Queen + Adam Lambert hit the right notes

‘Reality show contestant replaces deceased rock legend’ is a familiar scenario with cringeworthy disaster written all over it.

Last night in Melbourne Brian May and Roger Taylor entrusted the keys to their rocking Rolls Royce and Freddie Mercury’s legacy to Adam Lambert.   To the surprise of many comprising Rod Laver Arena’s full house, who like me bought tickets primarily to see May and Taylor perform for the first and last time, Lambert drove the beast home without a single scratch.

In fact Lambert was actually quite outstanding.  Inconceivably more camp than Freddie, the one-time American Idol contestant’s soaring vocals and charismatic presence reiterated that May and Taylor are no dummies, and wouldn’t have embarked on such a risky venture without happening across the appropriate individual and concept.

Whilst Marc Martel, who miraculously looks and sounds like Mercury, might have been considered a more obvious choice, May and Taylor wisely opted for a degree of separation, lest they become their own tribute band.  In Lambert they’ve embraced a singer with the vocal range to carry their outrageously difficult anthems and the theatrical sensibility to carry the night with the requisite showmanship.

To the show itself, the opening refrain Procession paid homage to the band’s very beginnings, being the instrumental first track off the 1974 Queen II album.

May (whose trademark black afro has turned white), along with Taylor (now armed with a sleeve tattoo) then launched into a rollicking blast of early favourites including Now I’m Here, Seven Seas of Rhye, Stone Cold Crazy, Somebody to Love and Another One Bites the Dust.  The funky yet obscure Dragon Attack took the prize though, In the Lap of the Gods Revisited a close second.  Meanwhile, the bombastic I Want it All stood apart in visiting Queen’s post Magic years.

May toned down proceedings when he took centre stage for a solo rendition of Love of My Life.  It was the perfect opportunity to address the elephant in the room, and when Freddie appeared on the big screen to finish off the classic it was the first of several lump in the throat moments.  Despite his senior vintage, May’s musicianship has not diminished one iota and ‘39 was a joyous follow-up.

Taylor was also afforded some face-time with the devotees, which entailed a drum-off with son Rufus (part of the touring ensemble).  Spike Edney on keyboards, virtually the uncredited fifth member through the band’s later tours and albums, added another layer of authenticity for Queen aficionados.  Another dose of nostalgia ensued as Lambert rested his pipes during one of several costume changes, when, alongside May, Taylor performed vocals to the emotive These are the Days of our Lives.

An elongated guitar solo (Brighton Rock) by May on his ‘Red Special’ afforded less hardcore punters an intermission before Lambert returned for the home straight, cherry picking more of the never-ending Queen hit parade including Who Wants to Live Forever, Under Pressure and Crazy Little Thing Called Love .  Queen’s production was as impressive as ever and Radio Ga Ga, augmented by the Metropolis themed video and en masse hand-claps, was another highlight.  Bo Rap eventually reared its head, signifying the end was sadly nigh.  Of course Freddie suitably and necessarily made another on-screen appearance for his magnum opus.

With class and respect, Mercury’s absence was neither under or overplayed; Lambert at one stage recognising the suspension of disbelief required of the audience.  Conversely, whether by oversight or request, reclusive former bassist John Deacon was unfortunately expunged from memory, despite several hits in the bank such as Another One Bites the Dust.

Having momentarily welcomed ‘Brisbane’ fans early dawes, qualified astrophysicist Dr Brian May redeemed himself by replacing a retro gold cape (capable of reflecting light to a far off galaxy) with a black ‘I Love Melbourne’ t-shirt.  May could be forgiven, Queen last playing in Melbourne across the road at the old Sports and Entertainment Centre 29 years ago (though May did play solo at The Palace in 1998).

