Live Review: Adam Lambert, Melanie Martinez

27 January 2016 | 11:26 am | Bryget Chrisfield

"Lambert resembles a warrior (or Wizard Howl from Howl's Moving Castle come to life) strutting around in his sleeveless, The Matrix-inspired outfit."

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Lots of Queen T-shirts, sequins, leather and studs mill about outside the theatre as a helpful hint to passersby wondering who tonight's headliner may be. Plus one observes: "Some people are dressed like they're going to the Logies or something."

Before Melanie Martinez appears her two-piece backing band take their positions behind drum kit and fur-decorated keyboard, wearing matching teddy bear bonnets and colourful long-sleeved polo shirts. Martinez opens with Cry Baby. Daintily prancing around the stage in a frou frou baby doll dress and frilly socked feet, she casually drops F-bombs within her lyrics. Martinez's in-ear monitor seems to be giving her issues and she adjusts it constantly, sometimes removing it. She has a sweet voice and shy way of performing, often in profile and with eyes closed. When Martinez introduces Mrs Potato Head — with its anti-plastic surgery message — a loud cheer goes up. They close with Pity Party (which incorporates Lesley Gore's classic It's My Party within the chorus). Martinez came through The Voice US with Adam Levine as mentor; this is her first Australian tour and she obviously has a few fans in the house judging by the way they're dressed.

While we're distracted looking at the incredible, crystal-clear graphics on four strips of screen spread evenly across the back of the stage, the delectable Adam Lambert appears on a centre stage platform — as if out of nowhere — to perform Evil In The Night. The stage set-up is perfectly symmetrical: one backing vocalist downstage stage right, the other downstage stage left; drums on a stage-right riser, keys on a stage-left riser. The backing vocalists/dancers move around the stage with Lambert, framing his beauty. The male backing dancer, Terrance Spencer, clearly aches to be lead, tries way too hard and even hijacks the mic at one point later in the set (with disappointing results). Lambert resembles a warrior (or Wizard Howl from Howl's Moving Castle come to life) strutting around in his sleeveless, The Matrix-inspired outfit. Standout track Ghost Town — with its dark synth stabs and whistling refrain — was recently certified Gold in the States. Guitarist Adam Ross gets a few solos and we're well impressed (particularly during Run Away). Everyone sits down when Lambert's nowhere to be seen, but then he returns, post-costume change, in a beautifully cut magenta suit. He describes his show as "a journey", explaining we're now moving past the "dark and angsty" section. Whataya Want From Me perfectly showcases his pipes and we certainly can't ever imagine him hitting a bum note. His cover of Mad World by Tears For Fears could be given an extra injection of genuine emotion.

Another costume change sees Lambert returning sporting a gold metallic bomber jacket and cargos with matching gold detail. This is for what we'll call the 'upbeat Mardi Gras soundtrack' section (including The Original High, after which this tour is named). When the intro for Bowie's Let's Dance cranks out it's time to admire the talent in Lambert's backing band. We're waiting for a Queen song, 'cause the Queen + Adam Lambert tour really was all that, so are thrilled when a segment of Another One Bites The Dust is sandwiched in the middle of hammy song Trespassing.

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The drummer's solo in the encore is so varied in the tempos he demonstrates it just wouldn't seem possible on paper. One could never tire of looking at Lambert's genetically blessed face (those eyebrows!), his moves are on-point and boyfriend sure can belt out a tune. Is it unfair to compare this solo show with the tour that saw him fronting Queen? Probably, 'cause few bands, if any — past or present — have a setlist to rival Queen's.