Short of Freddie Mercury coming back to life, it's hard to think of a more symbolic rocker than Adam Lambert to headline Pride in the Street.
The breakout "American Idol" star may not be at the forefront of the pop world at the moment, but he's the first openly gay artist to top the Bilboard album chart and is well loved in the LGBT community. And parts of the straight one, too.
In fact, as a gay friend pointed out to me, the front rows were clearly lined with "straight girls" who were there all day to get up close.
As he didn't hit Pittsburgh on his Glam Nation Tour in 2010, this was the first look at Mr. Lambert since he stole the show from winner Kris Allen on the Idol tour the year before.
He took the stage on Liberty Avenue at about 10:15 p.m. with "If I Had You," looking like a dark-haired Billy Idol, with spiked do, leather biker vest and jeans that appeared to have been mixed up with the whites in a bleached load.
The singer put his big, octave-leaping voice over a loud, five band pumping out hard rock, funk rock and dance pop. The sound mix was geared more for sheer street-party volume than nuance, so this was not the theater version of an Adam Lambert concert meant to best show off his pipes.
Having just released his second album last year, he doesn't have a huge body of work or a ton of hits to lay on people. Early on, cuts like "Cuckoo," "Never Close Our Eyes" and "Music Again" all blended together as standard pop-rock.
He borrowed a few hits from other people -- covers of Tears for Fears' "Shout" and Lenny Kravitz's "Are You Gonna Go My Way?" -- without really putting his own stamp on them.
He's well acquainted with the Queen catalog, having fronted the surviving members of the band. But rather than fueling the party with a "We Will Rock You," "We Are the Champions" or "Bohemian Rhapsody," he downplayed the impact with the lesser-known B-side "Dragon Attack." So much for even kitschy fun.
After leaving the stage 45 minutes in, he returned with his one big radio track "Whataya Want From Me," which got more dynamic treatment than the whiny recorded version.
Unlike Melissa Etheridge last year, who poured out heart and soul, there was no acknowledgement whatsoever that he was at a Pride event. Clearly, a heartfelt rallying cry was in order, but it seemed like he just missed the point. When he wrapped it up after less than an hour, the crowd stayed in place, surprised it was over.
Later, the DJ came on with the post-concert party, shouting "How did you like Adam Lambert?" What he got back was a smattering of cheers and boos.
Scott Mervis: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2576. First Published June 15, 2013 4:00 AM