Queen + Adam Lambert, a year on.

EDITOR NOTE: Introduction Paragraph;

A year ago I stood front row at Sydney’s Allphones Arena to witness the one band I never thought I’d get to see. As the band prepares for the 30 year celebration of their Rock In Rio triumph, this is the review I wrote as I got home from the concert. I wasn’t an Almanacker then, but as the band prepares to re-create their Rock In Rio show from 30 years ago next month, I thought it was timely to share this story in the music section. Cheers.

On the morning of the 20th May I woke to the news that Queen+ Adam Lambert will tour South Korea, Japan and Australia after the already announced North American Tour. Nothing was going to stop me from going to the only Sydney show that was announced. Presale started at midday 22nd May, my confirmation of purchase Email came in at 12.01. The 91 day count down began.

I’d never really formed an opinion of Adam Lambert’s suitability for the role of lead singer for Queen. A lot of fans were totally against it, many saying Brian May and Roger Taylor should just give up. I wanted to reserve my judgement until I saw them in action.

Adam Lambert knocked it out of the park. Opening the set with Now I’m Here, Stone Cold Crazy, Another One Bites The Dust and Fat Bottomed Girls he came out strong and rocked the stage.

He then hit the high notes of In The Lap Of The Gods and the Seven Seas of Rhye. Both these songs from the first few albums and nice acknowledgement of those early 70’s sounds. Then it was time to “glam” it up, as he reclined back on a velvet couch, bottle of champagne and paper fan to play along with Killer Queen.

Somebody to Love is a song that challenges most singers. George Michael stole the Memorial concert with this number, but Lambert gave it his own touch. After nailing the famous high pitched refrain, instead of the traditional gospel style closing of the song for the next minute, the band embarked on a high tempo revision of the song which was a refreshing moment to remind the audience there is a point of different from what was originally presented and what we were experiencing in 2014.
I Want It All closed out the first hour of classic Queen rock.

It was then time for Brian to take the centre stage with his accoustic guitar to engage the crowd for the playing of the highly emotional Love Of My Life which concluded with footage of Freddie Mercury on the screen to sing the final few lines of the song to a roaring packed house. The rest of the band then joined the centre stage to take on the cosmic journey of ’39.

Rufus Taylor then went back to the main drum kit which had been occupied by his father, leaving Roger free to take the spotlight to sing A Kind Of Magic. I have always enjoyed Roger’s singing style and his rendition of his composition was high quality, as expected. Personally I’d have also liked to hear him belt out Loser In The End, Tenement Funster, I’m In Love With My Car, Sheer Heart Attack, Rock It (Prime Jive) or the song I have as my message alert on my phone, his Cross single version of Heaven For Everyone, but there’s only so much I can hope for.

Back on centre stage the crew constructed another drum kit and the touring bass player Neil Fairclough ripped through a number of John Deacon’s signature bass lines, Don’t Try Suicide from The Game album and Body Languange & Staying Power from “the album that shall not be named” on a stand up double bass. He was soon joined by Roger who started drumming the bass strings with his sticks. We were then witness to a drum battle between Taylor senior and junior on the 2 kits. Rufus Taylor has the bloodline, but has the look and style of the Foo Fighter’s Taylor Hawkins.

Lambert joined the rythem section for the a duet of Under Pressure where Roger sang the Bowie parts and Lambert the Mercury part and keeping with the bass line lead came Dragon Attack, which was impossible not to get up and shake down to.

Who Wants To Live Forever, the love ballad from the Highlander film was next, another song that tests the range of the best singers, but Lambert was unfazed. Not only did he handle it with aplomb, it is my opinion he surpassed the original recording which was sung as a duet between Mercury and May. A big call, I know, but Lambert was simply that good.
When is too much of something never enough? Too much of a Brian May guitar solo is never enough. As well as being an auditory adventure, from our vantage point at the front of the main stage the real show was the laser lights that lit up the hologram at the back of the arena which were reacting to the sounds being generated from the fifty one year old home made Red Special guitar. May then broke into the familiar opening riff of Tie Your Mother Down and the joint was rocking again.

Lambert then did something that could have fallen very flat on him, it was time to engage the crowd in a Mercury style vocal exercise. Where Freddie did it with a series of “hey’s”, “oh’s” and bee bops, Lambert used the words and phrase “give me love.” It was an essential point of difference that made this moment work. When the stage-right side of the audience didn’t respond as effectively as Adam hoped, his facial expression was priceless and he had the whole audience responding to him loud and clear from that moment on. The energy in the room was still at peak when it could quite easily have fallen flat.

That energy then rose some more as Radio Ga Ga kicked in. To be at the front of 20,000 people double clapping and punching both fists forward was a moment which will never be forgotten.

