Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Concert Review: Adam Lambert / Orianthi/ Allison Iraheta Pacific Amphitheatre, Costa Mesa, CA 7/28/10

by Randi Reed
Adam Lambert

Having been a cheerleader of Adam Lambert from his first audition on American Idol, it was easy to say yes when a friend asked me to come along to see his show at the Pacific Amphitheatre...

…but I also didn’t know what to expect. Would it be the pseudo electronica alterna-dance Adam of his current CD, For Your Entertainment? Would it be the guylinered, leather-and-black-nail-polished “Rocker Adam” my girlfriends and I all crushed over during his early American Idol episodes?

What about the music? Would it sound like the album, or would the arrangements be the slightly guitar-heavier sound of his TV talk show performances of late? So many questions! Between you and me, after years of working in the live concert business and seeing “the man behind the curtain,” it was nice not knowing what was going to happen going in.

Adam Lambert is so good at what he does, and has such a commanding stage presence, it’s easy to forget this is his first major tour as a solo artist. He has a beautiful voice, which has become clearer and richer since Idol. His stage persona morphs easily from slightly dark magician-esque court jester, to gay cabaret rave dance host, to concerned friend of teens who are worried about feeling like a freak…all while somehow seeming to remain uniquely himself.

Watching him, I kept forgetting that, musical theater experience aside, he’s still pretty new at this. In fact, in my notes I’d just written “Adam Lambert is the male Cher”--which is a good, cool thing by the way; Cher is a fantastic performer--when I was reminded of his newness by a far-too-long “quick” change, complete with empty stage. That would never happen to Cher. Why weren’t the dancers sent out? Since the long “quick change” seemed planned into the production, here the problem stems from poor planning in production design and stage management, not necessarily Adam Lambert. Unfortunately, Adam’s name is the one on the ticket.

Until this point, I’d almost forgiven him for the fact that the show’s opening intro--a recording of “For Your Entertainment,” his CD’s title track--went on too long and that his entrance needed reworking. The logical thing would have been for Adam to go live and pop out from somewhere unexpected on the line “I’m here for your entertainment.” But that never happened. Instead, we were left staring at an empty stage with a backdrop of Adam’s face (from the CD cover) as the song played on…an unnecessary disappointment, and a waste of precious set time.

Additionally, though his musical theater experience serves him well, it hinders his performance as a pop star when it comes to crowd energy management. He commands the stage, but has not yet mastered the crowd. He had them, then the spell--and its accompanying energy--was broken by the long quick change, and then again later by an awkwardly placed introduction of every dancer (individually, by name) in the middle of a high energy dance number that had the crowd dancing only seconds before.

These issues likely stem from the fact that musical theater requires its performers to ignore crowd distractions and keep going according to script. Conversely, being a great live pop or rock star requires paying attention to everything happening in the crowd and ad libbing it to your advantage. … It’s a tough switch, but with his talent, Adam Lambert can do it. Until then, a few changes to the production design could help him out.

Oh, and as for the guylinered, leather-and-black-nail-polished “Rocker Adam”? I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss seeing this side of him live. But sometimes guylinered, leather clad rock and roll guys are a dime a dozen. Unique artists like Adam Lambert are needed in this world. Adam’s message that it’s OK to be different is especially important for gay teens…or for that matter, for anyone who’s ever felt awkward or out of place. And that’s every bit as cool.


One has to give guitar phenom Orianthi and her team a lot of credit for pulling together an album and tour after what was undoubtedly a difficult blow, both personally and professionally: Orianthi was the guitarist for Michael Jackson’s ill-fated This is It tour, which was in rehearsals when Michael died suddenly.

Had Michael lived, Orianthi would still be out on that tour as I write this. Knowing what it takes for a relatively unknown to put together an album and tour--let alone having to suddenly switch marketing plans while dealing with the death of your boss--I have a lot of respect for her.

Orianthi has fast fingers, good stage presence, and an interesting look. She clearly has strong rock roots—influences of Eddie Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix, and even a little Slash are evident in her playing. Yet interestingly, she comes off as cheerful, not angry. In fact, Orianthi reminds me in a way of a blonde Suzi Quatro, if Suzi Quatro had a chirpily happy stage persona, sang songs with poppy choruses, and wore white or pastel leather…or perhaps she's like a young Lita Ford, without the F-you attitude.

Much of Oranthi’s music is radio friendly, which her voice fits perfectly. She sings it well, though her voice isn’t unique…not bad at all (if anything, she makes it look too easy), just not unique. Her first single, “According to You,” has a good, poppy chorus with lyrics delivering a surprisingly serious, positive message against emotionally abusive relationships. The juxtaposition works well, making the song stand far above the rest of the songs in the set.

