Live Review: Queen & Adam Lambert – London Hammersmith Apollo 11/7/12

Two weeks ago I was offered the chance of a lifetime – one of my Twitter pals (@timesmasher) offered me a pair of spare tickets for one of just three shows that Queen were playing in London. As luck would have it, I happened to be in London on just that night, so I seized the opportunity. A lifelong Queen fan and a (relatively) new Adam Lambert fan, I knew that this would be a night to remember.

Before their recent string of shows in Moscow & Poland, I remember reading an interview with Adam, where the interviewer asked him how he felt about filling the shoes of Freddie Mercury. I liked his answer a lot:

“I do have big shoes to fill, fronting with Queen. But – I’m bringing my own shoes. Ones Freddie would have thought were cute.”

This paved the way for an evening that wasn’t a Freddie Mercury tribute, nor the ‘Adam Lambert show’…but a showcase of some of the greatest songs ever written.

It’s no secret that Brian and Roger are big admirers of Lambert’s work. Aside from them hand-picking him for these shows, Brian May posted on his blog shortly after their first show in Kiev:

“I was at times quite mesmerised by what Adam was doing and sometimes forgot to play !! ha ha.”

As anticipation built in the sold-out, 8000 capacity Apollo, the intro to “Flash” began playing, before the curtain came down. Electric doesn’t even begin to describe the atmosphere.

Confident and defiant, decked in leather trousers (which he would later rip the following night) and spiked leather jacket, Lambert launched into “Seven Seas of Rhye”.

The entire audience leapt to their feet (and most stayed standing for the entire 2hr show, something I’ve never seen before at a gig)! The band ploughed through favourites “Keep Yourself Alive”, “We Will Rock You (fast version)”, and “Fat Bottomed Girls”.

“Don’t Stop Me Now” was the first big crowd singalong of the evening, before Roger handed his sticks to his son Rufus and grabbed a mic, to tackle Bowie’s duet in “Under Pressure’, whilst Brian wielded a dual necked guitar.

It was all amazing and overwhelming so far…but there was something missing. I’d heard so much about the experience of hearing Adam Lambert perform live, but so far the setlist (and the sub-par sound mix) had masked his powerhouse vocals. I found myself waiting for a moment to validate all this praise.

And then it came.

As the lights came down, the synth intro to “Who Wants To Live Forever” played, and a collective shiver crept round the room. For a while the crowd sang along, before most found themselves stood in astonishment at what they were hearing. I’m not a massively emotional person…but suddenly I found myself moved to tears. Music and emotions are so intrinsically linked, but I’d never before heard an artist capable of conveying emotion so powerfully in a live setting. The first of many standing ovations of the night followed.

Lambert left the stage for Roger & Brian to prove once again what outstanding musicians they are. Roger took lead vocals for “It’s A Kind Of Magic”, and “Those Are The Days Of Our Lives”. The latter featured old footage of the band (plus Freddie) playing in the background, a touching moment which brought rapturous applause from everyone and tears for a few.

Before the customary ‘band jam’ session, with the stage decked in red light, Adam Lambert slinked back onto the stage for “Dragon Attack”. My consolations go out to Elmo’s family.

Minus his Elmo jacket, Lambert returned leatherbound and barefoot for the rest of the night, tearing through “I Want To Break Free”, “Another One Bites The Dust” and “Radio Ga Ga”.

Next up was “Somebody To Love” – a song that was written by Freddie Mercury. It’s my favourite Queen song, so I was intrigued to see how Lambert interpreted it. For me, one of the defining features of Queen’s back catalogue is how hard they are to perform (a testament to Mercury’s legendary talent). Suffice to say, Adam brought the house down – the last high note he belted out totally floored me.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” was another highlight, a big audience singalong (does anyone not know the words to this song?) involving Adam, Brian, Roger…and more live footage of Freddie.

After lights-down, the trio returned for their encore, Brian May taking the lead on “Tie Your Mother Down”, before Adam drifted back on for the classic “We Will Rock You”, and then “We Are The Champions”…at the end we were treated to a display of vocal gymnastics and the highest, craziest notes of the night. I glanced around at the end and people were stood watching with their jaws hanging open.