The encore followed convention, consisting of roof raising renditions of We Will Rock You and We are the Champions.  Glittering gold confetti filled the auditorium, as did a thundering ovation.  God Save the Queen played and Lambert audaciously pranced about sporting a crown, a la Freddie.  Mercury would have approved though – to all intents, Adam saved the Queen, breathing new life into a supergroup whose music continues to win new fans, my two youngsters included.

And as Freddie wished in his immensely painful dying days, all he wanted was to live on through his music.

@JeffDowsing

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39 Comments Add yours

  1. What a beautiful, respectful review! Thank you so much from an “old” Adam fan and brand new Queen fan. They are just the best! PLT

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  2. Karen says:

    Thank you for the wonderful review. Brings a smile (and tears – again). Long live the Queen!!

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    1. jeffdowsing says:

      Thanks Karen, there were a good number holding back tears on Saturday night!

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  3. Beth says:

    Wonderful review, but just for the record, Dr. Brian May is an astronomer, not an astrologer! He has a Ph.D. in astrophysics, which is a long way from “So what’s your sign?”

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    1. jeffdowsing says:

      Yes, my bad Beth. Terrible bad!

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  4. outonpluto says:

    Just as the concert displayed the right tone, so did your marvelous review. The last line got me. Thanks so much.

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    1. jeffdowsing says:

      No problem – the docos and books on Freddie’s last days are excruciating. No one deserves to die like that but he has achieved a form of immortality that few people in history ever do.

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  5. Pat says:

    Well, the last thoughts brought a tear to my eyes. I’m old enough to remember Freddie but young enough to love Adam for the wonderful performer he is. A match made in Rock ‘n Roll Heaven!

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    1. jeffdowsing says:

      Having read a couple books on Freddie, an all-time hero of mine, and digesting those agonising last few weeks of his life, there were some moments during the concert when his appearance really struck a nerve. And credit to Adam for so successfully treading the tightrope.

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  6. @EtrnlGlamNation says:

    Brilliant!

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    1. jeffdowsing says:

      Ta!

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  7. Chris says:

    Love this. And all so true.g

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    1. jeffdowsing says:

      Cheers Chris.

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  8. imrah says:

    Well thought out write up for this phenomenal collaboration. Queen + Adam is a match made in heaven.

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    1. jeffdowsing says:

      Thankyou Imrah.

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  9. Queenbert says:

    The “new guy” certainly proved he is more than capable of wearing the “big shoes.” The soaring voice should be enough, but add the charismatic personality and sense of humor and Roger and Brian look like they made a brilliant choice.

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    1. jeffdowsing says:

      Certainly is – I knew little of him not being a big fan of the reality talent shows. I didn’t get into Queen’s Paul Rodgers period because he just didn’t seem like the right fit.

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  10. sophoife says:

    Um, Brian May is an astronomer with a PhD in astrophysics: http://astro.ic.ac.uk/bmay/home. He is not to my knowledge an astrologer 🙂

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    1. jeffdowsing says:

      Good pick-up, my bad.

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  11. broddybounce says:

    Jeff, this has to be one of THE most perceptive, well-written and balanced reviews of the Q+AL concert that I have read of any of the entire tour, including all points America and Asia. And I come back to emphasize ‘perceptive’ because you so gracefully cover every single point of objection that has been raised by those who did have a bit of trouble suspending that disbelief. Thank you so much for expressing what other writers had a hard time doing so. Great piece and well done.

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    1. jeffdowsing says:

      Yes, the critics have generally speaking always been pretty harsh on Queen so why would they stop now?

      If you go to these concerts with a closed mind or preconceptions of what it should be then you’d be better off staying at home and listening to their records.

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  12. 8in8 says:

    Thank you
    Blog fantastic
    Good luck
    ……………..
    http://www.8ii.in

    Like

  13. queenrosered1 says:

    Jeff? I think I love you! This was a brilliant (and spot on!) review. I was fortunate to see Queen+Adam Lambert at the Iheart Radio Festival in Las Vegas last year (2013) and twice again in Vegas for this current tour. I still want more. Thanks so very much! 🙂

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    1. jeffdowsing says:

      Aw shucks!