On the negative side, her guitar work was a distraction rather than a plus at times, being a little out of tune and a bit sloppy on a couple of songs that had a more demanding vocal. On “Give Me the Bad News” it was…well, perhaps writing the word “atrocious” in my show notes was too strong, but close. Her vocals were fine, though, so reworking the guitar parts a bit would do the trick here.

Overall, Orianthi delivered decent songs, good stage presence, and a good performance, but her set still needs a little work...perhaps reworking the order of the set list or changing some of the arrangements to vary the tempos. But ultimately, Orianthi seems a good, accessible “starter rock star”…especially for girls who are past Disney but who aren’t quite up to someone more edgy and angry.

Allison Iraheta:

One of the frustrating things about American Idol has been its skill at killing a good artist’s rock cred. Idol’s core audience tends to be frightened by anything edgy or angry, and the audience that would usually like the edgier contestants is kept away by the perception that anyone who’s been on American Idol can’t possibly be cool.

This, I fear, may be the nemesis of Allison Iraheta’s career: the girl is just too cool for American Idol.

With powerful stage presence and a flirty-cool rocker chick stage persona, she comes off wise beyond her years. Her naturally raspy voice sounded a little tour –weary, but it somehow works for her, and sounded edgy and cool rather than tired.

In fact, she reminds me a little of the Divinyls’ Christina Amphlett, but with her own unique vibe, and I can see her potential to develop a similar cult following. But then there’s that damn American Idol thing hanging on her back.

She performed a good set overall, with a decent band, albeit with some “help”: it bothered me that I could hear her voice on the backup vocals and not just on the lead. With her talent, Allison Iraheta doesn’t need to resort to such tricks, which only further lessen her credibility in the rock world…which is a shame, because without the Idol mark on her back, I feel she could be a contender to be huge in the rock world. (A colleague remarked, “Maybe she could change her name and start over to get rid of the Idol thing?”)

All in all, I enjoyed Allison's set and would see her again; frankly, I enjoyed her performance more than Orianthi’s. Aside from the vocal help, the only major flaw I could find with Allison Iraheta’s performance was that it came to an abrupt end; she ran offstage with nary a “thank you”, bow, or goodnight.

But first tours are for learning that sort of thing.


Follow me on Twitter @MusicBizAdvice.

ETA 7/14: a broken Twitter link and to correct a typo in Alison's review.--RR

© 2010-2013 Randi Reed and All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Relief for Haiti: where to help

Update 6:30PM 1/18/2010: The allegations against Wyclef and his foundation have been proven false by several IRS tax experts who examined the documents for various media outlets. We've added Yele Haiti and its earthquake relief fund back to the list. 

Meanwhile, the Larry King special on CNN raised over $1 million dollars for the Red Cross and UNICEF in its first hour.
Update 1/18/2010: Some media reports are accusing Wyclef's foudnation, Yele Haiti, and its Hatian earthquke relief fund of imporoper use of funds. Wyclef strongly and adamently denies this. Until it's all sorted out, we have removed Yele Haiti and the Yele Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund from the list of charities below.

Meanwhile, tonight 1/18/2010 on CNN from 8-10P.M. EST Larry King is hosting a 2-hour special to raise funds for Haitian earthquake relief. Guests include Ryan Seacrest, Mick Jagger, Seal, Tea Leone, John Mayer, Susan Sarandon, Ben Stiller, Nicole Richie, Ashley Judd, Christina Aguillera, and more. 

Links and resources for Haiti Earthquake Relief

As always, we encourage you to check out any charities you may be interested in at

CNN's website is loaded with the latest news and infomation about the quake and relief efforts. Must-see: Dr. Sanjay Gupta's reports. Gupta, a practicing neurosurgeon, is a CNN reporter who has been treating injured people in addition to filing excellent reports for CNN. At one point, fearing security concerns, a medical team in charge of a field hospital where Gupta and his crew reporting packed up and left, leaving Gupta to care for patients. Gupta trained his CNN crew to help, and all remained stable through the night.
Twitter @Sanjayguptacnn

An extensive CNN web page list of charities and relief organizations can be found here:

President Obama has asked former Presidents Clinton and Bush2 to partner on Haitian earthquake relief as Presidents Clinton and Bush1 did successfully for tsunami relief. The organization's relief fund is here:

The William Jefferson Clinton Foundation website has information and resources, including phone numbers for family members to call to check on the status of loved ones, plus direct links to organizations accepting donations. Regardless of your political views, I recommend the Clinton Foundation because they have an established history of success working in poor areas to help alleviate diseases such as AIDS and Malaria. Because of this, the Clinton Foundation has resources and partners already in place which can be extended toward Haitian earthquake relief. Also, President Clinton is the UN Special Envoy to Haiti.

