Rejuvenated Queen Reign Supreme
24 June 2014
Queen + Adam Lambert
When: Tuesday night
Where: Rexall Place
EDMONTON – “I’m just a new man / Yes, you made me live again.”
Queen’s guitarist Brian May wrote those lyrics for Now I’m Here in the early ’70s, but they’re eerily appropriate for his band’s current tour with vocalist Adam Lambert. The American Idol contestant is the new man, filling in for Freddie Mercury, helping the music of the late, great frontman and Queen to live again.
Lambert sang those very lyrics at the start of Tuesday’s show, as a curtain pulled away to reveal the tall, lithe (and leathered) singer standing at the back of the stage. In a matter of seconds, he had the crowd — of teens, seniors, and everyone in between — eating out of his hands, rejoicing at the opportunity of rockin’ out to ol’ favourites such as Another One Bites the Dust, I Want It All and, of course, Bohemian Rhapsody.
And yes, Queen pulled in just as many fans, if not more, as Michael Buble did on Sunday night. (About 11,700 accord ing to the latter’s manager.) You could argue the two acts offered similar shows — filled with covers and swagger, though only Queen’s fans engaged in a few rounds of the wave before the start of the band’s set.
As fabulous as Lambert’s acrobatic pipes were — and no, thankfully, he wasn’t just a Mercury knock-off — his harmonies with May and Taylor were downright spine-tingling, offering tantalizing flashes of the original lineup. And yet, Lambert added his own vital ingredients to the mix — from his lighter timbre to his tush wiggles to his joyful earnestness.
Filling in for Mercury must be a daunting task, fraught with questions from diehard fans, rigid critics and even business journalists. “Do we judge Queen with Adam Lambert using the same metric with which we assess newcomers, like Iggy Azalea or Imagine Dragons?” a columnist in Forbes magazine recently asked.
The answer? “According to a classic study by management professors Robert E. Quinn and Kim Cameron, “Organizational Life Cycles and Shifting Criteria of Effectiveness: Some Preliminary Evidence,” the answer is no. The way we should define and evaluate the effectiveness of an organization depends on what stage of the organizational life cycle it is in.”
Hoo boy. In other words, Azalea and Imagine Dragons are like “new firms,” while Queen is a mature company in a “final stage of renewal” — spearheaded by the addition of Lambert. Leave it to a management study to kill the spirit of rock ’n’ roll, eh?
Instead of suits, Lambert opted to raid the closets of Mercury and Cher, wearing a selection of leather accoutrements — with fringe, glitter, lace and studs. At least his costume changes weren’t as stultifying as the dance-pop diva’s interludes on Monday night. (Or my odd foray into business theory, for that matter.) In fact, the only time he left the stage for any duration, his fellow rockers picked up the slack, taking turns showing off their skills. May started by singing Love of My Life and playing acoustic guitar on a small stage in the middle of the arena.
“We used to sing this as a duet, now it’s just you and me,” he said, referring to his former frontman. “But he’s around somewhere!” Mercury ended up making a cameo — by way of vintage footage — singing the last few lines of the ballad.
Taylor followed by singing an equally bittersweet tune, These Are the Days of Our Lives, as footage of Queen’s early years flashed on the screen. He later challenged his fellow percussionist to a drum-off — leading to a duet with Lambert on Under Pressure. (And yes, Taylor made for a pretty decent David Bowie.) Who Wants To Live Forever was next — one of the unforgettable moments of their almost 2-1/2 hour set. Under a disco ball, Lambert attacked the mournful ballad as if his life depended on it. Pass the Kleenex, Highlander.
Radio Ga Ga, complete with a crowd clap-along, was another highlight, as well as Bohemian Rhapsody — the song that started Lambert’s journey with Queen. (He covered it as a contestant on American Idol, which led to his initial collaboration with May and Taylor.) Hundreds, if not thousands, of fans sang and air-guitared along to the rock-opera anthem, as Lambert traded verses with Mercury’s recorded vocals and May swept across the stage with his guitar and a gold cape.
