How Far Would You Travel for a Concert?

Story time: imagine you’re in eighth grade and all of a sudden, your life does a 180. You learn to see people in a new light, all sense of judgment seems to fly out the window, you begin to understand your self worth, and start to see that anything you want is within reach if you just take a chance and work for it. You’ve been completely inspired and when you look back you realize that the spark that ignited that inspiration was a 26-year-old stage actor who took a chance and auditioned for a singing show. That was me eight years ago and now that stage actor is a global superstar named Adam Lambert.

Since American Idol, he has sold out hundreds of shows, done two world tours with three amazing albums, and become the new front man for Queen. Because I was younger at the time, I was not allowed to go to his first concert in Washington, DC; that basically killed me, and I’m still salty about it to this day. But since then I have dropped hundreds of dollars on concert tickets and traveled all along the East Coast in order to catch him at various radio shows and on his tour with Queen; I even had the chance to meet him in 2012. But when I literally crossed an ocean to see him, I’m pretty sure I reached a new level of insanity.

Last summer, when Adam dropped his third studio album, The Original High, I had a feeling he would probably start touring just as I left for my study abroad in Morocco—and I was right. But I was determined not to miss another solo tour, so to the Internet I went! Furiously, I searched through the dates and locations of his European leg looking for a show that I could attend during a weekend jaunt. A Thursday evening in London seemed like the perfect show! So I recruited Michelle as a travel buddy and we booked a flight and hostel, and bought floor tickets to the Hammersmith Theater.

On the day of the concert, as we were flying to London, I realized just how far I was traveling for this dude. I was nearly 4,000 miles from my hometown, and only slightly disappointed that my insanity had led me on this amazing adventure! But as I stood in line outside the venue, surrounded by my people, I felt like I was home. Glamberts ranging in age from 5 to 95 were popping champagne and waiting patiently in a long, winding queue. Once the doors opened we all flooded in and found a place on the packed dance floor. After the opening act left the stage, the excitement in the room amped up as a swirling light show of graphics spelled out his first name. When Adam appeared in a red leather outfit, showing off tattooed arms and astounding vocals, the crowd exploded from zero to alone-in-your-bathroom-style belting, as the room collectively sang (screamed?) along.

If there’s anything that Idol teaches its contestants to do, it’s how to sing live and how to do it well. The Queen guitarist, Brian May, describes Lambert’s voice as a sound that “reaches out with sensitivity, depth, maturity, and awesome range and power which will make jaws drop all around the world,” and he is right! Throughout the 90-minute show Adam sang and danced around the stage, connecting with every member of his audience. He started the set full of energy, then changed into a classy suit and got serious. He got on his soapbox and began to preach about diversity, acceptance, and how music has this amazing power to bring so many different people together. Later, he even name-dropped and pointed out his fellow Queen members, Brian and Rodger, in the audience. (I’m not going to lie: I had almost forgotten we were in London at this point and freaked out a little that they were there.) Then Adam changed again into a black and white tie-dyed ensemble and brought the party back. By selecting his best-loved singles and some fan favorites, all three of his studio albums were represented, with a couple of covers thrown into the mix too. Adam paid homage to his American Idol roots with a cover of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World” (I may have cried for that one), pulled off a great tribute to David Bowie with “Let’s Dance,” and then closed with the Queen classic, “Another One Bites the Dust.”

After the lights went out a slightly deafened Michelle and I headed for the London Underground. We desperately searched for something to drink in order to soothe our sore vocal cords, and watched as other concertgoers sang and danced through the station, darting off in every direction to catch their trains. That night I barely slept; the next day we began to explore London!

—Hannah Debeljak