QUEEN AND ADAM LAMBERT @ O2 ARENA, LONDON – 17/01/2015
‘One of the best concerts this writer has ever experienced at the O2’
On Saturday night, 95 minutes after Stars In Their Eyes showed precisely how not to impersonate a well-loved performer, Adam Lambert takes to the stage to stand in for Freddie Mercury and act as frontman for Queen.Lambert, resplendent in the kind of leathers that Judas Priest’s Rob Halford used to wear bombing round Birmingham, was clearly made for this moment. He may be sporting the finest Cuban heels to strut on the O2 stage since Bruno Mars came here in 2013 but Lambert has a vocal range, a stage presence and a sense of the theatrical that is second to none.
The key is that Lambert makes it clear very early on that this is not an impersonation of the still mourned Mercury. “I love him as much as you love him,” he tells the crowd. “My goal is to celebrate the amazing music of Queen and bring you back to why you liked them in the first place.”
This he succeeds wholly in doing, not least because the band he’s fronting is still so strong. Alighting on a stage the shape of a giant Q, both Roger Taylor (initially in shades) and his son Rufus sit behind full drum kits, with Brian May heading out front (grey mullet occasionally blowing in the breeze). As expected, the reclusive bassist John Deacon isn’t present but a shot of him on the giant screens brings loud applause.
The set list is flawless, as one might expect from a band who have crafted some of the finest rock songs of the 20th Century. What’s intriguing is the presence of Lambert seems to have give the tracks a fresh energy – ‘I Want It All’ is simply colossal, ‘One Vision’ extraordinary and Lambert’s exhortation to “all you fat ass bitches” somehow works during ‘Fat Bottom Girls’.
The only glaring omission comes in the form of ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ getting skipped over. But as Lambert says himself, ‘You know what the problem is with this band? Too many hits!”
Queen truly know how to put on a show. Ever track feels like a finale – with huge solos, near-operatic vocals and pomp set to 11. There is an intergenerational drum battle, a gold glitter drop, a mirror ball descends for ‘Who Wants To Live Forever’, lasers comb the the entire O2 at one point and and (bizarrely) footage of Metropolis during a performance of ‘Radio Gaga’ (it makes more sense given it was a soundtrack to Mercury’s ‘Love Kills’).
At one point May straps a GoPro onto his guitar, both so that everyone can check out his playing but also so that he can point it towards the audience and capture the O2’s reaction to him rattling through ‘Stone Cold Crazy’. The screens behind May during ‘Last Horizon’ will, depending on your persective, either recall the timeless search for man’s true knowledge of the cosmos or remind you of a Windows’ 97 screensaver.
The band seem genuinely moved and certainly see to enjoy themselves. Naturally their late bandmate never feels far away. When May plays a solo of ‘Love Of My Life’ he talks about how much he missed Mercury. “There was this man who used to sit behind me…” he says thoughtfully. “It makes me happy to sing his songs really”. Nothing is taken for granted. At times footage of Mercury accompanies the action, allowing him to contribute 24 years after leaving the stage. This is used most effectively on ‘Days Of Our Lives’ where Taylor takes the mic and performs a gutsy vocal, accompanied by vintage shots of the band mugging to the camera. This isn’t a mawkish tribute, this is a real, vibrant rock show.
What’s interesting is Lambert at times seems even camper than Mercury ever was – not least when he seems to have borrowed part of his costume from Macho Man Randy Savage. It feels strange to say it but it thankfully it shows how far we’ve come that a man can lick a microphone, reclining on a chaise longe, raise one Cara Delevigne-esque eyebrow and pause during ‘Killer Queen’ after delivering ‘Guaranteed to blow your…’. The crowd clearly love it.
When Lambert chugs from a gold champagne bottle and spits it into the air, he addresses the drenched front row. “Did I get you wet lady? Rock’n’roll that’s what I am supposed to do! It’s like the SeaWorld show up here.” The only criticism? Lambert’s English accent is as horrible as he says it is.
The evening as a whole is a spectacular celebration, one of the best concerts this writer has ever experienced at the O2. Lambert, a man who decided to enter American Idol while out of his mind on mushrooms at Burning Man has not only the theatricality and the sheer vocal chops but also the assured confidence to front a band like Queen. Sure, at times the outfits make it feel like ‘Tom Of Finland Sings the Hits Of Top Gear’ – but there is so much genuine passion, affection and skill involved that it’s impossible to dislike. They duck ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ a bit – choosing to leave sections to the video – but it all so moving that one can’t complain.
It is intended as the highest compliment that this is second only to seeing Mercury in his prime.
REVIEW: Queen And Adam Lambert, London’s O2 Arena
18 January 2015 by Becca Longmire
Replacing a lead singer in a band like Queen is difficult and incredibly risky, so when we went to London’s O2 arena last night to see how Adam Lambert would do fronting the legendary group, we weren’t quite sure what to expect.
However, after watching two hours of solid hits, costume changes and amazing vocals, we can safely say that Lambert was the perfect choice to take on such a role. Queen’s Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor may be a lot older than the 32-year-old, who shot to fame on US talent show American Idol, but the group managed to gel perfectly and not only did the singer manage to nail the vocals, he also rocked all the iconic Queen outfits, as well as engaging with the crowd in between songs – a true entertainer.
