Press: Queen + Adam Lambert Gila River Arena, Phoenix


Queen + Adam Lambert Gila River

Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Miracle Productions LLP
Queen and Adam Lambert perform during the North American Tour kickoff at Gila River Arena
on June 23, 2017 in Glendale, Ariz.

Adam Lambert Continues to Prove He’s Queen’s Ideal New Frontman at L.A. Show
6/27/2017 by Deborah Wilker

The Queen + Adam Lambert experiment — which began tentatively in 2012, three years after the legendary U.K. band joined the American Idol finalist on stage during the show’s season finale, and has been touring the globe for much of the half-decade since — has now been fine-tuned, to the point where it should really be a permanent partnership. This isn’t to say Lambert doesn’t deserve his own career. But fronting Queen should probably be the pop star’s full-time gig: Perhaps not since Mick Fleetwood stumbled upon the Buckingham Nicks duo at Sound City 43 years ago — leading to a lineup change that would turn Fleetwood Mac into one of the biggest bands of all time — has there been a more serendipitous fusion of two established recording acts.

The story is not just that Queen, the ‘70s and ‘80s prog-rockers with one of the most unique catalogs in pop and rock, appear to have finally settled in with Lambert; in a way that carries the franchise forward, decades after the tragic 1991 death of frontman Freddie Mercury. It’s that their new world tour, which launched in Arizona last week and arrived at the Hollywood Bowl for capacity shows on Monday and Tuesday (June 26 and 27), is a seamlessly executed Vegas assault — a just-right balance of kitsch, classic rock and ‘70s excess. It’s all there; the bombast, melodrama, the drum solos, the glitter, the great songs, a crazy light show, big power chords. Even Brian May’s power cape.  But most important is the tone. None of it takes itself too seriously — crucial when a group is replacing a legendary member. If concert promoters need a primer on how to keep a band going after the unthinkable, Queen + Adam Lambert is a pretty good case study.


Review: Queen + Adam Lambert Infuse Bombast
Into Clssics, Pay Respects to Freddie Mercury
24 June 2017 by Zachary Hansen

Adam and Brian - Phoenix

The last time the British rock legends Queen came to Arizona, Paul Rodgers was the band’s temporary front man. Adam Lambert last came to town while promoting his debut album right after being runner up on 2009’s season of “American Idol.”

A lot has changed since then. In 2012, Lambert began touring with Queen, selling out stadiums across the globe. They continued touring, always omitting Arizona, but on Friday night, that all changed. At the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Lambert joined Queen drummer Roger Taylor and guitarist Brian May for a two-hour set to kick off Queen + Adam Lambert’s 2017-2018 world tour.

Before the band even took the stage, the theatrics had already started. The giant robot from the cover of 1977’s “News of the World” punched through a wall displaying the Queen + Adam Lambert logo.

Then it proceeded to lift part of the stage off the ground, revealing the band, which immediately began performing the arena rock (and sports fight song) classic “We Will Rock You.”  This was the first taste the audience got of Lambert taking over the leading role, which was the biggest question mark of the night. How would he go about filling the footsteps of one of the greatest rock singers to ever live?

A singer as vocally talented and distinct as Freddie Mercury, who died in 1991 as a result of HIV/AIDS, can never truly be replaced — that’s not even to mention his stage presence. Queen’s last frontman, Paul Rodgers, never truly faced this issue, since his singing style was so different than Mercury’s. It was obvious he was never trying to imitate Mercury, so he put his own spin on Queen’s classic catalog.

However, Lambert’s singing style is much more reminiscent of Mercury’s, and it’s obvious Lambert is trying to mimic his delivery as much as possible. The first time he spoke to the audience, it seemed like it was all going to go downhill, and he was going to dwell on not being Mercury the entire night.

“I know what some of you are thinking,” Lambert said. “Well, he’s not Freddie Mercury, and that’s true.” Lambert recovered by giving a well-spoken speech about Mercury’s status as the “best rock star ever,” and he mostly left it at that. Mostly.

It probably wasn’t the best idea to follow up this speech by playing a new Adam Lambert song, the horribly titled “Two Fux,” and dedicating it to Mercury. It came across as Lambert using his homage to Mercury as a marketing ploy for a new track, while an older track tied to Mercury personally would’ve made more sense (maybe “The Show Must Go On” or “Was It All Worth It”).

