Queen & Adam Lambert @ Rod Laver Arena
At what point should a band call it a day? When they run out of new ideas? When they’re down to one or two original members? When they can’t stand to be around each other? Queen has never been a band for such concerns. Since the death of Freddie Mercury (and the departure of bass player John Deacon) they’ve continued on in various forms with various vocalists, sometimes as a one-off and sometimes as something more substantial; George Michael’s rendition of Somebody To Love from the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert was a bona fide hit, while they collaborated with Free’s Paul Rodgers from 2004 to 2009, releasing the album The Cosmos Rocks. But something was missing with Rodgers. His earthier vocal texture and middle-aged rock moves didn’t quite capture the aura of Queen. Enter Mr. Adam Lambert. How does he stack up to Freddie Mercury?
Well here’s the thing: it’s tempting to make comparisons between Lambert and Mercury. Two dudes with huge vocal ranges, both with a flair for the flamboyant. Lambert succeeds where Rodgers couldn’t. His vocal style is far more supple and elastic than Rodgers’ forced but classic texture, and his sense of showmanship and movement is far more arena-sized. And most crucially, he remains faithful to Queen’s songs – the vocal melodies, the attitudes, the intentions, the fun. Lambert isn’t trying to be Freddie, but nor is he trying to mess with the vocal melodies. He utterly sells it, and has an obvious understanding of, and connection to, the material. Ever see a singer performing someone else’s material and you just know that they have no idea what the song is actually about? That never seemed like a concern with Lambert.
Okay, so enough about The New Guy: how was the show? Epic! If you only know Queen from the radio, you’d love this set because almost all the big hits were there: Crazy Little Thing Called Love, I Want To Break Free, Another One Bites The Dust, We Will Rock You, hell, they even did Bohemian Rhapsody, with Freddie Mercury appearing on screen (one of two such instances during the show) to trade lines with Lambert. But die-hards would also have enjoyed some of the band’s heavier tracks, such as Stone Cold Crazy, Dragon Attack and the big arena rock of their 1989 hit I Want It All. Sure, there were some indulgent moments – a bass solo, a drum solo that turned into a father-son drum duel between Roger Taylor and his son Rufus, Brian May pausing to shoot a little video of the crowd with his selfie-stick – but they’ve earned these little liberties. May’s guitar work remains as spectacular as ever, Taylor had a few chances to show off his considerable vocal skills, and Lambert, well, he ain’t trying to be anyone but Adam Lambert, he makes no apologies for it, and he did such a great job in showing why he deserved to be there that the general chatter among fans afterwards was that not only would they go see Queen + Adam Lambert again, they’d like to hear a whole album of new material.
BY PETER HODGSON
Loved: Brian May’s guitar work, Adam Lambert’s ‘nuts’ joke.
Hated: The mid-show solo-driven energy lull.
Drank: Nothing. Wasn’t thirsty.