From talk show performances earlier in 2019, it was clear that Adam Lambert’s fourth solo project was going to be influenced by the sounds of the 1970s. After all, Lambert has been performing lead vocals for Queen – one of the decade’s best-known bands, so the influence is understandable. Listening to the new EP, Velvet Side A brings an engaging – albeit brief – vocal performance from Lambert. The overall production receives inspiration from the past without getting lost in it.
Speaking about those talk show performances, the first single, “New Eyes” isn’t on Velvet Side A. Perhaps Lambert will save that song plus “Coming In Hot” for Side B. In the meantime, the funk-tinged second single and opener “Superpower” has echoes of Freddy Mercury (in an “Another One Bites the Dust” framework) as well as Faith-era George Michael. He brings similar George Michael energy to “Loverboy” with a touch of Chic. “Closer to You”, the album’s expressive third single sounds like it’s from the songbook of Pink. “Overglow”, the fourth track on the EP with a vocal performance that in my mind oscillates between Fleetwood Mac and 80’s era Heart.
At just six songs, Velvet Side A may be Lambert’s best project yet. Looking forward to hearing Side B whenever it’s released.
At around 6:00 p.m. on July 13, 2019, excitement is building
in delicious anticipation from all walks of life at The Pavilion at Toyota
Music Factory; black folks, white folks, interracial couples, gay and lesbian
couples, people in shorts and flip flops, others in three-piece suits,
skin-tight dresses and stilettos—all buzzing with conversations about one man:
Michael McDonald’s co-headlining tour with Chaka Khan is to
introduce his audiences and fans to new music from his 2017 album, Wide Open. It has been 17 years since we
have had new music from McDonald, and it features collaborations with Branford
Marsalis, Robben Ford, and Marcus Miller. Tonight’s performance features
McDonald on guitar, piano, and lead vocals, we have Bernie Chiaravalle on
guitar and vocals, Jacob Lowery on bass, Dan Needham on drums and percussion,
Mark Douthhit on saxophone and keyboards, Pat Coil on keyboards, and Drea
Rhenee’ on vocal and percussion.
As I sat outside the pavilion in this Texas heat waiting for
my concert companion, I struck up some conversations with fellow McDonald fans.
We discussed specific songs that we hoped he would play. Familiar statements
such as “soundtrack of my childhood” and “blue-eyed soul” kept popping up. One person
drove over two hours to be there, expressing that this was possibility his 24th
time seeing McDonald live. He felt that due to the recent death of specific
entertainers, he feels that it is still very important to come out and see
aging artists before they are gone. Others shook their collective heads in
approval, and then conversations delved into artists we have lost.
Upon entering the pavilion and finding our seats, the lights
dimmed as his band enters the stage to thunderous applause. McDonald walks out
shortly after his band, and takes a seat behind a black grand piano. McDonald
welcomes us stating that it was great to be back in the great state of Texas
and invites us to sing along if we know the words. We did just that! He
performed his 1983 hit, ‘Ya Mo Be There’, made even more emotional given James
Ingram’s recent passing. However, with the infectious groove and McDonald’s powerful
voice, no one could be sad for long.
McDonald primarily remained seated behind his piano for the
rest of the performance and cranks out the solo hits, including ‘I Keep
Forgettin’, ‘Sweet Freedom’, and a duet
of ‘On My Own’ where back-up singer Drea Rhenee’ makes the Patti LaBelle part
all her own and brought the house down. McDonald also served the Doobie
Brothers’ classics, ‘Here To Love You’, ‘Minute By Minute’, and ‘What A Fool
Believes’. Next up is his Motown set including ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’,
‘Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing’, then bringing Chaka Khan and her crew out
to end his set with ‘Takin’ It To The Streets’.
As good as McDonald’s set was, there was some speculation in the audience as to why he did not perform any of his new material from Wide Open. Some stated that he seemed ill and was very low energy. Others stated they were worried because of his age. All questions were answered when, to my surprise, back-up singer Drea Rhenee’ came and sat down in the audience (next to me!) during stage changes, preparing for Chaka Khan. Ms. Rhenee’ stated that McDonald had a cold so many changes had to be made including but not limited to performing first instead of closing and not performing any new material. Rhenee’ welcomed well-wishers, took pictures with them, answered questions then posed for a picture with me since we were sitting right next to one another—as we waited with excitement for Chaka Khan’s upcoming set!