BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com
Grammy-nominated singer Adam Lambert just returned from a tour of Russia, where lawmakers have recently cracked down on gay-rights activists.
“In St. Petersburg, we had a little bit of a threat. There was some group or person who said they were going to hurt someone. It had to do with being out or gay. It was a little bit tense, but the audience was amazing,” said Lambert, perhaps the first pop musician to reach superstardom after he came out of the closet.
“It really makes you appreciate our freedoms and liberties in the USA,” said Lambert, who on Sunday is set to headline closing night of the fifth annual Miami Beach Gay Pride festival.
Lambert, who became world famous in 2009 as runner-up to Kris Allen on American Idol, promises to sing live in a free performance 8 p.m. at Ocean Drive and 12th Street.
“A handful of songs that are really fun, upbeat. Songs the LGBT community can relate to,” he says. “I have all kinds of fans and it will be cool to bring everyone together under this pride umbrella.”
The singer is coming to South Florida with an entourage of 17, including four band members, two backup singers and two dancers. He won’t be with Sauli Koskinen, his Finnish boyfriend of three years.
The couple — who were once detained after a brawl in a Helsinki bar — broke up this month, blaming their conflicting work schedules.
“It sounds very cliché, but we really are very close friends,” Lambert says.
Lambert grew up in San Diego, first performing in musical theater, then with a band and writing his own music.
“I fell in love with the idea of being an artist. That’s when I decided to audition for Idol,” he says.
Being on Idol also brings baggage. Some call it a “big karaoke show,” Lambert acknowledges.
“I have an international career because of this,” he says, “but in the music industry there’s a little bit of a stigma.”
Lambert, who recorded several songs from his most recent album, Trespassing, at Gloria and Emilio Estefan’s Miami studio, says he’s looking forward to headlining Miami Beach Gay Pride.
“I’m 150 percent proud of being gay. That’s who I’ve been since I’m 18,” said Lambert, 31, who describes himself as “an open book.”
The “Glam Nation” star says he couldn’t live in the closet.
“It’s a sacrifice of your own happiness. I don’t think anything is worth that,” Lambert says, adding that he is used to getting advice about his public persona.
“I have people around me who really love me and say ‘Hey, that’s too gay,’” he says. “And I have others who say ‘It’s not gay enough.’”
Lambert says it’s often a balancing act being a mainstream performer and also a gay activist.
“I try not to harp on it or get too preachy. I like to bring things up. I like to make people think or try to understand,” he says. “I have some songs in my repertoire that are geared to gay equality issues, but they’re also human issues. Somebody asked me whether it was appropriate for me to bring up ‘the gay lifestyle’ in a family show. And I said I’m not necessarily just promoting ‘the gay lifestyle.’ It’s a lifestyle of love, connection and freedom — and fashion. A lifestyle of being who you want to be. It’s everybody. Gay, straight and everything in between.”
Miami Beach Gay Pride info
For details about Miami Beach Gay Pride and a full schedule of events, visit www.MiamiBeachGayPride.com