Thankfully, that was the only moment of the night where the tone felt off. Lambert’s singing and stage presence was captivating the rest of the night. During the infectious “Killer Queen,” Lambert rose from the ground, riding on the head of the “News of the World” robot. That wouldn’t be the robot’s last appearance — it almost acted like a mascot for the band.

Lambert brought the bombast to a whole different level on the extraordinary and uncanny “Bicycle Race.” He approached an ornate bicycle (which was technically a tricycle), threw roses into the audience and capped it off by riding it across the stage, while wearing these tall heeled shoes.

Lambert didn’t steal all the spotlight for himself though. May’s guitar work was as wonderful as ever. He would often deviate from the recorded solos — the highlight of which was “I Want It All,” with a punchy solo at the beginning and a long, winding solo at the end to wrap the song up.

May also took center stage multiple times, including once where he was elevated by the “News of the World” robot’s hand while lasers and stars shone all around him. He has a Ph.D. in astrophysics, so it only made sense.

The top moment of all, and perhaps the highlight of the entire night, was May strumming and singing the love song “These Are The Days Of Our Lives” by himself. It may not seem all that special, but halfway through the song, footage of Mercury appears on screen to finish singing the song. It’s almost a complete reversal of what happens on “Mother Love,” the last song Mercury ever recorded while alive. Mercury sang the first verse, but he died before he could record the second, so May had to finish it for him.

Taylor also stepped up to the mic to sing David Bowie’s part of “Under Pressure,” which was another sad but unavoidable circumstance of the night given Bowie’s death last year

. The rest of the night went pretty much how any Queen fan would want it. There were theatrical performances of “Fat Bottomed Girls” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” mixed between other classics such as “Don’t Stop Me Now” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.”

The night ended with the anthemic “We Are The Champions,” and there isn’t a more fitting closing track they could’ve chosen. Afterwards, Lambert joined May, Rogers and the backing band on stage for a cordial bow, and just like a fantastic stage play, the audience’s standing ovation shook the building. After all, they’d just seen one of rock’s best bands play a stellar show.

Queen + Adam Lambert Gave Fans the Royal Treatment at Gila River Arena
24 June 17 by Ashley Naftule

“Where are my fat-ass bitches at?”

Adam Lambert shouts this with cheeky glee as the band finishes playing “Fat Bottom Girls.” His hair dyed Kool-Aid red, he’s wearing a getup that looks like a mashup of Faith-era George Michael and Bono from the Zoo TV tour — huge shades, big earrings, fingerless gloves, and an American flag vest. It’s the first of many ensembles he’d wear throughout the evening. The cherry-headed singer had more costume changes than a Broadway star.

Queen + Adam Lambert were only a few songs into their show at Gila River Arena, and the crowd was already whipped into a frenzy. Every song inspired a singalong, and the crowd didn’t hesitate to hoot and applaud Lambert and guitarist Brian May whenever they sauntered down the raised long walkway that cut through the middle of the arena floor.

I was hooting right alongside them.

Truth be told: I had my doubts about this show. The whole idea of bands carrying on after essential members die out always struck me as a bad idea. Nine times out of 10, they end up being embarrassing cash grabs that tarnish a band’s legacy (cases in point: the Ian Astbury-fronted Doors and the unspeakable horror that is Sublime with Rome). And with a band like Queen, they’re faced with the nigh-impossible task of replacing one of the greatest frontmen in musical history.

To give May, Roger Taylor, and the rest of the players onstage some credit: They went out of their way to pay their respects to Freddie throughout the night. Halfway through the show, Lambert strolled to the front of the walkway and talked to the audience. Illuminated by a spotlight, he confessed that nobody could replace a talent as enormous as Mercury’s, and said that he felt like he was just a fan who had the honor and privilege to get to sing with one of his favorite bands

It was a deeply humanizing moment for Lambert and the band, and a great way to build empathy with the audience. For a moment, Lambert wasn’t an American Idol or pop star or “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Freddie Mercury” substitute. He was just one of us. He was living the ultimate fan dream, getting to hang out and play with his favorite band.

What also helped wash away whatever lingering doubts I had about the show was the sheer enthusiasm of the band itself. They played each song with crisp and forceful precision. The sound mix was great. Lambert’s vocals, May’s guitar, and Roger Taylor’s drumming were crystal clear. The only thing that was lacking in the sound department was that the backing vocals were low and hard to make out. The band’s larger-than-life harmonies are one of their most distinctive qualities — it was a bummer not getting to hear them pop the way they should live.

