The publicity for Lambert certainly wants his identity to remain a secret. So much so that I was tempted to not mention this aspect of him in this review at all, but in the end I think that’s even more pretentious and bloody-minded.
Why someone might want to remain anonymous is, of course, their business, and it’s not like there’s no precedent. Only recently, for the first half of her career, Sia kept her face a closely guarded secret. Antony Hegarty used to hide a lot. Even Gorillaz were pretty secretive at first, while they still could be.
The mask (which is gorgeous by the way, and something between an antelope and a bull), does help to make an entrance, and maintain an impression. His drummer also has some pretty elaborate horns going on. Horny!
My darling Alice said it was pretentious, which I’m certainly not going to argue with, but I didn’t mind.
Anyway, this certainly sounds an awful lot like Nils Frahm or Max Richter, and I want that to sound like a compliment; both are excellent. The beats and percussion add a lot, and lift this from just excellent piano playing to something deeper, with more of an edge.
If you were expecting someone in a mask to be socially awkward you’ve got another thing coming! He speaks to the crowd well, with humility mixed with eccentricity and dry, Teutonic wit. He expounds on the qualities of Terminator 2 and Total Recall, and how they’ve informed his composition. He also told a wonderful story about biting his brother’s arm during a fight, running to hide, and wondering how long he could survive locked in the bathroom with only water. I didn’t quite catch why it was relevant, but it certainly endeared me to him!
Lambert gives a lot. There’s emotion laced throughout his performance. At one outstanding moment he’s thumping the keys with his fists. At others he’s contemplative and composed. During the final track he reaches into the piano to mute the strings with his hand.
I really enjoyed this. It straddles the mid-point between modern-classical and indie (Lambert covers pop bands frequently), although ultimately keeping its weight firmly on the classical foot. But there are depths and a playfulness to it which many of his (I’m guessing older?) contemporaries lack. I’ll definitely be listening at home!
A version of this review first appeared at fringereview.co.uk