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!