Adam Lambert performing in Indianapolis during his Glam Nation Tour – photo kindly supplied by Grrr_girl.
mp3 audio only – full programme
The Soundbath Radio Programme: 12 April 2011 – radio script
It is my particular pleasure today to introduce you to the truly remarkable voice of Adam Lambert.
That was Come to me, Bend to me from Brigadoon sung by Adam when he was just 22.
What wonderful clarity of tone, and perfect voice placement. The voice and breath control he displays in that song, together with his clear diction, the elegance and sophistication of his phrasing, and the gorgeous long legato lines, it is beyond doubt, a remarkable piece of singing.
As an operatic soprano, I’ve had the opportunity to sing with many fine voices all around the world. But from the moment I first heard Adam Lambert’s voice, I was impressed with his artistry and the mastery he had over his vocal instrument and the more I listened the more mesmerized I became.
The human vocal instrument – which is probably the oldest musical instrument known to man – has fascinated me for as long as I can remember, and growing up, as I did in the middle of the Kalahari desert, without the luxury of television or often, even proper radio reception, my mother played records by all the famous tenors of the time – some of my favourites were Enrico Caruso, Mario Lanza, Guiseppe Di Stephano, Beniamino Gigli, Franco Corelli and Jussi Bjorling – all gorgeous voices, I’m sure you would agree. And later there came the stunning voices of Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo and also Andrea Bocelli, all of whose voices live, have been thrilling experiences.
Obviously, my adoration for the tenor voice stems from this childhood time, and although it never completely left me, I found I was listening to such music less and less over the years. But the magical voice of Adam Lambert, ignited again my old passion for the tenor voice.
Of course, Adam doesn’t sing opera or classical music, but as we heard in his rendition of Come to Me, Bend to Me, his voice is a beautiful, finely honed classical instrument, attached to a consummate classical musician, whose sensitivity, musicality and artistry further enhances the music he sings.
But Adam has moved on from his days in musical theatre as we’ll hear in the next track.
That was a song called Time For Miracles from the soundtrack of the movie; 2012, which can also be found on his debut album, For Your Entertainment. I just love the drama of this piece of music. I know it’s from a film soundtrack and therefore probably needs to be dramatic, but Adam’s voice infuses it with so much energy and drama that hearing the song alone, makes you want to see the movie.
For me it has been a special pleasure and unexpected surprise to hear how Mr Lambert translates his finely tuned instrument to the pop and rock genres. He seems to be comfortable in any genre and I find that rather unusual, because most singers find the transition a challenge, to say the least. But he appears to be relishing in finding the sounds in his voice that suit the particular genre in which he’s singing at the time, without compromising any of his classical techniques. And I’m delighted that he has continued to respect his remarkable instrument in this way.
As a result of that, I feel he will change the face of modern music with his voice alone, but Mr Lambert is also an artist and an innovator of new sounds, and we can clearly hear those in this next song which he co-wrote, and which is also from his debut album, For Your Entertainment. This song is one of my favourites – it’s called Broken Open.
What delicious new sounds! But despite the fact that his voice becomes an integral part of the almost futuristic sounds in the instrumentation around it, he succeeds in lifting his voice out of the ensemble enough, so that we become aware of the new sound he creates with his voice as well. There’s a purity and understated elegance in his vocal instrument here that is different from the edgier sounds he used in Time For Miracles. And this is something you’ll hear again and again in different songs – this ability to sing with almost an entirely different-sounding instrument, but all the while still remaining true to his core vocal instrument, as well as to the classical voice and breathing techniques that support it so well.
People who had experienced him singing live, told me that he is one of those rare artists who sound better live than on any recording. I have to admit, I was a little cynical, because that is a most uncommon thing.
But I must confess that I became more and more intrigued because I’d started to watch his performances on YouTube, specifically his performances from his recent sell-out Glam Nation Word Tour and I could see very clearly, that he was re-creating and re-interpreting the songs every night. It was extraordinary and fascinating to watch him at work.