Despite his job obviously being to fill Mercury’s (very high heeled) shoes, it was quite obvious from the very beginning that Lambert had no interest in even pretending that he could actually be Freddie, who tragically passed away in 1991. Not only did May pay tribute to the frontman in a very emotional performance of Love Of My Life, in which Mercury appeared on the screen behind them, but Lambert also left a lot of the classic lyrics to him as well – so they really did get to share that special moment with the late singer.
The packed out audience even got to see Lambert and Mercury perform as close to a duet as they’ll ever get, during the much-loved Bohemian Rhapsody. “There will only be one Freddie Mercury, ever,” Lambert told the crowd, and you could tell that he truly meant it, despite his latest job catapulting his career to a whole new level.
Highlights of the evening include May’s solo performance and very touching speech, where he not only referenced Mercury, but also took the opportunity to use his selfie stick and take one big group shot of the audience, who were banned from taking their own sticks into the show…for obvious reasons. Lambert’s stunning vocals in Who Wants To Live Forever is also up there, with the eccentric singer just standing there in a ghost- like atmosphere, as well as the golden oldies like Radio Gaga, that obviously got the audience clapping away, as did the legendary We Will Rock You.
In fact, even after a solid two hour performance, it still felt like with Queen’s epic back catalogue, they had a lot more to give. One thing’s for sure, Lambert won’t be returning to the singing in clubs days anytime soon, which is coincidentally how both he and Mercury started out. An amazing show and we’re pretty certain this is just the start of an even bigger future for the frontman, who despite being incredibly OTT, did Freddie Mercury proud last night.
Queen + Adam Lambert,O2 Arena Review: ‘Spectacular’
18 January 2015 by Cathrine Gee
4 out of 5 stars
No-one can better fill Freddie Mercury’s shoes better than Lambert
July this year will mark 30 years since Live Aid’s enormous simultaneous concerts at Wembley Stadium and JFK Stadium in Philadelphia. That day, Freddie Mercury, dressed all in white, helped Queen deliver a performance so electrifying that their 20-minute set has since been declared the world’s greatest ever live show.
At the time, Adam Lambert was just three years old. But it’s his youth and rapturous energy that has given Queen the glittering boost that they’ve been so desperately lacking since Mercury’s death. Without attempting to impersonate Mercury – if anything, he looks more like George Michael – Lambert has brought dazzling showmanship and style back to the band. He’s also everything that Queen’s last long-term singer, the blokey, bluesy, ex-Bad Company frontman Paul Rodgers, is not.
It’s 24 years since Mercury died. Queen have actually been together longer without him than they were with him. But there is no detaching Mercury from Queen and throughout this packed show at London’s O2 Arena, their painfully missed singer was a constant presence. On stage, Lambert was the first to pay tribute, saying warmly, “I love him just as much as you.”
Though he may be less well known over here, in America, Lambert is a familiar face, having been runner up in 2009’s American Idol. But when he walked into the audition room and performed Bohemian Rhapsody for Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul, he was already a trained and seasoned performer who’d cut his teeth on Broadway.
On Saturday, with 31 dates of a world tour with Queen already under his belt, Lambert looked entirely at home. As for the two remaining original members, the now-grey-haired 60-somethings Brian May (guitar) and Roger Taylor (drums) – they looked like they were having the most fun they’d had in years.
Both men are clearly still at the top of their game and midway through the 23-song set they indulged in what so few music veterans can resist: prolonged instrumentals. May, bassist Neil Fairclough and Taylor all had a go – with Taylor accompanied by his son Rufus, who regularly plays with the band. Unfortunately, this lengthy indulgence did result in one of the show’s few flatter moments – and one where many audience members grabbed the chance to run to the lavatory.
The stage was suitably dressed for a spectacular show, flanked by giant video screens with another set inside an enormous Q. At one poignant moment, May sat alone under a spotlight at the end of a long walkway and paid his own tribute to Mercury. Love of My Life, the song he and Mercury used to perform as a pair, became his solo number – until suddenly footage of Mercury singing it live appeared on the giant screen behind. For a moment, it felt like he was there.
It was Lambert’s own virtual duet with Mercury on Bohemian Rhapsody that truly showed how well his vocals compete with the great man himself. The 32-year-old’s talent is truly staggering, with a range, clarity and tone that make him one of the world’s great vocalists.
His captivating performance saw four costume changes – opening the show clad in black studded leather and closing in a leopard print suit and bejewelled crown. May even got in on the fun during the encore, emerging in a gold lamé poncho.
For a brilliantly camped-up version of Killer Queen, a pouting Lambert draped himself on a purple chaise longue. Spitting a long jet of champagne out onto the crowd, he seductively asked an audience member, “Did I get you wet, lady?”
As a performance, it was empowering. During those less enlightened times, Mercury himself could never risk being so verbally sexual in public. He could never risk being completely honest about his sexuality either – as the openly gay Lambert can now. No one will ever be able to replace Freddie Mercury, this much we know. But there’s currently no one else who could better fill his shoes and put on such a spectacular show as Adam Lambert. And it only took May and Taylor two decades to find him.
On tour until Jan 21.