Queen + Adam Lambert, and Desert Resident Spike Edney, Soar at the Hollywood Bowl
28 June 2017 by Bruce Fessier
Spike Edney had been wanting Queen + Adam Lambert to return to California for three years.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Famers had paired with Lambert for a rendition of “We Are the Champions” on “American Idol” in 2009 and Lambert revealed a remarkable range and chutzpah while filling the late Freddie Mercury’s gigantic shoes. They did three songs together at the MTV Europe Music Awards in November 2011, and a one-week European tour eight months later. In 2014, they toured North America, including a show at The Forum in Inglewood.
Since then, Queen + Adam Lambert have been touring the world. And, every fall, Edney returns to his part-time homes in Palm Springs and Joshua Tree, where he manages the Pink Satellite studio.
But Queen + Adam Lambert finally played the Hollywood Bowl Monday and Tuesday. On Thursday, they continue their U.S. tour in San Jose.
Lambert showed he still has the chops to stand in for Mercury. His version of “Who Wants To Live Forever” was not only poignant but breathtaking as he effortlessly soared to registers where only eagles and great vocalists like Mercury dare to fly. Never mind that the song was written in 1986 for the film “Highlander” by guitarist Brian May, who wrote the title line in a cab. Lambert made the song his own.
But, it was one of the few times Lambert even tried to possess a Queen song.
After opening with the almost requisite “We Will Rock You,” and going through Queen’s catalog all the way back to 1974’s “Killer Queen”(about a high-class call girl “guaranteed to blow your mind”), Lambert acknowledged that he is a Mercury fan, “Just like you.
He also referred to original Queen members May and drummer Roger Taylor as “rock legends.” When he sang a song of his own, “Two Fux,” he dedicated it to Mercury.
So, Lambert made the concert more of a tribute show than a performance by a tight-fitting sum of disparate parts, like Fleetwood Mac. Queen + Adam Lambert is the best “replacement” band I’ve seen – far better than INXS with reality TV star J.D. Fortune. But the Queen ensemble, including Edney, are a separately unique entity.
The band showed its ability to move on from Mercury’s 1991 death from complications of AIDS with two songs in particular: “I’m In Love With My Car,” sung by Taylor, and “Love Of My Life,” sung by May to just his acoustic guitar accompaniment. Taylor wrote and recorded the lead vocals for the former song, but Mercury wrote the latter and May somehow sang it with his timbre, making it a good fit for a video duet with Mercury without being cheesy.
After that, Lambert had shown his respect for the dead and was free to be himself. He sang “Somebody To Love” as if revealing his own needs. He conjured his inner Elvis for the ‘50s-inspired “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and sang a fun duet of “Pressure,” with Taylor singing David Bowie’s part. Then he elevated on “Who Wants To Live Forever.”
Edney, who joined Queen in 1985 and supported Mercury’s legendary performance at Live Aid, followed with a cinematic keyboard solo, evoking mythological sounds before May’s head appeared in the background, floating in the darkness. As the spotlight expanded to reveal May in a flowing cape, the guitarist walked past Edney and began a nearly symphonic solo. Suddenly, Mercury’s image appeared and the amazingly abstract number came to a sentimental close.
Edney didn’t just create atmosphere. When the time came to bring the show to a climax with the iconic “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Edney set up May’s powerful guitar changes with pretty piano tinklings. Then, as images of the original band members’ heads floated above the stage, he joined in the chorus that inspired Wayne and Garth and friends to sing along in the first carpool karaoke in “Wayne’s World.”
For the final encore, Edney again played acoustic piano parts to set up a climax on “We Are the Champions,” which brought the audience on its feet, singing and swaying. The lightly bearded Lambert, wearing a crown on about his fifth costume change, led the charge like King Lear.
He proved he’s a good frontman. But it is the ensemble that makes Queen rock royalty.