Adam Lambert Sarofim Hall, Hobby Center September 8, 2010
For more images from the show, see our slideshow here.
It doesn't matter that Adam Lambert is gay. You might think it does, but it doesn't. What matters is that he's not straight. Because we Americans understand straight; straightness has become our ideology.
Being straight in America is being alive in America. Adam Lambert isn't a singer, really, he's a symbol of our own sense of moral goodness. Lambert could be a singing towel rack, and he almost is, as long as he remains different. This one's on you, Obama.
As Americans, what do we want most? To be admired, or perhaps more appropriately, to admire ourselves. And nothing has given us a greater sense of self-admiration than electing a black President and then wearing his bumper sticker, saying, "See, I did this." Hold the phone, what'd you just say? I can do what? Elect an openly gay singer to represent me, the super-smart and progressive American, and the rest of the world will watch me do it?
Thank you, TV.
Adam Lambert came along at the perfect time in American history. We had just elected a man to lead a country that has, historically, hated people like him. We felt validated. Click, change the channel. There's a gay guy in the final of American Idol? Rack 'em up, this thing's over. We vote left.
Lambert is the perfect embodiment of American otherness - and the perfect embodiment of American guilt - so who really cares that he shouldn't have even made it in the door for the auditions? At least he's something. He's successful because he's allegorical, not because he's talented. And that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Yes, it's a very important lesson that we've taught ourselves that hey, gay dudes can sing, too. He's the first openly gay musician to land a major record deal in America. Really? Look it up, it's true. So in one sense, we did what was right. In another sense, we're idiots.
Adam Lambert, Nyquil made of skin shaped like a black light with a glued-on wig made of spiky black sanctimony, is about us, not about himself. From the look of the Hobby Center crowd Wednesday night, you'd have been hard-pressed to tell the difference between the stage and a stage-sized mirror, one that wants to give you a hug because you're kind to people who don't look like you.
People watch Lambert because they want to think they're better than they know they are. We all allowed him to be on American Idol - but not win; that's way too much to ask - because we've come so far as a country. We said yes, Adam, we will vote for you, but only because we know you'll thank us; and you know we deserve your thanks. We are, after all, pretty great. Where's the merch booth?
The crowd Wednesday night made it clear we've been waiting for this a long, long time. Smiles to the left, smiles to the right. Smugness up ahead, smugness right behind. The crazy super sold out show was a synchronous wave of "See, I told you I don't only like white bread. Gimme some sprinkles." It wasn't a concert, it was a giant hand patting us on our own guilty backs. We buy Lambert because we know he'll never be one of us. And we like it that way.
Yes, there were songs, like "Voodoo," "Fever," "Sleepwalker," "Whataya Want From Me," "Soaked" and "Ring of Fire" (yep, that "Ring of Fire"); but the songs don't matter. What matters most at an Adam Lambert concert is what happens during and in between those songs - when Lambert grinds with the boy in the makeup, when Lambert sticks his tongue on the cheek of the boy with pale face.
Because when that happens, the audience slinks and turns away as if these acts are unacceptable at shows featuring our idol. Guess we only pretend to be accepting. And this being the "Glam Nation" tour, there were the obligatory glam signifiers - light shows, background pictures of scary adorable wolves, the black leather fingerless gloves. But it felt contrived.
It was misappropriated opulence couched in the appearance of a burlesque show, but really it was a blown-up bucket full of stepped-on glitter. Adam Lambert makes people believe things they know they don't believe, and for an hour and a half Wednesday night we all got to play pretend.
And now we have to go back to work.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Personal Bias: Aftermath went in to the show loving glitter more than most things, so we were open.
The Crowd: Women over 50 with husbands uncomfortably holding their purses, young girls wearing super-high boots.
Overheard in the Crowd: "I got vajazzled for Adam Lambert, did you?" Vajazzling's the next wave; thank you, Adam.
Random Notebook Dump: What's the difference between an Adam Lambert concert and a third-grade talent show? You get free sno-cones at one.