Queen + Adam Lambert
The Rhapsody Tour
AAMI Park, Melbourne, 19 February 2020
I’m just old enough to remember when Freddie Mercury was Queen’s frontman, but not nearly old enough to have ever had the privilege of seeing him perform with them live. I have, however, had the very great pleasure of seeing Adam Lambert + Queen in one of their previous shows.
Afterwards, I was baffled when friends who are older than me, and who did have the experience of seeing Mercury on stage complained weakly “it’s not the same. It’s not Queen without Freddie.”
Well, obviously not. And here’s the thing- it’s not trying to be.
It’s possible they’re the wrong demographic for Adam Lambert, and they don’t understand that he has his own successful career and fan base separate to his work with Brian May and Roger Taylor. They possibly don’t appreciate his own particular brand of sensuality and camp pop-rock vibe. They see an imitator in a fabulous metallic purple jacket and bedazzled pants and they don’t get it. And that’s a shame because Lambert is his own artist and a strong performer, May and Taylor have seen something in him that they appreciate, and we get to see Queen live on.
May and Taylor are rock stars in their own right, consummate performers who understand the power of the music they started creating back in the 70’s, and they also understand that it is, and always will be worth sharing around the world. In bringing Lambert in to perform with them, May and Taylor aren’t trying to recreate a pale Freddie, they are gifting us with a proper rock concert.
They create a strong musical foundation and let Lambert shine with them. Lambert struts the stage during hits like Killer Queen and Radio Gaga, but it’s Lambert the young music idol, not a Mercury impersonator. He adds a cheeky, sexually modern twist to his performance of Crazy Little Thing Called Love. During Don't Stop me Now and Fat Bottom Girls, they whip the crowd into a singalong frenzy. Their all-time favourite hit Bohemian Rhapsody, is a subtle emotional tribute to times past- and in those moments we are all Freddie, and we’re all members of Queen.
May’s guitar playing is strong and joyful as always, with particular familiar riffs bringing tears to my eyes. At one point he appears to float on an asteroid against a starry background- his playing is out of this world because the man clearly loves his job. He's front and centre for an acoustic performance of Love of My Life, and it's truly a lovely gift to the audience. Roger Taylor can still beat the hell out of his kit, combining playing with singing on several numbers with incredible energy and focus, it was an impressive sight to behold.
The team wanted to stage a rock concert event, and the whole thing looks and feels huge and gorgeous. Queen and Adam Lambert fill the stadium with sound. Lambert has a powerful, expressive voice that stays strong on the high notes, and he riffs with the band and the audience enough to make it fun but not an ego trip. The band's sound is rounded out by a talented team of musicians, adding bass guitar, keyboards and additional drum & percussion. Framed by splendid animated digital sequences playing on the stage facade, the visuals take the audience on adventure through opulent theatres, cityscapes, and lantern-filled skies.
Queen + Adam Lambert is its own unique animal, a worthy stadium event. There’s no use trying to pit it against concerts past, to an all-ages crowd. There is an essence of tribute to the one-and-only Freddie Mercury at its heart, but that simply underpins a huge, delightful concert that was an exciting spectacle in its own right.