By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
I could have gone to see Queen with Paul Rodgers back in 2005/6, but I honestly did not like this pairing. If I did go, I would have been disappointed. My impression of the Youtube videos of this pairing were not positive, and the reviews I read supported my thoughts. To leave the island must mean I really must love the band to death in order to hear their music live and unfiltered. They had to represent my youth. Back then, there were only two bands I took an immediate liking to: Queen and KISS.
Ever since I heard about Adam Lambert taking on the mantle, I wondered: could he? I avoided watching American Idol but when I heard about Queen and KISS appearing, I could not resist. I saw that Lambert has the stage presence needed to pull off being there with the greats.
Flash forward to now, he’s come a long way to be there in a big venue concert. To see Brian May, Roger Taylor and their support crew of Rufus Tiger Taylor, Neil Fairclough and Spike Edney is finally a completion of a quest. To see them play with Lambert may well be like discovering a Holy Grail that can bridge generations together on stage. At this Vancouver, B.C., concert or anywhere else, travelling afar to experience this special kind of magic is well worth it.
Lambert shows that he can nail the beat in “Another One Bites the Dust” and create the heat with “Fat Bottom Girls” all while wearing platform shoes that only KISS fans may notice and approve of. By the time he sang, “I Want It All,” I was sold. By mid-show, the all too humble Brian took the stage with a heartful rendition of “’39.” Afterwards, Roger arrived with a a very reminescent take of “Days of Our Lives” with clips of Freddie Mercury and the band featured on the big screen.
This nostalgic moment was perhaps the best part of this concert. Afterwards, May gave audiences a real treat by showing the range of what his guitar, the Red Special, can do. I could not help but shed a tiny tear. This moment was what I was waiting for all my life for to see.
To wonder what may come next, Roger and son Rufus offered a fantastic short drum solo. Is the lad being groomed to keep the Queen legacy alive? That’s quite possible, and I can be stomping along to “We Will Rock You” for years to come. Will Lambert be part of this next generation? Hard to say. When this act is billed Queen and … only a select few can match the intensity that Mercury totally owned on stage. Although I admit that I never saw Freddie sing live, I feel the avant-garde music videos alone speaks volumes about his dedication even when he was struggling with AIDS. He is a musical prostitute, and Lambert looks like he can shake out his best too. I would like to see him sing, “I Want to Break Free.” He’s not quite breaking out just yet with the performance he offered on “Killer Queen.”
Some songs in this band’s repertoire are owned by Freddie and they cannot be matched. Covers are fine and to own it means being capable to show how each performer’s personal range can sell it on stage. “Love of my Life” brings Freddie back to life in the final chorus-line on the massive Stargate (the letter O) styled silver screen with May providing a live accompaniment. To sync that up right requires the talent of an excellent technical crew and Freddie returns in more than just this number.
Even “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” can be a challenge. Lambert channels his best Elvis Presley and the crowd went wild. But the solo is what I paid attention to. I can sort of play the chords of this rockabilly song and struggle through a few measures of the solo on Kei, my guitar. But to see how May fluidly does it through the telescopic lens of my camera shows I have a long way to go. He is a guitar virtuoso.
The range of tunes this concert covered were nearly all the hits in this band’s history. If I could only time travel not to the year of 39, but to 86 instead, what’d be assembled would be me at Wembley Stadium to the best sight ever seen: Freddie at his peak. In what Lambert offered in this show, he’s definitely a Mercury rising.