ATLANTIC CITY — Glam rock is alive and well, and Adam Lambert is loving every campy, over-the-top second of it.
Hitting the stage dressed like a trippy circus ringmaster and singing his hit "Voodoo," Lambert, the Season 8 runner-up of "American Idol," kicked off the Atlantic City portion of his "Glam Nation" tour with a non-stop, one-hour set Saturday night at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.
The show, of course, brought out the expected, and sometimes rabid, Idol worshippers — the fans who scream at the first strum of the guitar for Lambert's current radio hit "Whataya Want From Me."
"Hello!" Lambert exclaimed to the screaming crowd after his opening number. "Welcome to New Jersey. Wow!"
Lambert may have ultimately taken second place on the show (the "Idol" title ended up going to singer Kris Allen — and some fans never quite got over it), but Lambert has taken the opportunity second place affords and run with it. Lambert live, as evidenced Saturday, is an experience for the fan, complete with laser lights, a posse of dancers and multiple costume changes that would make Boy George proud.
Luckily, the substance matched the style.
Lambert's range was on full display in ballads like "Soaked," and he threw in a few acoustic versions of songs for good measure. Fun pop stylings like "Music Again" — a campy dance number reminiscent of another over-the-top band, The Darkness — kept the show moving at a good pace.
Lambert was smart to play to the predominantly teen, tween and middle-aged mom crowd, and toned down the overt sexuality that has landed him in hot water in the past (kissing a male keyboardist during an televised performance in November resulted in ABC's "Good Morning America" dropping him as a musical guest). Instead, for his single "Fever," Lambert replaced boy-on-boy kisses and gyrating pelvic thrusts with merely putting his arm around said keyboardist (with a little bit of sexy dancing, of course).
Australian-born singer-guitarist Orianthi, who opened for Lambert, started her set off with a bang — a drum and bass beat literally felt in your chest — and a wicked opening guitar riff that quickly explained why she was originally supposed to be the lead guitarist for Michael Jackson's "This Is It" concert tour. There were a few hints of pop-rock-sweetness that won the crowd over, like Orianthi's "Shut Up and Kiss Me" from her debut album "Believe." (She asked the crowd to repeatedly scream "shut up," garnering cheers.) But Orianthi's hard-rock edge and sound seemed at times like it belonged to different type of concert entirely — and more than a few of the young Lambert fans used portions of her 50-minute set as a chance to hit up the bathrooms.
Alison Iraheta, who took third place behind Lambert in Season 8 of Idol, opened Saturday's show. To close your eyes and just listen to Iraheta sing, one might think Joan Jett was in the building. Her powerhouse vocals and non-stop energy — albeit during a brief, 20-minute set — did move the Idol fans in the crowd. Still, Iraheta, while gifted vocally, lacks the charisma that Lambert just naturally oozes. If she can polish up the stage presence a little, Iraheta could potentially be performing for bigger crowds.
But if Saturday's show proved anything, it's that headlining is clearly Lambert's thing.