Firstly, one of my resolutions for 2015 is to review every gig I go to, be it a stadium extravaganza or somebody playing to ten people and a dog at the local pub. Secondly, in the case of this one I have been there before https://amz1981.wordpress.com/2012/07/16/weekend-gig-review-part-1-queen-adam-lambert-hammersmith-apollo/
Of course, a lot can change in two and a half years. At the Hammersmith in 2012 Queen & Adam Lambert were pretty much toeing the water to see if a well received guest spot could work as a full length show. As ever there were the usual mutterings about how a former American Idol runner up could dare step into the shoes of Freddie Mercury, let alone hope to fill them. It wouldn’t have been Brian May and Roger Taylor’s first misfiring attempt at keeping the brand alive.
The rest, as the cliche goes, is history. The Adam Lambert collaboration has re-established May & Taylor among rock’s touring elite and everybody involved had earned the right to strut.
It occurred to me during the show that anybody born in November 1991, the month Freddie Mercury died, is now 23 and thus past graduate age. Many in the audience (albeit some in the company of their parents) were considerably younger. Queen are now in the position the Beatles were in the nineties; a touchstone for a generation who only know the story and the songs and didn’t have the pain and pleasure of watching the band’s career wax and wane before the flame was extinguished.
A vast shroud decorated with the Queen logo decorated the roughly cylindrical stage as the audience took their places. As the 20.30 stage time approached there were occasional bursts of applause from members of the audience who seemed to be able to see things that myself and my friend couldn’t. Finally the house lights went out and the opening bars of One Vision began, even through the stage was still shrouded. Next the unmistakable silhouette of Brian May was seen, blown up to full height by the giant screen on the other side. A second later the curtain was sucked away to reveal Queen and Adam Lambert in all their glory.
What followed was a two and a half hour rip through most of the hits and obviously Queen have more hits than just about any band bar the Beatles. Early highlights were a truly thunderous version of Another One Bites The Dust and Lambert performing Killer Queen while sprawled out on a sofa at the front of the stage. The middle section saw Lambert absent as Brian May and Roger Taylor took their solo spots. As at Hammersmith Brian May performed Love Of My Life acoustically with archive footage of the great man joining him for the climax. It’s too easily forgotten that Queen albums gifted May & Taylor solo spots and 39 from A Night At The Opera remains a fan favourite; bringing all the performers (bar Lambert) to the front of the stage was a fine way of introducing the supporting musicians (which once again included Roger Taylor’s son Rufus). Roger Taylor’s solo spot involved a slightly irrelevant drum solo and a passionate performance of These Are The Days Of Our Lives that was one of the highlights of the night.
But while May and Taylor were rightly given star billing, when Adam Lambert was on stage your eyes were fixed on him and him alone. We can only speculate on what Freddie Mercury would have made of his legacy but Adam Lambert is a shining example of what he made possible – maybe it’s taken until now for May & Taylor to fully embrace that side of Queen’s image. If the show sagged slightly in the middle the momentum was regained by a magnificent Radio Ga Ga and a fine rip through I Want It All before the inveitable Bo Rhap and an encore of We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions to finish.
Not so much criticisms but constructive feedback; my personal favourite The Show Must Go On (played at Hammersmith) was the surprise omission (along with A Kind Of Music). Innuendo remains the only really well known track not performed at either show. Obviously the public want the hits but the slightly more hardcore fan would enjoy unknown gem It’s Late or Brian May’s solo showstopper Resurrection given the full Queen treatment. Not the band’s fault but I’d have enjoyed some of the show more if I hadn’t been forced to watch it through the lens of someone else’s phone. There’s also the hope that when Adam Lambert resumes his solo career (a cult figure on these shores but in America the first openly gay man to have a number one album) he’ll get a proper band behind him and make 21st century rock music – ask Rufus Tiger nicely Adam and you might have a drummer for starters.
Finally thought. The original incarnation of Queen ceased in 1991. They last toured in 1986. At the end of the day it’s impossible to truly compare Queen with Queen + Adam Lambert. This is Queen for the 21st century and a show that must be seen.