For me the most impressive thing about this concert was that it wasn’t put together as the Adam Lambert show (nor should it have been). Freddie’s voice, writing and memory punctuated the evening perfectly. Roger Taylor & Brian May had several chances to take centre stage too (although admittedly their own solo vocal slots were the only ‘slow’ points in the evening).

The mutual respect between the three of them was tangible – my lasting memory of the night was how great it was to see three world-class musicians show such humility amongst their peers.

Assuming that they’ll work together again…I can’t wait for what’s next!

44 thoughts on “Live Review: Queen & Adam Lambert – London Hammersmith Apollo 11/7/12

    • Who Wants to Live Forever was a very emotional performance and shows his true artistry. Best vocal love it!!!

    • the London concert was fabulous and I watched the video of the concert in Kiev and I cannot even find a word to describe it.BRILLIANT The fans were very receptive of Adam but when he sang Another One Bites the Dust they adored him. Never saw Adam so happy, Radio Ga Ga knocked it out of the park. The concert that is 1:51:0 something is the one

  1. Awesome review. We on this side of the pond have been impressed with Adam’s vocals for seeral years now. It is great to see that Adam is gaining respect as well as fans on that side of the pond.

  2. Yeah, you just gave me goosebumps, I am quite sure that YouTube & Livestreams do not even capture 1/10 of the magic. How I wish I too was there to experience.

  3. Mark, I was at first two shows and was just as impressed and emotional as you about these songs. Isn’t it amazing how much better Adam sounds live than what can be heard and seen via video? There are no words to express accurately just how strong and vibrant he voice is live. This man is definitely the most powerful and magnetic singer of our generation and I hope that he can keep showing the world just how amazing he is with Queen and solo. I just wish I’d been able to get a ticket for tonight but had to return to the states. Thanks for such a positive and accurate review of the concert. You can really tap into the heart of the show.

  4. Thank you, Mark!
    THIS is why I love your reviews…you are honest, straightforward and most importantly, you are not above admitting that you liked what you saw and heard!
    Liked? Nay, loved.

    For me this concert series is not about how perfect the music is, nor how much like the old band this seems. More, it is about some stellar top-of-the-heap musicians of rock royalty stepping out of their own shadows and inviting a stunning singer to join them in their shows. This singer is Adam Lambert, a man with a breathtaking ability to perform vocal acrobatics that still leave me speechless when I hear him singing!

    Why not do this?
    Why not air out their massive catalogue of historic rock music and bring it forth for their old fans, their new fans and Adam`s fans? I think it`s a beautiful idea and I`m blessed to be part of this…nothing better than to listen to my favorite artists…Queen and Adam…perform together! That is nothing short of wonderful!

  5. Mark, Thank you so much for writing about (and capturing) this London concert experience for those of us who so long to be there. Unless you’ve ever been to a live Adam Lambert concert, it’s hard to convey what that atmosphere is like. It’s shimmering electrified magic. And it has to be turbo-charged times 3 with Roger and Brian; what a perfect chemistry the 3 of these superstars–actually all 6 musicians–have together on that stage! I’ve been to 4 live Adam Glam Nation Tour concerts: Nashville, Louisville, Indianapolis (Glam Nation Live DVD), and New Orleans. All were seated venues, but no one sits. The only way to describe it is that it’s like an ongoing, unending standing ovation for Adam. I, too, had never experienced anything like this. It’s simply breathtaking. In Nashville, foot stomping on the wooden floor of the Ryman was added to applause, cheers, and screams. At one pt. the sound became so rhythmic and deafening it was like being in a trance. The haunting, deafening sound of a million crickets chirping in the woods at night in the heart of the Great Smokey Mountains is the only other sound I ever heard that I could compare it to. To me Lousiville was his most elegant, adult, campy GNT show. He was in his stride in a beautiful white wedding cake of a recently restored theatre called The Brown, which is Louisville’s opera venue. Like you, I craved pure Adam voice in this place with perfect acoustics. When he sang Soaked I had a fantasy of jumping on stage and ripping his sparkly microphone out of his hands so we could hear that voice straight up with no electronic amplification. (I did consider it briefly, being about 5 feet from ft of stage :). In my experience I would actually rank Adam’s Glam Nation Tour right up there with Phantom of the Opera for sheer sensory bliss. Actually, if I had to choose, I would pick Adam’s GNT. I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like to experience these London concerts live. Queen and their music are simply brilliant. Their music–ranging from operatic, contemporary classical, jazz, blues, folk, heavy metal, to classic rock–is a spectacular feast for ears and eyes. Queen and Adam are a match made in the stratosphere. I have wondered if Dr. May summoned Adam from some distant planet (Fierce), although Adam’s dad, Eber, once said that Baby Adam had been dropped on their doorstep by Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves ;).

