â€œShould I show her this?â€ one young woman wondered out loud to her friend, nodding at the item of clothing in her hand.
â€œNo,â€ her friend replied, shaking her head vigorously. â€œNo.â€
And no, Leila Lambert probably wasnâ€™t interested in a white jockstrap with pink lettering on it, a tribute to her son Adam, the runner-up on the â€œAmerican Idolâ€ season that ended in May.
Losing the competition â€” to the tepid Kris Allen, who has most likely inspired no homespun jockstrap tributes â€” has done little to dilute the phenomenon of Mr. Lambert, as was clear at the Prudential Center here on Sunday night. This yearâ€™s â€œAmerican Idols Live!â€ tour, which features the Top 10 performers of Season 8 on Fox, could have easily passed for an Adam Lambert concert with nine supporting acts.
Mr. Lambert, perhaps the most currently visible openly gay American musician, received a thunderous reception from the audience, far louder than that for anyone else. His mother, seated in the audience, barely had a moment to herself between camera-wielding fans. He had the sharpest merchandise, including a David Bowie-esque black T-shirt with neon accents. And his fans were the most, um, creative, from personalized intimates to an L.C.D.-display belt buckle that scrolled â€œADAMâ€ ad nauseam to a sign, ringed with Christmas lights, that read â€œAdam electrifies my life!â€
He didnâ€™t even have to use his superhuman voice, largely keeping it in check during his set, which inspired flying jockstraps and, yes, bras too. Wearing a distressed-leather ensemble, he instead concentrated on poses, every moment camera-ready: sinuous on Led Zeppelinâ€™s â€œWhole Lotta Love,â€ pensive during â€œMad Worldâ€ (the Gary Jules version). During a medley of David Bowie songs he showed some skin, wearing a vest over a bare chest, and turned glam king, purring the lyrics, lost in a dance reverie.
Mr. Lambert has traveled almost the whole distance from overrehearsed and hammy to effortless and charming. And heâ€™s learned that vocally, less can be more: where his singing often felt gratuitously indulgent on the show, here he employed restraint, and effectively so.
So relaxed was Mr. Lambert that he practically ceded the nightâ€™s musical high points to others. Anoop Desai was precise and devastating on â€œAlways on My Mindâ€ (though goofy on Bobby Brownâ€™s â€œMy Prerogativeâ€). The most muscular vocalist â€œIdolâ€ has seen in some years, Danny Gokey, came alive on the Rascal Flatts songs â€œWhat Hurts the Mostâ€ and â€œMy Wish,â€ shouting the refrains like a melodic Henry Rollins.
Allison Iraheta, this seasonâ€™s most impressive female contestant, was appealingly messy, sounding but not looking far beyond her 17 years. And the typically dull Lil Rounds showed surprising flashes of personality on BeyoncÃ©â€™s â€œSingle Ladies (Put a Ring on It).â€
Scott MacIntyre performed a roaring duet of Billy Joelâ€™s â€œTell Her About Itâ€ with Matt Giraud, whose lovely, facile voice, especially during his solo rendition of â€œGeorgia on My Mind,â€ was far more impressive live than on TV. (With crowd bias heavily in favor of Mr. Lambert, the bold individualist who wore a â€œMatt Giraud Is Banginâ€™ â€ T-shirt deserves special commendation.)
Watching this show gave no indicators that, offstage, â€œIdolâ€ has been in a bit of turmoil. This seasonâ€™s finale was one of the lowest-rated in the showâ€™s history. And last week Paula Abdul, one of the showâ€™s four judges and its lone source of nurturing, announced she would depart following a stalled contract negotiation. No replacement has been announced, and no one onstage mentioned her. Here, the only reminder of the showâ€™s potential vulnerability was its winner, Mr. Allen. As this seasonâ€™s champion, he headlines the concert â€” but that is no prize because each night he has to follow Mr. Lambert, a task for which he is ill prepared.
After Mr. Lambertâ€™s master class, the meek and limited Mr. Allen could do little but act as a palate cleanser, sending fans into the night with a few benign tunes: an edgeless version of Bill Withersâ€™s â€œAinâ€™t No Sunshine,â€ a scattered â€œBright Lightsâ€ by Matchbox Twenty and a â€œHey Judeâ€ that would barely score change on a subway platform.
Last month Mr. Allen dropped from his set â€œNo Boundaries,â€ the widely maligned â€œIdolâ€ victory song. But while it was insipid, it was also Mr. Allenâ€™s first single, the concertâ€™s only original number and its only literal reminder that there is life beyond â€œIdol.â€ He replaced it with the Killersâ€™ â€œAll These Things That Iâ€™ve Done,â€ a tough and flamboyant song that he guilelessly massaged the lumps out of. Frankly, it begged for Mr. Lambertâ€™s firm touch.
â€œAmerican Idols Live!â€ plays at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., on Tuesday and Wednesday;