Adam asks the crowd “Have you ever been in love? Doesn’t love mess with your head?” It was only natural that I yelled out “Yes it has.” Adam looks down at me, gives a broad grin and says “Is there anyone else here other than this guy down front?” Love sends you nuts, but he loves nuts, and got the boom-tish from Roger as a result! This was his introduction to Crazy Little Thing Called Love.

After the crowd was dancing along to this classic, the lights fade and Spike Edney plays the opening notes of Bohemian Rhapsody. Lambert sang that first verse that got him through the cattle call of American Idol 2009, before walking to stage left and as it’s time to start singing the second verse he gestures to the big screen and Freddie takes this verse. In the darkness, Brian May has walked down the bridge to take the centre stage to experience what can only be the pinnacle of any live performing artist.

As the voice of Mercury delivers that great line “I don’t want to die, but I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all” two spotlights shine down on May for the most famous of guitar solo’s. A spine tingling moment, and the expression on the 65 year old man’s face is full of joy and appreciation that he is once again able to regularly experience that feeling in front of such large audiences.

The video plays the multi-vocal operatic section of the original recording before the band chimes in to the great rock third section of the song and the final few lines is cut as a duet with Lambert looking up to Mercury on the screen as they swap the lines of the end of this most unique and wonderful song.

The crowd was just awesome, it’s been hard to believe that this show has already been going for more than 2 hours without letting up.

The two Taylor’s return to their kits and the anthem beat of We Will Rock You has everyone on their feet. Lambert comes out in a gold suit and crown and belts it out with the whole crowd behind him. Another flawless riff from May and the show closes out with We Are The Champions, gold confetti everywhere and a capping of a performance that will never be forgotten by those lucky enough to have witnessed it.

If anyone wants to say “Lambert’s no Mercury. It won’t be the same without Freddie” well, thanks for the scoop, Captain Obvious. Lambert is his own man, with his own style, with a voice that has the range to cover the vast catalogue that Queen demands and the strength of his instrument to deliver it to the largest of audiences.
Lambert has brought to the band an energy that has given these songs a new life. The band was on the top of their game. May didn’t miss a note in his solo’s and Taylor never missed a beat. Spike Edney, who celebrated his 30th anniversary since he first played live with Queen the day before. Rufus Taylor, a young man who has literally grown up with this music and bassist Neil Fairclough rounded out a sound that was well rehearsed and tight in their delivery all night.

I believe that if they are to continue touring and playing, it will no longer be necessary to say “Queen plus Adam Lambert.” Lambert is now a part of this band and is deserving of title “Lead Singer of QUEEN.”

About Wayne Ball

Tragic fan of the Australian and NSW cricket teams (for those of you outside NSW, there is a difference, despite what David Hookes said). Not a fan of T20. Penrith Panthers are the only club of decency and all which is good in Rugby League, the Waratah's were once the national team of Rugby Union, the first non Victorian team in the VFL/AFL is the Sydney Swans, and they all enjoy my passionate support. Sings for Wanderers. Internationally, I have been to see the Oakland Athletics and Green Bay Packers play. One day, I'll see Norwich City play for the FA Cup at Wembley.


  1. Bec. Blossomvictory says

    Thanks for this write Wayne, am so relieved that I am not the only one thinks Adam. L is just a rare beauty in Today’s popular music. Often hearing ‘Ghost Town’ from the radio, not until few weeks ago (first time) seeing him performing this song on live stage via Channel 9’s Voice, I was so completely captivated by his musical/ vocal / performing talents which truely are one of his kind, at this day & age. Your article has helped me understand more abt Adam. Am also happen to be an old Queen fan, Adam’s depth in music certainly earns him a well deserved title — the Lead Singer of New-age Queen!! …

  2. Wayne Ball says

    Bec, I’d never really listened to anything Lambert had released since his explosion from Idol. However, I have a new appreciation of his undeniable vocal talent.

    I was horrified at how poor the Paul Rodgers experiment actually was, but Lambert is genuinely something special – and if you get a chance to see them perform together, do it.

  3. Hi Wayne,

    I am a Queen tragic from way back and I saw Queen + Adam Lambert at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne last year.

    I also had no time for the Queen & Paul Rogers thing, but I decided to see Brian & Roger only because I was too young to see Queen in Freddie’s time and I thought it was my last chance to see something approximating the real deal. It was a roll of the dice because I knew bugger all about Adam Lambert.

    Your review is absolutely spot on. I also reviewed the concert I saw – only because I was similarly impressed. Adam Lambert is as good a fit as you will find for the enormous Adidas runners/ballet slippers that Freddie filled. And Roger and Brian are as good as ever (nice touch that Spike Edney and Rufus were part of the band).

    Having said that, whenever Freddie made an appearance on the screen it was spine tingling, tear inducing stuff. He was the champion and a one-off.


  4. Thanks Wayne. I did consider going when I heard the concerts announced but decided to pass as for me Freddie was the main attraction. I’ve yet to witness a better showman than him. Glad to hear Adam Lambert did him justice.

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