Freddie Mercury may have passed away nearly 23 years ago, but his spirit is 1,000% present as Queen takes the stage with
American Idol finalist the bone-chilling-jaw-droppingly talented Adam Lambert on their new international tour, billed as Queen + Adam Lambert. Walking into the Mohegan Sun arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, it was impossible not to feel the energy and excitement stemming from eager concert-goers. There were many in old Queen concert tees, but what shocked me the most was the vast age range of fans, all of whom ready to celebrate Mercury’s untouchable legacy.
The show opened with a duo of songs from their 1974 album Sheer Heart Attack, “Now I’m Here” and “Stone Cold Crazy,” respectively, and within the first new notes of the former, it was clear that Adam Lambert had been rebranded a rock God; his voice crescendoed and pierced through the audience and if there was anybody who might’ve been doubtful of Lambert’s vocal prowess — and ability to do justice to one of the greatest male voices in the history of recorded music — they were quickly turned a believer.
It was immediately clear that, although Lambert is not Freddie Mercury, he never claimed to be. He put his spin on a collection of Rock n’ Roll’s most treasured songs and proved that he is not only an exceptional talent, but a force to be reckoned with. These were some of the reactions from people within ear shot: “Wow, he’s amazing! I never would have guessed!” and “He fuckin’ rocks! Freddie would be proud!”
Some might even say that Lambert was made to front the greatest glam rock band of all-time; or, at the very least, in Mercury’s absence, was perfectly retrofitted for a job that was filled long before he was born.
Lambert captivated Idol audiences in 2009 with his haunting rendition of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World,” but his career never quite took off the way it should have. His debut album, For Your Entertainment, which came out later that year, was plagued with controversy (apparently a man-on-man kiss was too much for a Primetime awards show) and post-Idol cheese material — save for a couple of personal and songs like “Broken Open” and “Aftermath,” a Queen-esque rock jam “Music Again” penned by The Darkness frontman Justin Hawkins, and contributions from Lady Gaga (“Fever”), P!nk, “Whattaya Want From Me,” which peaked at no. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2010, and Max Martin (“If I Had You,” which was a moderately successful follow-up to “Whattaya Want From Me.”) He followed it up with the critically-acclaimed Trespassing in 2012, but the singles failed to make an impact, despite the material being both radio-ready and an indication of Lambert’s artistic growth. He’s currently working on his third album, and with Lambert having transformed into a rock God for the Queen tour, we’re expecting big things. In fact, I think this tour will do wonders for his reputation and likability. In a post-Prop 8/Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell/Marriage Equality/Sam Smith-loving America, I expect a glam rock Lambert to come out of the post-Queen gates wailing and commanding the attention and accolades that Freddie Mercury once had.
The highlights of the Queen + Adam Lambert tour started 7 songs in, making the first act seem like a mere warm-up. “Killer Queen” saw Lambert on a velvet lounge chair, doing a vaudeville-inspired rendition of the ultra-glam track.
But it was “Somebody to Love” that elicited the biggest reaction from the audience up until that point. During the climax of the classic song, he took the crowd to church, sending lightning bolt-sized chills up and down my spine.
The show’s other highlight’s include Lambert singing Freddie Mercury’s first solo song “Love Kills,” from the re-release of the silent film Metropolis. Mercury’s original is campy and deliciously 80s, but this reworked version is a “Mad World”-esque slow burner with soaring vocals and haunting music that accompanied it.
“Who Wants to Live Forever,” a haunting Queen original, is given the Lambert staple, becoming yet another show highlight.
Throughout the nearly 3-hour long show, Freddie Mercury’s presence was felt; it sometimes bordered on tribute-y, like when original Queen drummer Roger Taylor sang “These Are the Days of a Lives,” a schmaltzy track to begin with. However, for the most part, it was earnest, and Lambert sounded like an excited fangirl as he gushed about Mercury, his influence on him, and how honored and in awe he was to be standing on the stage with such an iconic band.
Out of the sets 22 songs (not counting the solos from original Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor), it was the final three songs that brought the entire arena to its feet: “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which saw Lambert trading verses with Freddie Mercury via old concert footage, and the encore songs, “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions.” Throughout it all, Lambert never missed a beat. Charisma oozed from his pores as he strutted across the stage, sneered like Elvis Presley, air-humped his mic, and sashayed with enough sass for every gay man in a 50-mile radius; it was the first time I’ve seen a stadium full of (mostly) straight older men cheering for a man donning a cheetah print suit in a gold sparkly crown.
As I looked around, waiting for someone to groan at one of Lambert’s hilariously exaggerated theatrics, I noticed that nobody batted an eyelash. In fact, aisles of straight men laughed along with the crowd and cheered him on; labels were gone, pre-judgments washed away, and the only thing that remained was pure, raw energy emanating from Lambert and Queen to the crowd and beyond. Everyone in attendance was a glam rock queen. And that’s exactly how Freddie Mercury would have wanted it.
Consensus: Must-see show of the year! Adam Lambert brought new energy to Queen that was unique, smart, and demonstrated just how much of a force to reckon with he can be. Now, if only the rest of the world can catch up.