  6. This is a wonderful review thanks for posting. For all those who have been unable to experience the live Hammersmith shows this blog really captures the magic of Queen and Adam Lambert’s performance. Let’s hope this is not the last we will see of this great collaboration.

  7. DAMN, this brought tears to my eyes. Very well said, Mark. It’s exactly how I was feeling watching the videos. Timesmasher is a good friend of mine, too. SO HAPPY she gave you her extra tickets. Nice to read a very fitting review. Thank you Mark and Timesmasher. My only wish, is that I could have been there to witness this ONCE IN A LIFETIME MAGIC. Can’t wait for the DVD!

  8. Thank you for an awesome review. Adam is the only act that I know of who sounds better live than recorded. You can “FEEL” his voice. Now I want you to try something. Play the video of Adam singing “Who Wants To Live Forever”, and you will be able to remember what it sounded like live and it will give you chills all over again. Also, a WARNING: You will soon need a fix and be trying to find a way to hear him again live. I’ve never experienced something so addicting as Adam Lambert’s voice.

  9. Fantastic! Thank you for your review and am so hoping they bring their show to the US. Just watching the youtubes it looks like the shows were a phenomenal success. #QueenbertUSA

  10. Magical is all i can say of this collaboration. Thanks Mark for sharing your experience to us. It moved me to tears.

  11. Absolutely wonderful review! So glad you got to see just how amazing Adam is! I’ve regretted not going to London to see these shows, but hope Queen + Adam will do at least gig in the US. I’m definitely going to be there to see the magic. In the meantime, I’m enjoying all the wonderful fan vids.

  12. Pingback: Adam Lambert Week – July 15-21, 2012 « On the Meaning of Adam Lambert

  13. Well…. I’m a forty something city worker who watched Adam from week 1 of AI and was completely mesmerised by his voice and his wonderfully funny,intelligent and humble personality.
    I managed to get to Shepherds Bush for Glam Nation (best concert I’ve ever been to, and even had my wife turning round and swearing because of that voice) and have every thing he’s ever recorded on my iPod… And im devastated nay, completely shattered that I didn’t get to Hammersmith :-(. Simply, Adam is the the best vocalist I’ve ever heard. He could sing anything and I’m so happy that this review gives us the truth, without any critic just trying to be clever or contraversial just for the sake of it.
    Adam is the best singer and just to get how big his range is, listen to his rendition of ‘come to me,bend to me’ from Brigadoon… It’s on YouTube . He was only 22 then. Just listen to it. You will be amazed.

  14. Huh why did this literally bring tears to my eyes? I think you managed to so eloquently say all that most of were feeling and thinking. I didnt get to go but as a hard core Glambert of course watched live streams then video and bask in the glory of what I saw. But I do know first hand that being there live is something special, for any show really, the shared camaraderie of all being there for the same purpose and singing along is wonderful but there is nothing like Adams voice live for whatever reason. I can only imagine that experience iwth the emotion of the night, You probably understand know how addicting the feeling is and why people go to show after show LOL.

    Im so glad you got to go and thank you so much for sharing the night with us like this.

  15. Great review and you captured the emotion of the night perfectly. The first time I saw Who Wants to Live Forever on the Kiev ustream, I was moved to tears just watching him living his dream, singing his heart out for a crowd of 1/2 million who were enraptured by him. But the emotional impact of the live experience was something else entirely. I got teary-eyed over Radio GaGa of all things, just watching the crowd in the pit go crazy over him, but what really did it to me was the final bows, when Brian and Roger were literally pushing this most humble man down the runway to center stage to take the accolades for the night. I just openly bawled over the mutual admiration and love they show to each other. Adam is well on his way to being iconic, as Paula predicted several years ago, and these concerts are now part of Rock history. One day people will be fondly reminiscing about having been present at the “QueenBert” shows this summer. He’s obviously revived the energy of the band and Brian’s blogs have said that in so many ways! Thanks again for your great review!

