Adam triumph with Queen at Wembley


25 February 2015 by Jonathan Bown
4 / 5 stars
Adam Lambert performs with Queen at the Wembley Arena F

REDDIE MERCURY is a tough act to follow but new Queen frontman Adam Lambert gives it his all in a stirring concert with Brian May and Roger Taylor

Adam Lambert and Queen KIKA/ Adam Lambert follows in Freddie Mercury’s footsteps in his performance with rock legends Queen

IT has been almost thirty years since Queen gave Wembley Stadium the 20-minute performance masterclass at Live Aid that sealed their status as rock legends. More soberingly, it’s almost 25 years since the death of the band’s flamboyant frontman, Freddie Mercury. F

or the last quarter century, celebrated axeman Brian May (now 67), and drummer Roger Taylor, 65, have kept the Queen juggernaut running – albeit with some bumps in the road. Now, they’re back in the Stadium’s baby brother Wembley Arena. Unfairly accused by some of cynically cashing in on Mercury’s legacy while bassist John Deacon opted for a quiet retirement, the duo have existed as a band for considerably longer without their flamboyant frontman than with him.

Lambert isn’t apologetic for not being Freddie Mercury
– he’s clearly aware that even after so long, the moustached maestro’s shadow looms

large Attempts to replace the irreplaceable have had mixed success – from duets with everyone from 5ive to Robbie Williams to Jessie J, to that long-term collaboration with ex-Free frontman Paul Rogers. All gave a new twist on the old standards, but largely failed to deliver the pomp and humour that made the songs so easy to love in the first place.

So what of Queen’s latest collaboration with Adam Lambert, the former American Idol star who was just nine years old when Freddie passed? Kicking off with One Vision, he responds to the challenge of filling Mercury’s massive shoes with some towering footwear of his own and a virtuosso vocal performance.

Lambert certainly has the soaring, effortless vocal ability and flamboyant stage presence for the job and, nearing the completion of this European tour, appears supremely confident. Pouting, thrusting and flirting his way through the two-hour live seat, his bucketless energy and enthusiasm for Queen’s back catalogue is clear. The man who could be Mercury’s young apprentice is having the time of his life – as are May and Taylor, who are clearly enjoying the injection of energy Lambert brings to proceedings.

The secret of Lambert’s success tonight at the SSE Arena is not just his ability to (almost) match Mercury’s vocal range. It’s more that he wisely treads the fine line between being (in May’s words) “the new guy”, and remaining reverential to the former frontman’s legacy. As he reminds us, he’s as much a fan as we are, and at times it seems he cannot believe his luck.

Adam Lambert with QueenKIKA/
Freddie Mercury would be proud of Adam Lambert’s performance

During the first half of the show, a revitalised Queen rattle their way through a string of hits including Fat Bottomed Girls and Stone Cold Crazy. Very quickly, Lambert has the audience eating out of his hand, spitting water in to the audience and playfully asking one female audience member: “Did I get you wet?” Job done, the young pretender then retires backstage as Brian May takes centre stage to perform Love Of My Life – a touching change of pace which sees the guitarist duet with video footage of Mercury – before he performs folksy favourite 39. Taylor then steps forward to demonstrate some astonishing drumming chops, and embarks on a drum solo battle with his son Rufus. (Although hoarse, he also sings to great effect on A Kind Of Magic and, with Lambert, on Under Pressure.)

Despite the presence of an overly long guitar solo section from May (come on Bri, we could have crammed a couple more hits in there), the big tunes keep coming, including crowd pleaser Radio Gaga and a pitch-perfect The Show Must Go On.