The rockers could’ve wrapped it up then and there, but they returned for an encore of — what else? The stomp-rock classic, We Will Rock You, and the triumphant sports anthem, We Are the Champions. Lambert performed both songs with a glittery crown — one he has rightfully earned.
Bow down fans, your new Queen is worthy of your love and devotion.
Edmonton Queen fans welcome Adam Lambert at Rexall Place 11
24 June 2014 by Mike Ross
If we decide that Queen with a False Freddie is better than no Queen at all, we’d best shut up about all the “glorified cover bands” running rampant in classic rock.
For in the vocal department, in theatrics, in everything that counts in a great frontman, there are no bigger shoes to fill in rock ‘n’ roll history than Freddie Mercury’s. They don’t build bands like Queen anymore. And while it may seem galling to have some American Idol runner-up risk turning the legend into a hollow mockery and ruining it for everyone, this is seriously the best live version of Queen that fans are going to get.
They made sure of that with an incredible show in Rexall Place Tuesday night. It’s been quite an eventful few days in Edmonton. First Buble, then the queen of pop, Cher, then Queen. Good, better, best. This concludes our expensive trip down memory lane.
Imagine the pressure on Adam Lambert, under such sharp scrutiny by more than 10,000 hardcore Queen fans hanging on every note, listening hard, judging. The cheers after the first few notes of the opener Now I’m Here revealed the initial verdict: He’ll do fine.
Lambert did not go into this thing timidly. He added his own wrinkles, at no time “pretending” to be Freddie Mercury, but being his own flambouyant, outrageous self. In Fat Bottomed Girls, he shouted at the appropriate moment, “Now all you fat-assed bitches out there, get on your bike and ride!” For Killer Queen, decked out in a lovely sparkly spiky getup (Cher must’ve left one of her costume boxes behind), he stretched out on an antique chaise lounge, then spit champagne all over himself and the audience. “Did I get you wet?” he asked a woman in the front row. “You’re welcome! I think I got myself wet.”
This of course isn’t the first time Queen went out with another singer – Paul Rodgers from Bad Company filled the spot for five years – but Lambert is a much better fit. He sang the living hell out of these songs Queen fans know so well, in a set spanning 45 years of some of the most classic of the classic rock songs. He can hit all the high notes in Somebody to Love – one of several spine-tingling moments in the show – and he has power to back it up. Later, his wailing rendition of the power ballad Who Wants To Love Forever brought the house down. In the legacy of rock ‘n’ roll understudies, this has to be one of the best hires – better than the guy in Yes, the guy in Journey, and both David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar put together.
The original Queen guys got their chance to shine. Before Roger Taylor wowed the fans with the expected drum solo, guitarist Brian May provided one of the most chilling points of the night all by himself. Sitting centre stage and armed only with an acoustic guitar, he invoked the spirit of Freddie on Love of My Life, which the two of them used to perform as a duet together, now done solo: “Love of my life, don’t leave me, you’ve taken my love, you now desert me.” This intimate, vulnerable moment had a lot more impact than his epic guitar solo later on. Nice touch showing the old film clip of Freddie singing on the big round TV screen (that seemed to have been stolen from Pink Floyd’s stadium shows). If there was a dry eye in the house, I didn’t see it.
It’s funny how Queen used to boast “no synths” on its records, never mind that some of the stuff came up with were studio creations impossible to reproduce live. Bohemian Rhapsody is a good example, the bombastic bombshell coming near the end of a successively hit laden home-stretch. They don’t build songs like this anymore, either. You’d drive yourself crazy at concerts these days trying to figure out what’s being tracked, but in this case, almost all of that middle section was. They didn’t even try to hide it, either.
At one point in the night after a particularly impressive display of vocal prowess, May asked the crowd, “What do you think of the new boy?!” There seemed to be general agreement that Lambert will be permitted to sing Queen songs as long as he wants to.