So I just had to hear his voice live for myself. And I was lucky enough to be able to attend 3 out of over a 100 of his Glam Nation Tour concerts last year, which followed the launch of his album. I say I was lucky to attend 3 because I know there were people who saw him many more times than that. And who can blame them?
The concert was a different show every night. I’m sure those of you who have attended theatre performances know how magical they are, and you’ll also know how that magic only exists in that auditorium, in that moment of time – that tomorrow night, there will be a different magic with a different audience – it’s impossible to re-capture the same magic again. But because of all his fans who took thousands of videos and posted them on YouTube, the world now has a glimpse into the magic that Adam created each night for his audiences.
And of course, he did not disappoint me, either – the people who had told me he sounded better live than on any recording, were not exaggerating – he really, really does. Something happens to you when you’re standing in the same space as his voice. First of all, his voice sounds totally different live – it’s much more intense, intimate and immediate, it has a clearer, brighter quality, and probably as a result of the harmonics in his voice, it feels as though you’re standing under a sound waterfall.
The concert was set, of course – the music was set, the choreography was set and so was the set-list, but Adam re-interpreted the songs, making them fresh and unexpectedly different every night.
The YouTube videos only show one performance at a time, but to see his concert in its entirety, was another very pleasant surprise. The concert was divided into 3 clear acts, each with a beginning, middle and end, and in fact, each song was like that, too, the mark of a master story-teller. But I suppose I should not have been so surprised by that – his background is in musical theatre after all. And that might have explained the audience – I’ve never in all my life, seen such a diverse group of people – from grannies and grandpas to children, teenagers and everyone in between – all dancing and singing along and having a great time!
On top of that, Adam is not only a very strong stage performer, having honed his theatrical skills in musical theatre since the age of 10, he is totally at home on the stage, completely fearless, and utterly captivating and exciting to watch. His stage presence is simply overwhelming and, together with that voice, he is certainly one of the most important new artists of our time. No wonder then that he received a Grammy nomination for his song, Whataya want from me. I’m playing the version from his Acoustic Live EP, recorded during his recent sell-out tour.
The next song, which was written by British Rock Group, Muse, took my breath away from the first moment I’d heard it live in New Orleans. Oh yes, I was crazy enough to fly all the way to New Orleans for my first live Adam Lambert experience. And it was a night I’ll never forget.
The song is nearly operatic in its dramatic delivery and vaguely reminds of the operatic character, Pagliacci, something confirmed to me the other day when chatting to one of his fans. To me, Adam expresses something of the Pagliacci character himself. In fact, there is a lyric in the famous song, Mr Sandman, from the 1950’s which goes: “Give him a lonely heart like Pagliacci, and lots of wavy hair like Liberace.” Well, Adam doesn’t usually have wavy hair, but in this particular song, he certainly seems to have a lonely heart.
The song is called Soaked and I’m playing the acoustic version from his live Glam Nation Tour album. The CD and DVD recently became available and is for sale everywhere including on Amazon. The audio on this is almost even better than on the original album.
Truly, once in a lifetime, an artist such as Adam Lambert comes along to lift us out of our lives and infuse us with a new and different kind of energy, giving us renewed excitement, inspiration and healing, as can be done only through the universal language of music. He has been favourably compared to the likes of Freddie Mercury and Elvis, but to me, he’ll always be Adam Lambert – a one-off and in a unique league of his own.
It would be remiss of me not to play my favourite song from his For Your Entertainment album. It’s another song he co-wrote and I find the lyrics very inspirational. It’s called Aftermath.
There are many versions of this song, including a remix version designed to get you moving, and which sales benefits The Trevor Project in America, just one of the charities supported by Adam and his fans. But I want to play the version taken from his Acoustic Live EP, also recorded during his tour, and it too, is available as a download on iTunes. As we say goodbye to Adam Lambert for now, it’s exciting to know that he is in the process of creating his next album – can’t wait!
The programme concludes with an interview with Professor of Piano, Elizabeth Dockrell-Tyler about her CD of recorded tracks of Songs Without Words by Mendelssohn.
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