24 January 2015 by Paul Jeeves
3 / 5 stars
Queen + Adam Lambert
THE first concert I ever attended was Queen when they played Knebworth in 1986 as the culmination of their epic It’s A Kind of Magic tour. No-one present among the 120,000 crowd that sunny August evening could possibly have foreseen that it would tragically be the last-time the great Freddie Mercury would ever perform on stage. In truth I wasn’t a massive Queen fan – I’d gone to Knebworth more interested in seeing other bands lower down the bill – but they completely blew me away. Or rather Freddie did. He set the benchmark against which I’ve perhaps unfairly judged every other frontman I’ve seen in the intervening 28-and-a-half years and despite hundreds of gigs not one has come close to emulating the great showman.
When Queen first returned to the road in 2005 – 14 years after Freddie’s death from Aids – they had former Free and Bad Company bluesman Paul Rodgers at the vocal helm, and his voice marked a distinct left-turn from the band. This wasn’t somebody trying to emulate Freddie Mercury it was somebody giving a complete new interpretation to the majestic songs. Thousands loved it, many more hated it but when the collaboration attempted to build-on the sold-out success of a world tour with an album of new songs the project died a sorry death.
Queen fans it appeared certainly could get enough of Rodgers. Almost a decade on and the now grey-haired … rockers Brian May (guitar) and Roger Taylor (drums) have wheeled out the Queen wagon once-again with a camp as Christmas former American Idol runner-up taking over the vocal challenge. In many ways this is the ultimate homage to Queen and with that in mind, Lambert is as good as it is going to get for fans who yearn for the impossible. Adam Lambert has a background in musical theatre and there is a real feel of Queen’s other project, the West End mega-smash We Will Rock You, running right through the two-hour performance.
As the band launches into opening track One Vision it is May and Taylor who seem to be the 10ft giants on stage while Lambert, a super skinny George Michael leather-clad Faith-era look-a-like, valiantly attempts to achieve the sheer power the song demands. Stone Cold Crazy also proves tricky but as the songs become poppier so Lambert steps up gear by gear. He’s helped greatly by the iconic Queen harmonies on Fat Bottomed Girls and grows in stature and confidence as he lounges on a chaise-longue, gently fanning himself and swigging champagne, to perform a killer version of Killer Queen.
Greeting the packed-out Leeds Arena with “Ey Up” is a lovely-touch by the 32-year-old American on his first-ever visit to God’s Own Country and meets with raucous cheers of approval from the 13,000 audience.
Of course Queen’s back catalogue is stunning and the set-list, lifted straight from their greatest hits package, is one that probably no-other band on the planet could compete with. Every song is a nailed-on humdinger of a classic and yet it is this, and the lack of odd curveball or rarity, that perhaps creates the West End vibe of the concert. In many ways this is the ultimate homage to Queen and with that in mind, Lambert is as good as it is going to get for fans who yearn for the impossible. And when the song is right boy can this fella sing. He holds all the notes in all the right places and his range is more than impressive.
I Want It All, Radio GaGa, Crazy Little Thing Called Love all fit Lambert’s vocals like a glove and as the crowd embraces him his charisma shines through. But it is when Mercury makes two singing appearances on film singing Love of My Life and a Bohemian Rhapsody duet with the newbie that he completely steals the show from beyond the grave. It almost unfairly leaves Lambert to cope with the consequences but he cleverly addresses the problem proclaiming “I love him just as much as you guys”. Inevitably the show concludes with We Are The Champions and Lambert wears a crown – symbolically not quite as big as the one Mercury used to wear – but still a crown.
If The Show Must Go On then this killer Queen will certainly rock you.