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Review: Books, Theatre, Movies, Albums & Gigs.

Queen + Adam LambertQueen + Adam Lambert

Queen Forever Tour, 2015

Manchester Phones4U Arena
January 21, 2015

Let’s get it right from the off: This Is Not A Queen Gig! No Freddie Mercury and sadly no “Quiet Man” John Deacon on Bass make sure of that. Yet what was presented last night at The Manchester Phones4U Arena was still crammed with enough “Essence de Regal” to ensure that it really isn’t a tribute act either, but rather a different version of the Rock Monolith created out of the necessity for the fans to remain sated.

S be drawn

“If it wasn’t for Freddie Mercury, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing right now,” extols American Idol runner up Adam Lambert, the latest singer to have a crack at achieving the impossible by filling the on stage charisma and vocal theatrics of the legendary Queen front man.

 Many have tried – Paul Rodgers and George Michael to name but two, not forgetting the entire bunch of contributors to the Tribute Gig of 1992 – and all, ultimately, have failed. However – credit where it is due – Lambert far exceeded expectations, pulling off with some style songs that Mercury has made his own and throwing in a few theatrical interpretations of his own that will live long in the memory. There are certain similarities between the two, and only if you have seen both perform Queen songs live will you appreciate the stark differences as well. Then and only then should comparisons be drawn.

Brian May, silhouetted behind a vast curtain enveloping the stage to the closing strains of the Made in Heaven album before One Vision kicks in at full blast as the shroud gets sucked away, marks one of the bands more spectacular introductions to be sure, before the band breaks into the first of quite a few surprises, a superb version of Stone Cold Crazy which had the audience screaming and dancing like nobody’s business.

On the rockier songs, Lambert is more than capable of holding a note and range that is admirable; more so were it not for his tendency to over reach when over excited and so shriek at the top end of notes in trying to impress. This is pretty evident during In the Lap of the Gods and Seven Seas of Rhye, but not so much on the intervening Another One Bites the Dust or Fat Bottomed Girls, which the young pretender absolutely nails.

Indeed, those songs that might have ostensibly been created for Adam Lambert more than a generation previously he almost devours and the camp, pomp and circumstance a Queen audience demands is fully displayed during Killer Queen, for the duration of which Lambert stretches out wearing a gold lame, see-through topped suit across a purple chaise lounge, drinking nonchalantly from a bottle of, yep, Moet et Chandon.

Mercury was lambasted for such largesse back in the day, but here the audience seemed just a little bemused.  Clever or cheesy? You decide, but whatever it is the end result is richly entertaining.

Roger Taylor – assisted brilliantly by his son Rufus on percussion – mercilessly belts out the rhythms that are so well known with a skill, energy and vitality that defies his age. This passion is never more evident than during the Drum Battle he has with Rufus at the mid-way point where he also shows his voice is in as fine a fettle as ever on Days Of Our Lives.

When Brian takes over later in the gig with a re-jigged solo that starts with Last Horizon and closes with Brighton Rock, it is highlighted should it be necessary that not for nothing is the man so revered amongst his peers. If Lambert is sure that but for Mercury he would not be performing on stage, then if not for May half the world’s axe men would still be working in car factories.

The only pity of the night lies in the fact that John Deacon’s contribution to Queen’s vast catalogue is all but entirely ignored and only scant recognition is given to his presence on the big screens that show video of days past. Your My Best Friend or Its A Hard Life would have been nice, or even a mention of the man who was vital in establishing their overall sound and vision. Even the nod given towards the much derided album Hot Space and the opening bass bars of Body Language could easily have been replaced by those of Back Chat, written by Deacon, and a song that has a killer drum riff Taylor could have just as easily as any other incorporated into his repertoire this evening.

Perhaps its copyright issues because for the die hard Queen fan, JD holds a warm, finger-lickin’ place in the heart that will never be removed and his continued contributory absence from documentaries, compilations and gigs tends to leave a bit of sour taste.

Between these two exhibitions of Rock prowess, however, there are yet more surprises.  Don’t Stop Me Now makes its first appearance the Crazy Tour of 1981 and Somebody To Love is given an extra coat of paint at its close. Lambert does well with both but, particularly with the latter, the weight of the melodies appear a little much and Mr. Shriek pops his head up more than once during the meat of song.
 
Conversely, this is certainly not the case with two beautifully delivered songs that, again, have been missing in recent outings. The manner in which Lambert controls Save Me and Who Wants to Live Forever is nothing short of astonishing and if ever there is a doubt over his ability to control an audience, this is dispelled upon hearing these two masterpieces being so superbly delivered.

 When Tie Your Mother Down rips through the auditorium, you know the end is nigh but not before Lambert engages in a little audience participation that – for one section of the audience here – fails to generate a lot of enthusiasm.  Still, that can hardly be his fault because as Bohemian Rhapsody begins on the tails of a rip-roaring I Want It All, a steady Radio Ga Ga and a thumping Crazy Little Thing Called Love, everybody is on their feet.

Bohemian Rhapsody, tonight, was quite beautiful; Lambert, and courtesy of the big screen that dominates the rear of the stage, shaped as it is like a giant illuminated Q, Freddie appears to take part in what amounts as close to being a duet as is possible. Tears flow at the end, smoke clears and the majesty that is Queen is left behind like the soothing scent of burning wood chips on a chilly November 5th for all to savour.

We Will Rock, We Are The Champions –for which Lambert somewhat incongruously dons something of a Prince’s crown rather that the Full Monty monarchical titfer Freddie strode about the stage in ’86 – and God Save The Queen close proceedings, the band troupe to the front to take their bows – with Roger Taylor looking positively knackered, it has to be said – and Brian lingers just a little to take it all in for just a little bit longer than those around him.

Queen without question are, as an entity, one of the greatest bands to have ever graced the planet and, overall, Queen +Adam Lambert provide all of the glitz, glamour, excitement and energy of their former selves, thereby providing a night that will be remembered fondly if not with the same “I was there” euphoria of gigs past.

Setlist

1. One Vision

2. Stone Cold Crazy

3. Another One Bites the Dust

4. Fat Bottomed Girls

In the Lap of the Gods... Revisited

5. Seven Seas of Rhye

6. Killer Queen

7. I Want to Break Free

8. Don't Stop Me Now

9. Somebody to Love

10. Love of My Life

11. '39

12. These Are the Days of Our Lives

13. Bass Solo
14. Drum Battle
15. Under Pressure

16. Save Me

17. Who Wants to Live Forever

18. Last Horizon

19. Brighton Rock
20. Tie Your Mother Down

21. I Want It All

22. Radio Ga Ga

23. Crazy Little Thing Called Love
(Queen cover)
24. Bohemian Rhapsody

25. Encore:
26. We Will Rock You

27. We Are the Champions

28. God Save the Queen

 



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“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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