of the team behind Chicago-centric music blog Local Loop. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in Communication and Gender & Women’s Studies. She enjoys nonfiction writing, reading, cooking and rock ‘n’ roll.

Jessi Roti is a music and culture journalist from Chicago, Illinois, and columnist for Audiofemme. After three years at Chicago Tribune, covering music and lifestyles, she began freelancing in 2020. A finalist for Best Music Coverage at the 2019 Lisagor Awards, her work can be read in Chicago Reader, The Triibe, Illinois Entertainer, Thrillist, Condé Nast Traveler and more. Previously, she was part of the team behind Chicago-centric music blog Local Loop. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in Communication and Gender & Women’s Studies. She enjoys nonfiction writing, reading, cooking and rock ‘n’ roll.

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