INTERVIEW: Adam Lambert juggles solo career, leading Queen, TV judging

Queen + Adam Lambert brought their Rhapsody Tour to sold out State Farm Arena on Thursday, August 22, 2019. Original Queen bandmates Brian May (guitars) and Roger taylor (drums) joined Adam Lambert and his amazing vocals.
Robb Cohen Photography & Video/ RobbsPhotos.com

Combined ShapeCaption
Queen + Adam Lambert brought their Rhapsody Tour to sold out State Farm Arena on Thursday, August 22, 2019. Original Queen bandmates Brian May (guitars) and Roger taylor (drums) joined Adam Lambert and his amazing vocals. Robb Cohen Photography & Video/ RobbsPhotos.com

He will be at The Eastern in Atlanta May 6.

Moving beyond a reality show appearance isn’t always easy. Among “American Idol” alums, only a handful have built resumés so rich, the origin story is a mere starting point. Examples include Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson and Carrie Underwood.

Among the dudes, Adam Lambert is arguably the most successful. He didn’t win season eight 13 years ago, but he built a worldwide fan base with a successful solo career that led to his stint as lead singer of Queen since 2014. Since then, he has balanced both sides of his music career as well as several reality show judging gigs.

Combined ShapeCaption
Demi Lovato, left, and Adam Lambert perform together during the 2021 Global Citizen Live event, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. The 24-hour live event took place on six continents and featured recording artists and celebrities raising awareness around poverty, climate change and the need for more access to COVID-19 vaccine doses worldwide. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Credit: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Demi Lovato, left, and Adam Lambert perform together during the 2021 Global Citizen Live event, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. The 24-hour live event took place on six continents and featured recording artists and celebrities raising awareness around poverty, climate change and the need for more access to COVID-19 vaccine doses worldwide. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Credit: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Combined ShapeCaption
Demi Lovato, left, and Adam Lambert perform together during the 2021 Global Citizen Live event, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. The 24-hour live event took place on six continents and featured recording artists and celebrities raising awareness around poverty, climate change and the need for more access to COVID-19 vaccine doses worldwide. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Credit: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Credit: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Lambert’s innate fashion sense, genial personality and bracing vocal power enabled him to transcend his “Idol” roots and establish a life that plays off his multiple talents. He is currently on a brief five-date solo tour, stopping at the Eastern in Atlanta May 6 before embarking on a stadium tour through Europe with Queen. The capacity of the Eastern (2,300) is comparable to The Tabernacle (2,600), where he performed in 2016. (He also performed at State Farm Arena as lead singer of Queen in 2019.)

>>RELATED: 2016 concert review at The Tabernacle

>>RELATED: 2019 concert review at State Farm Arena

In a recent interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Lambert said the set list will be a blend of 20 originals, covers and Queen songs.

“It’s been a weird couple of years,” he said. “The world is moving again. I’m excited to give the audience a good night. I’m putting together a bunch of songs I love.”

He last did a bunch of dates in Las Vegas in fall 2021 at the Venetian.

It was Halloween time so I covered darker stuff,” he said, like “Ghost in Town,” “Voodoo” and “Evil in the Night.” “We’re in the spring into the summer. I plan to lighten it up, not make it too heavy. It’s going to be real fun.”

And given the brevity of the tour, he grabbed who he could for his four-piece band and it ended up being three-quarters female, “It’s going to be a cool vibe,” he said.

At the same time, he added, “I’m not trying to virtue signal. I’ve been a queer person who entered the music industry as a fish out of water. It’s interesting to now, over a decade later, just shift up the work environment and make everyone feel represented and comfortable.”

Lambert said his fashion and musical inspiration still goes back to before he was born: the 1970s. “It feels like home,” he said. “I really like going back to that decade. It’s clearly a thing right now. And I have an impulse to do that. My last album ‘Velvet’ is very much a modern take on the 1970s. It’s part of my DNA.”

With all the downtime, Lambert’s focus has been on creating a musical and, not surprisingly, it’s a rock musical set in the 1970s. “It’s about a real life guy not a lot of people knew about,” he said. “His story deserves to be told.”

And Lambert’s plans for his next album? “It will be a concept album in the tradition of ‘Tommy’ or ‘Jesus Christ Superstar.’ Fans will be in for a treat.”

Lambert has also been in demand over the years as a reality show judge. On occasion, he has set aside time to do an episode of “Project Runway” or “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” He also judged a season of “X Factor Australia” and a recent E! show “Clash of the Cover Bands.” Earlier this year, he was a judge on the U.K. show “Starstruck” featuring regular men and women emulating their musical heroes, like Marvin Gaye, Ariana Grande, Tina Turner or Freddie Mercury.

“With ‘X Factor,’ the stakes are high,” Lambert said. “They want to get a record deal. ‘Starstruck’ is much lighter. These are just people who have a hobby or a side gig impersonating somebody. It’s more a celebration of the artists that they’re honoring.”

And his Glambert fan base is still super loyal. They recently helped Lambert win an “American Idol” top singer of all time competition via a top 64 “March Madness”-style bracket competition hosted by the Birmingham, Alabama, website AI.com. He ended up beating hometown favorite Taylor Hicks in the finals.

“There has been a core group of fans that have been with me since the beginning,” he said. “I recognize them at shows. I know everyone’s face. It feels safe, like a family reunion or family holiday. I still feel very flattered and humbled.”

He also said Roger Taylor and Brian May, the two remaining members of the original Queen, have become family as well.

Lambert recalls his very first audition with “Idol” in 2008 in front of Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, Kara DioGuardi and Paula Abdul. His first song, Michael Jackson’s “Rock With Me,” didn’t work.

Combined ShapeCaption
Adam Lambert of Los Angeles, a finalist on "American Idol," arrives at the American Idol Top 13 Party in Los Angeles, Thursday, March 5, 2009. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

Adam Lambert of Los Angeles, a finalist on "American Idol," arrives at the American Idol Top 13 Party in Los Angeles, Thursday, March 5, 2009. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

Combined ShapeCaption
Adam Lambert of Los Angeles, a finalist on "American Idol," arrives at the American Idol Top 13 Party in Los Angeles, Thursday, March 5, 2009. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

“They looked at me and squinted and didn’t say much,” he recalled. “That was not a good sign. I’d been doing theater for ages. I knew my way around an audition. So I gave them something else. That something else was Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’ I read the room. The rest is history.”

During that season, May and Taylor decided to perform “We Are the Chamions” with Lambert during the season finale after having seen Lambert’s Led Zeppelin cover of “Whole Lotta Love.” A few years later, they decided to invite him to be Queen’s lead singer with the specific request not to imitate Mercury but to simply honor the music. That is what has enabled the band to continue to tour in arenas and stadiums the past decade.

“All these little beautiful synchronistic moments with Queen,” Lambert said. “It was meant to be.”


IN CONCERT

Adam Lambert

7:30 p.m. May 6. $57.50-$99.50. The Eastern, 777 Memorial Drive SE, Building C, Atlanta. easternatl.com.