Speaking of May, the venerable guitarist looked like he was having a blast onstage, shredding his parts and grinning all the while. At one point, while the rest of the band was setting up in the dark, May took out a selfie stick and posed for shots with the entire crowd. He also had a moment where he paid tribute to Freddie. Playing a solo acoustic rendition of “Love Of My Life,” a video clip of Freddie singing the song appeared on an overhead screen. With May on the left side of the stage and the spectral Mercury singing on the right, it looked like they were performing together again. While the effect was a little goofy (with May and video clip Freddie waving and nodding at each other), it was also touching. The crowd could see May brushing away tears afterwards.

Bringing Freddie back from the dead wasn’t the only bit of video trickery on display at the show. Queen put together a pretty dynamic video show to add some visual flair to their set. When the show began, they had a projection of a steel wall onstage with something pounding behind it, making a noise that built in intensity. Eventually, the wall got torn apart by the giant robot from the cover of News of the World. His huge metal hand stretched out over the stage in one of the most impressive 3D projections I’ve ever seen. His hand looked like it was actually there. I was expecting it to slam down and pancake Taylor’s drum kit.

Each song had a different projection on the overhead screens.”We Will Rock You” opened the show with more images of the giant robot; “Another One Bites The Dust” featured an EKG line that bumped and spiked in time to that song’s classic bass line; and “Stone Cold Crazy” shot out bolts of lightning that electrified the band as they played. And occasionally, set pieces would pop up, like when the robot’s giant head rose from the floor to reveal Lambert perched on top of it, singing “Killer Queen” to a packed arena shouting “DYNAMITE WITH A LASER BEAM” back at him.

It was interesting to see how good a job Lambert did as Queen’s frontman. He was like the lead actor in a theatrical revival. But instead of playing Hamlet or Hedwig, he was playing Freddie Mercury. His vocal chops were certainly up to snuff. While his voice lacked some of the grit that Freddie had (the way Mercury could still sound tough and macho even when he was being fey and operatic at the same time), he could hit those high notes and did an excellent job being the world’s best Queen karaoke singer.

Lambert also had a refreshingly catty stage presence. When he wasn’t fanboying out onstage, he was dropping bratty bon mots like the aforementioned “fat-ass bitches” and jerking off his mic stand.

The only real area where Lambert fell short was charisma. He was charming and fun to watch, but he was nowhere close to being as compelling to watch live as Freddie is in video clips. It’s why actors trying to play rock stars and rock stars trying to fill the shoes of their idols are almost always doomed to fail. Those iconic musicians possess a unique charm, a force of personality, that can’t be easily duplicated. That one-of-a-kind alchemy can’t be bottled up and poured out again. It’s why that new Tupac biopic sucked. It doesn’t matter if you can find a guy who looks just like Pac because you’ll never find a guy who could shine like Pac did. The same problem applies to Freddie Mercury.

But it’s a problem that Queen + Adam Lambert were able to overcome by playing all the songs that people wanted to hear, and playing them with zest and energy. They didn’t try to pretend they were something that they could never be again, and they mercifully spared us from having to listen to too much “new” music. (Lambert played his new single “Two Fux” for the crowd, and we all halfheartedly clapped along to it.)

And at the end of the day, it’s hard to hold it against the band for wanting to keep playing. When you have a catalog of songs as incredible as Queen’s, why would you ever want to retire? As fun as it was for us in the crowd to sing along to “Somebody To Love” and “Bohemian Rhapsody,” imagine how much fun it must be to play those songs and think “Fuck yeah, we wrote this thing. Galileo Galileo Magnifico — that’s our shit.”

If I were them, I’d be playing “Don’t Stop Me Now” until they nailed my coffin lid shut

. Queen + Adam Lambert perform at Gila River Arena on Friday, June 23, 2017. Jim Louvau

Critic’s Notebook
– Last Night: Queen + Adam Lambert at Gila River Arena in Glendale.
– The Crowd: A vast sea of fanatical Queen fans. Age ranges were all over the place; I saw teeny goths, boomer golf dads, grandmas, and little kids milling around Gila River’s curving hallways – Overheard: “I just wanted to give you guys some head!”
— Adam Lambert, after singing “Killer Queen” while sitting on top of a robot’s giant head.
– Random Notebook Dump: Man, Queen + Adam Lambert REALLY love that News of the World robot. It’s all over the place — it’s even emblazoned on the drums. It’s like they’re trying to brand it into their version of Iron Maiden’s Eddie.