      I was too young to see Queen when they last toured Australia in ’85 so this was an opportunity I could not pass up. Especially as they are less than likely to come here ever again. I know it’s not quite the same thing but this Queen incarnation is still better than 95% of what else is out there, so you just have to go with the flow and not get hung up on small bickies like the crusty critics. Seriously, one critic here bemoaned the fact they cut Seven Seas of Rhye short yet played Radio Ga Ga – one of their greatest hits!

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  14. lauriellenw says:

    Awesome review. And thank God this isn’t over. News is that Queen has Adam on some songs on their new album. And I hope they release a CD/DVD set.

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    1. jeffdowsing says:

      I didn’t know they were recording. I must admit I took next to no interest in the Queen + Paul Rodgers venture, but I’d be keen to hear this album.

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  15. Morgan says:

    What an intelligent, thoughtful review!
    Jeff, I raise my glass of Moët et Chandon from her pretty cabinet to you, Cheers!

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    1. jeffdowsing says:

      Thanks very much Morgan – I’d like to think Adam was actually drinking real champers on the couch!

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  16. Beautiful review – let me relive Sat night all over again – with just as many tears

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    1. jeffdowsing says:

      Thankyou Gael, I know what you mean. RIP Freddie.

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  17. 8in8 says:

    Thank you
    Blog fantastic
    Good luck
    ………………..
    http://www.8ii.in

    Like

  18. Pat Nielsen says:

    Thank you. This was a great review. Im in Brisbane and saw the show on last Monday night. I do baulk at the term “reality show contestant” First of all, its been 5 years since Adam was on American Idol and has shed that straight after he came off. I also do not believe American Idol or Australian Idol or X Factor, any of those type shows are reality shows. They are Talent Shows, just like we had back in the “old days”. We had New Faces and Showcase. These type talent shows have always been around and many stars were founded by them, such as Olivia Newton John, Kate Cebrano, even Keith Urban was on Pot of Gold (those of you who would remember this one). So being on one of those “cringeworthy” shows does not mean someone is talented or not. They just happened to use that format to make something of themselves. I got to watch the series of AI that Adam appeared on, and was amazed by what I saw. He came on that show and did things I had never seen before on that show. He changed the face of the show, I believe. There were even rumours at the time, that he wasn’t actually a contestant, but brought onto the show by the producers to bring up the ratings (and it worked). Suspiciously he didn’t win either, which was absolute rubbish. He was so far ahead of all the others, he should have won, the first night he sang. Anyway, the Queen and Adam Lambert show on Monday night was superb, spectacular…I was lucky enough to catch Queen when they toured Australia in 1976…brilliant, the best concert I have ever seen. And this one with Adam was just as brilliant if not better…My husband still hasn’t come down from it….he is still in the clouds somewhere..haha….In my hey day, I loved Freddie Mercury and Queen….I was a true fan, and now they have found in Adam, a perfect match…I had no qualms when I read that Adam would play with Queen, I just knew it would be magic…..

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    1. lpaulick says:

      beautifully expressed and well-written, as is the review itself, Mr. Dowsing. Thank you all.

      Like

  19. lynnshulman says:

    I just got around to reading this and beautifully written! Thanks! By the way, during a Kind of Magic, there is old footage shown on the big screen of Deacon. Too bad he didn’t want to perform with the band, but I hear they always run every financial decision through him.

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    1. jeffdowsing says:

      Thanks Lynn – they actually didn’t play A Kind of Magic (or I Want to Break Free) in the 2nd Melbourne gig I went to. But how could they possibly fit them all in from night to night! That’s good to hear re John Deacon – Brian & Roger seem like to most decent unnaffected guys considering their fame. Unlike some of the so-called stars of today with maybe a couple genuine hits to their name.

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