Queen Adam Lambert brings “Magic” to the Palace

Adam and Brian - Detroit
Adam Lambert and Brian May of Queen perform together at The Palace of Auburn Hills on Saturday, July 12, 2014. Photo by Ken Settle

13 July 2014 by Gary Graff

AUBURN HILLS>> Queen once asked the musical question “Who wants to live forever?” but the veteran British band is doing a pretty good job at that — and an even better job these days with “American Idol” finalist Adam Lambert in tow.

Co-founders Brian May and Roger Taylor had a good run with Paul Rodgers between 2004-09, but it was hardly the vintage Queen experience, substituting Ro[d]gers’ hard rock grit for the pomp and bombast that was the group’s stock in trade with its late original frontman Freddie Mercury. Lambert demonstrated during the band’s show Saturday night, July 12, at The Palace that he’s cut from the same cloth as Mercury and more comfortable with the theatrics and camp — not to mention flamboyant costumes, black nail polish and eyeliner — than Rodgers, a prototypical jeans and T-shirt rocker, could ever be.

The result was an unquestionably entertaining two-hour and 20-minute re-creation of a classic kind of Queen show, from the song ordering to the instrumental transitions in between. Queen + Adam Lambert mined Queen’s repertoire for the must-play hits and crucial album tracks, playing the music in the present-tense but also aware that it was a tribute show — which even included Mercury singing parts of “Love of My Life” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” via video and a warm montage of vintage Queen footage during the Taylor-sung “Days of Our Lives.”

“On a night like this, I feel like (Mercury’s) here,” May told The Palace crowd. “I feel like he’s here, he’s very much with us.”

Lambert hardly shirked under the imposing specter of Mercury in particular and Queen in general, however. He demonstrated a confident presence from the get-go of “Now I’m Here,” “Stone Cold Crazy,” “Another One Bites the Dust” and “Fat Bottomed Girls,” an impressive opening salvo that could have shown any number of chinks in his armor. But with five costume changes, impressive vocal gymnastics and plenty of cheek — he sang “Seven Seas of Rhye” and “Killer Queen” while chaise-lounging and chugging champagne at the end of a ramp extending from the stage — Lambert neutralized any doubts about whether he was the right man for the job.

May, meanwhile, reminded the packed Palace just how important his guitar heroics are to the Queen sound, with plenty of extended solos — although his lengthy late-show feature before “Tie Your Mother Down” was a momentum-stopper. Taylor’s solo spot, a drum duel with son Rufus, was kept to a more tasteful length, while the Queen elder also provided a vocal foil for Lambert on “Under Pressure.”

The troupe’s nod to now was a revised version of “Love Kills,” Mercury’s disco track from Giorgio Moroder’s 1984 soundtrack for the silent film “Metropolis.” But the past ruled throughout the night as “Radio Gaga,” “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” “The Show Must Go On” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” — with the operatic section delivered via video — finished off the main show and the encore pairing of “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions,” with May sporting a Made In Detroit T-Shirt, brought the concert to a triumphant conclusion.

“I think tonight there is a lot of magic in the air,” the guitarist mused at one point. That may indeed by reason enough for Queen to live forever — or at least until it can come through with Lambert once again.