“Let me address the big, pink elephant in the room,” Adam Lambert said during his first between-song chat with the crowd at the Forum in Inglewood on Saturday night. “I am not Freddie Mercury.”
There’s not a soul in the room that needed that information, but still, the sentiment was appreciated and reciprocated in the form of huge cheers and applause. Eight years into his run as the frontman of this most iconic of rock & roll bands, it must get tiring to have to justify one’s existence night after night. But it speaks to his humility and decency that he brings the subject up early on. Because, Lambert knows what this is. The band has said that the chances of new material from this “Queen + Adam Lambert” lineup are slim, because people just want to hear the old stuff.
They’ve tried it before, of course. Queen with Free/Bad Company man Paul Rodgers put out The Cosmos Rocks in 2008 (plus the Return of the Champions live album in 2005), and people were barely interested. Incidentally, the Queen + Paul Rodgers experiment is largely considered a failure because of Rodgers’ blues-rock stylings, but that attitude ignores some spectacular live shows.
But Lambert, who has a successful solo career which allows him to stretch his creative wings, seems content to sing the old songs with Queen. As far as he’s concerned, he’s paying tribute to this band and their incomparable singer. “There can only be one Freddie Mercury,” Lambert yells, to more hysterical cheers.
With all of that said, Lambert does a phenomenal job. A quick glance at the setlists for previous shows on this Rhapsody tour reveals that there’s little wiggle room. They have this thing rehearsed to the point of perfection. And that attention to detail allows for a spectacular theatrical experience. There are lasers (so many fucking lasers) and a big disco ball, some imaginative uses of the screens behind them, and a motorcycle for Lambert to drape himself across during “Bicycle Race” (not exactly accurate based on the lyrics, but close enough — it’s hard to drape yourself over a bicycle).
The singer enjoys himself immensely during “Killer Queen,” fanning himself and pouting like the fine dandy that he is, enunciating each word with clear relish. Each crowd fave, including the opening “Now I’m Here,” as well as “Seven Seas of Rhye,” “Don’t Stop Me Now,” “Somebody to Love” and “Radio Ga Ga,” is treated with the reverence it deserves by Lambert.
Meanwhile, Brian May and Roger Taylor lap up every bit of the adoration bestowed upon them by this L.A. crowd. They sound reinvigorated too, as they enjoy the opportunity to wallow in some of the post-biopic afterglow. Taylor takes the mic to sing “I’m in Love with My Car” (a great rocker that took a bit of a poke in that Bohemian Rhapsody film) and, later, Bowie’s parts on “Under Pressure.” May sings “Love of My Life,” armed with just an acoustic guitar, and duets with an on-screen Mercury — one of the most emotional moments of the evening.
Other highlights include May dressed as some sort of space-robot, apparently standing on an asteroid for his “Last Horizon” solo while planets hover around him. There are some superb deep cuts — notably “In the Lap of the Gods” from the Sheer Heart Attack masterpiece, “Dragon Attack” from 1980’s The Game and “Machines (Back to Humans)” from ’84’s The Works.
Mercury is back on the screens for his famous “Ay Oh” crowd interaction, before the double whammy encores of “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions.”
And with that, it’s all over. The band bows and exits the stage, and the crowd shuffles out, the buzz tangible. Next time Queen plays, we’ll still be talking about Freddie Mercury — that’s just the way it is. This version of the band embraces that fact and pays tribute in the most fitting way possible — by delivering the goods in spectacular fashion, every night.