The "American Idol" runner-up had his work cut out for him at… (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles…)
"Do I look like a firework?" Adam Lambert cooed from the stage at Gridlock's fourth annual New Year's Eve bash. "That was my motivation."
Sporting his signature finger-less gloves and going a little heavier on the usual glitter and guyliner allotment, the "American Idol" runner-up had his work cut out for him at the Paramount Pictures lot Thursday night: executing his first full set of original music in front of about 4,500 revelers, each of whom had paid at least $150 to get in and had already downed a few, and making a proper return to the spotlight -- complete with fireworks -- following the American Music Awards fiasco that ostensibly got him barred from big-ticket television specials like Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve.
And like any good professional entertainer, Lambert delivered, only this time without the cheap theatrics. Sure, there was the occasional crotch grab and pelvic thrust (all self-directed), but his most controversial move of the night turned out to be a dramatic swig from a flask, followed by a disclaimer of sorts. "I'm not promoting alcoholism by any means," he cautioned, "but long live rock 'n' roll!" Downright saccharine compared with the AMAs a month ago.
Is this a new, dialed back Adam Lambert? Hardly. This is what a $50,000 nontelevised production budget affords you, and as the man of the hour explained to reporters earlier in the night, "The show was thrown together last minute . . . kind of fly by the seat of our pants." Indeed, his 40-minute performance lacked the sophisticated stage direction of "Idol" but felt more like a club gig, and Lambert, ever the showman, seemed happier for it.
Clearly relishing his headlining slot, Lambert hit his groove with dance-floor-ready songs such as "For Your Entertainment," the title track off his debut album, and "Fever," which, he explained to the crowd, was also recorded under the influence (Lady Gaga was to blame).
But his best moment was undoubtedly the grand finale: wailing Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" with the same conviction that carried him through four months of competition on "Idol."
So was it as good for the crowd as it was for him? Considering the name of the event, attendees seemed pleasantly surprised by the lack of traffic, both inside the grounds and out, allowing for easy viewing. The party itself spanned six studio-sized streets with multiple DJs and a second stage hosted by reality star Shayne Lamas, but there was plenty of elbowroom.
One recent transplant from New York City, dancer Kumari Suraj of North Hollywood, marveled at how stress-free an L.A. New Year's can be. "This is like our fake New York on a smaller scale so we can tolerate it," she said. "It's nice."
That sentiment was echoed by Miracle Mile resident Oscar Triana, who said he chose Gridlock as an alternative to "something obvious like a club," and big names such as hostess Pamela Anderson and Adam Lambert didn't hurt, either.
For others, such as Daisy Meyer from the Valley, a Lambert fan who had actually attended the "Idol" finale, the night was all about the people watching.
Naturally, the person taking most stock of the environment was Lambert himself, who revealed earlier in the night that on New Year's Eve 2008, he was also performing, as part of a cabaret just down the road on La Cienega Boulevard.
"I sang at midnight like I'm doing tonight," he reminisced. "Only there's a couple more people at this venue."
Make that the last understatement of his fairy tale year.