    • I was already teary-eyed reading Mark’s review but my tears come rolling down as I’m reading your post, Anita. It just touches my heart all these glowing praises for ADAM for all his overflowing talents but it’s really his humility that is his crowning glory that I really admire in him. I always thank GOD for ADAM.

  16. My cup runneth over! Thank you so much for saying what we Glamberts have always known….there is no one who performs live like Adam (except for Freddie). I am in my 50s and miss the old Queen with Freddie. What a great band. But this is the next best thing and I am so proud of Adam taking all the negative crap he takes and still putting on this show. Please tell me Queen will do more performances and hopefully the U.S. Thanks Mark for having the guts to be honest!

  17. Great Review…thank you. I can’t imagine being at that concert but wish I could have been. I appreciate your honesty and insight. Since you have nothing to gain by either “puffing” up a story or ridiculing it, I believe you summed it up fantastic. Glad you are a fan of Adam’s tho.

  18. Great review. I wish people in the US know how amazingly talent Adam Lambert is and appreciate it. This kind of mega talent comes once in a life time. Once you hear him sings live, you want more, and more and more. The first time I heard him sang live, acoustic, at Good Morning America in Central Park (August 2009). My can’t stop staring at him with my mouth wide open…unbelievable. I went to 11 Glam Nation Tours ( his solo tour in 2010). I’m mad at myself now that I didn’t come to the 3 shows in London. I hope QueenBert come to North America. I love Queen….their music is a treasure, timeless and beautiful..

  19. The biggest shocker to me when I went to see Adam Lambert at Foxwoods was how much better
    he sounds live than recorded. He is amazing recorded don’t get me wrong. But live his voice is like no other voice I have ever heard in concert. It cascades around you, envelops you, caresses you. I told my friend that I felt like I was inside a waterfall of sound.

    I have no idea how Adam does this. IMO Adam has the most special voice out there now and I hope with all my being that people around the world start paying attention and go to hear Adam sing live.

  20. So happy that you got to go see Queen and Adam Lambert in London. I know his vocal ability is really insane isn’t it? His stage presence is mesmerizing as well. It’s quite the experience seeing him perform LIVE. All I can say is WOW!

  21. Pingback: Adam Lambert Brasil | A sua maior e melhor fonte brasileira sobre o cantor! » Blog Archive » Review do Show de Adam Lambert & Queen (11/07) por Mark Gilroy

  22. I went to see Adam Lambert on one of his Glam Nation Stops. I actually flew almost a 1,000 miles and took my daughter to the venue because that is where I grew up. I am 60 and my daughter is 22. We watched Adam on AI and were surprised he did not win. At the concert no one sat down. Adam seems consumed with pleasing his fans. He is so polite and kind. Most of the concert I just stood there and let the music flow over me. I have never felt like that at ANY other concert. His voice is astonishing. AND he does sound better in person if that’s possible. I like to listen to my music at the highest level. With Adam he controls the sound. He is a very special singer. BTW I have never seen my daughter smile more. What an experience to hear him live.

  23. Thanks for the awesome review, Mark!

    Adam didn’t sing ‘The Show Must Go On’ on 11th July, but he sang it on 12th and 14th July. The performance of the song on both nights was mind blowing…an experience I will never forget!

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  25. Adam Lambert is the best male singer ever! He is the total package. Beautiful inside and out, Adam is very courteous and kind. He was blessed with good looks and he can really have a great conversation with anyone. Adam is already in a class of his own. No one can sing better and those who try fail. I wish him the best in life always.

  26. I’m one who recalls Queen from the early 70’s on Midnight Special up to the last days of Freddie. I saw Adams performance of Bohemian Rhapsody and it actually made me cry. As a musician, emotions and sound are synonymous and though there will never be another Freddie, Adam poured his heart and love for their music into it with highest regards for his fallen idol.
    Bless you Adam and Queen!

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