Doctors Without Borders was in Haiti before the earthquake and needs lots of help, as their own medical facilities, plus all the hospitals in Haiti were damaged or demolished by the earthquake:

The earthquake damaged / demolished UN relief facilities which had been in Haiti before the earthquake, and many UN personnel are injured or dead, so much help is needed. As Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, hunger is of particular concern:

UN World Food Programme


American Red Cross has links to Haiti information / donations:

Or, you can donate $10 to the Red Cross via text by texting HAITI to 90999. 100% of funds will go to Haiti earthquake relief.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is a partnership of all the Red Crosses and similar organizations:

Oxfam America is an affiliate of Oxfam International, which is an international relief and development organization that works with individuals and local groups in over 100 countries:

MercyCorps is an organization dedicated to alleviating poverty and social injustice by helping people around the world build strong communities:

Partners in Health partners with communities to bring healthcare and health information to impoverished areas:

Celebrities working on Haiti earthquake relief projects 
Check their official websites or follow them on Twitter for information. Publicists / managers of celebrity clients feel free to email me a short blurb describing your client's Haiti earthquake relief involvement, along with publishable public contact information for the project (i.e., public website, verified public twitter or verified public Facebook) to muzbizadvc(at)aol(dot)com with "Client news Haiti" in the subject line. Please note that due to time constraints for this project, the client must be an already-established celebrity or well-established artist or band, and that the Haiti Celebrity List project is not a venue for promoting new talent. Because of the number of scams that are likely to arise from the Haiti tragedy, my policy is firm on this.

Larry King
is hosting a 2-hour special on CNN Monday 1/18/2010 for Haitian earthquake relief. Guest include Ryan Seacrest, Mick Jagger, Tea Leone, John Mayer, Susan Sarandon, Ben Stiller, Nicole Richie, Ashley Judd, Christina Aguillera, and more.

Slash (former Guns 'n' Roses guitarist), is organizing a charity concert and is looking for 12 artists [with a draw--RR] who want to help out:
Twitter @SlashHudson

Wyclef Jean
's foundationm Yele Haiti, has an earthquake relief fund. To donate $5.00 to earthquake relief, text YELE to 501501.

Alyssa Milano is challenging a corporation to come forward to match her $50,000 donation to Unicef's Haiti's earthquake relief fund:

Twitter @Alyssa_Milano

Lady Gaga
is donating all her ticket sales and merchandise revenue from her January 24 Monster Ball concert to Haitian earthquake relief. Also on the 24th, all merchandise sales from will go to Haitian earthquake relief.

House's Olivia Wilde is on the advisory board of Artists For Peace and Justice, which has been active in Haiti for some time and is now raising money for quake relief. Additional advisory board members include Maria Bello, Josh Brolin, James FrancoJimmy Jean-Louis, Natasha Koifman, Diane Lane, Michael Stahl-David, Oliver Stone, Madeline Stowe, Charlize Theron, and Peter Tunney.
Twitter @oliviawilde

Ben Stiller
's foundation, the Stiller Strong Foundation, is an education foundation for Haiti's children. It was active in Haiti before the quake and is accepting donations for quake relief. Additionally, Ben Stiller took to the airwaves to rally donations for the Red Cross's $10 text donation program and is planning to run a 10K at the end of March to raise funds for Stiller Strong Foundation.
Twitter @redhourben

George Clooney
is organizing and hosting the Hope For Haitian earthquake relief telethon which will air on MTV networks, plus ABC, NBC, HBO, and CNN on January 22 at 8-10P.M. EST.

Oprah's Angel Network has donated $1 million to the Red Cross for Haitian earthquake relief.

Quincy Jones is reworking and organizing a new recording of the hit single "We Are the World" with proceeds to benefit Haitian earthquake relief.

Tiger Woods has donated 3 million dollars to earthquake relief.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie donated 1 million dollars to Doctors Without Borders. Their Jolie-Pitt Foundation helps with humanitarian causes throughout the world.

Craig Ferguson has publicly challenged Rush Limbaugh to make up for his insensitive remarks by "donating 1 million dollars of his own money to the Red Cross."