Queen + Adam Lambert
(Palace of Auburn Hills, MI - July 12th, 2014)
Ever arrive to a concert minutes after the time stamped on the ticket and race through the corridors, fighting the crowd like an upstream-bound salmon, trying to get to your seat before the lights go out? If that scenario seems in any way familiar, you have a taste of the first few moments of my experience seeing Queen in concert Saturday night.
The stage was bathed in purple light, as the band’s logo stood as the backdrop. A single guitar chord exploded, and the crowd’s cheering intensified. Frontman Adam Lambert strutted onstage, clad in leather from head to toe, rocking a pair of oversized shades. Original members Brian May and Roger Taylor came round, too, telling us all “Now I’m Here.” ‘Let’s go crazy,’ Lambert said, leading into the jam that was “Stone Cold Crazy.” The thing with American Idol alum Lambert is that he made absolutely no effort to be Freddie Mercury (let’s face it, he’s irreplaceable) and instead, made every attempt to bring his own flair to the music.
And it was with this in mind that we cheered him through “Another One Bites the Dust” during which Brian May was inexplicably made to play John Deacon’s iconic bass lick on his guitar. Weird. Sexy Adam went onto the catwalk, then, and led us in a game of vocal run follow-the-leader. A Bic was flicked a few rows down during “Fat Bottomed Girls.” The musicianship was stellar, with Taylor providing smooth, brilliantly placed drum fills. Likewise, May’s guitar solos reminded me why he has a place on my Top 5 Guitarists lists.
Adam Lambert was all style as he donned a sequined tank top and bizarre fringed sleeves, singing “Killer Queen” from a fainting couch while playfully guzzling a bottle of champagne. ‘None for you?’ he teased Brian as the guitarist sat next to him to solo, ‘More for me.’ In the best segue of the night, Adam told us all that his stage presence was really more of a character, and that escapism is a coping mechanism for those of us desperately seeking “Somebody to Love.” “I Want it All” came next, and I was pleased that my all-time favorite Queen song made the setlist.
During the lull in between songs, Brian May stepped forward to thunderous applause, and spoke for the first time that evening. ‘We’re gonna sing a song together, he said. I believe that when good-hearted people sing together, magic happens. And tonight, there’s a lot of magic in the air.’ And it did, as Freddie Mercury appeared on the screen, and assisted Brian on the beautiful acoustic tune, “Love of My Life.” Long after the video faded, the crowd cheered. For his part, May was visibly emotional, wiping away tears for his fallen friend and band mate.
Anyone who says they didn’t choke up at all in that moment is lying. Just saying.
Roger Taylor had a remarkable turn on lead vocals for “These Are the Days of Our Lives,” during which more footage of the band was shown on the screens. There was even a smattering of applause for MIA bassist John Deacon. As image after image was shown, it occurred to me that one of the secrets to Queen’s longevity must surely be Brian May’s hair. As long as he keeps it as large and coiffed as it was in their heyday, the band will thrive, no matter how old and grey they are!
That’s my theory, anyway.
The other musicians, bassist Neil Faircloth and back-up drummer/Roger’s son Rufus Taylor had their moments in the limelight, with the latter and his Dad sparring in a bout of dueling drums. Adam Lambert reappeared, then, for “Under Pressure,” with Roger Taylor flawlessly taking on the vocal part originally held by David Bowie. Brian May formally introduced Lambert, who then thanked his predecessor, which ended in rousing chants of ‘Freddie! Freddie!’ by the audience.
“Who Wants to Live Forever” gave us a really cool laser show, but it led into the lowlight of the evening, in my opinion: The guitar solo that never ended. It was a solid ten minutes long, with over half the thing played above the twelfth fret. And let’s be real here, just about any note played above the tenth fret on an electric guitar tends to lean less toward ‘melodic’ and more toward ‘noise.’ I was generally unimpressed by the lack of audience participation during “Radio Gaga,” having hoped that there would be more Live Aid-esque ‘clap-clap’s during the chorus.
After a few more songs, Queen decided to go out with a bang and gave us what were arguably their best songs as the set closer and encore. Crowd pleaser “Bohemian Rhapsody” made fantastic use of the groundbreaking music video, allowing it to pretty much carry the vocals while the musicians played live. When the notes faded, the stage darkened for only a moment before they came back with “We Will Rock You” (‘stomp-stomp-clap’) and “We Are the Champions,” for which Adam Lambert rocked a crown, May, a ‘Made in Detroit’ t-shirt, and the audience, side-to-side arm waves.
Classic rock concerts can be something of a risk for a fan to take, particularly if a member of the band in question has passed away. I found myself wondering if Queen would be one of those groups that just hung onto their name long after they should have hung it up. After this show, I can say with absolute certainty that they could (and hopefully do) keep touring for at least another year, maybe two. The seasoned musicianship of Brian May and Roger Taylor combined with the youthfulness and flat-out sex appeal of Adam Lambert is a recipe for success. And with Freddie Mercury as the band’s guardian angel, a fantastic tour is surely written in the stars.
So at the end of the day, the bottom line is this: “The Show Must Go On.” And Queen must be forever enthroned in the pantheon of rock royalty, where they obviously belong.
Review By: Ashley J. Trombley
Photos Provided By: Chris Schwegler