Queen! QUEEN! Q.U.E.E.N!!!!! I can’t believe how lucky I was to be able to see Queen, live in action Sunday night. I grew up listening to their hits: “Bicycle Race,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “We Will Rock You,” and other gems. But I didn’t think I’d ever be seeing them in concert. Queen last toured with Freddie Mercury the year I was born (1986). I, therefore, never had the ultimate honour of seeing Queen live with the original members.
Although this is the case, Adam Lambert is an incredibly talented singer and performer. He’s a good guest lead to sing the songs of the legendary Mercury. As a group, I believe they are bringing Queen songs back to life in new and interesting ways. I wish I could take you back to the magic of that night; not only the unforgettable performance, but the emotion running through the audience as we watched one of the greatest rock bands of all time. I will try my hardest to do so.
I’m not going to lie, I was a bit hesitant about seeing Adam Lambert as the “plus” to Queen (the original Queen members place a “+” and the artist’s name to symbolize “featured with,” showing they are not replacing Mercury). This speaks perfectly to my hesitation – after all, how could anyone replace Freddie Mercury? Lambert humbly spoke to this notion:
Some of you came to the show thinking, ‘Well, he’s no Freddie Mercury,’ and I’m not. It’s an honour to bring these songs to life for the fans. I’m a fan like you, I just have the expensive seats and the fabulous gay suit.
Even before Lambert spoke to this, the crowd had already warmed up to him as the guest frontman for Queen. The band opened with a small excerpt from “We Will Rock You.” They then continued with “Hammer to Fall,” “Stone Cold Crazy,” “Another One Bites the Dust,” “Fat Bottomed Girls,” and “Killer Queen.” Throughout these classics, Lambert rocked his tight black leather pants and vest, sparkly red gloves, and shocking red hair, titillating the fans with chest and pelvis thrusts.
Not only does he have the moves and clothing down (he made six costume changes during the concert!), he also has the voice. Lambert’s range is unbelievable, and he throws his own twist on each song without trying to overshadow the memory of Mercury. At one point during the concert, Lambert and Brian May (lead guitarist, vocals) played off one another; Lambert would sing a couple of notes, and then May would play a couple of notes. This musical interaction revealed just how well Lambert and the members of Queen mesh together and how well they’ve been able to build off each other for the past five years.
Of course, it wasn’t just Lambert’s talent we got to witness. The audience also soaked up the genius of original rock gods May and Roger Taylor (drums, vocals). These men are 70 and 68-years-old, respectively, and they are legends. May had several solos throughout the concert, including one 10-minute-long interlude with just him and his guitar. Taylor had a drum-off with the other drummer of the band, Tyler Warren. The result was spectacular, each one respectfully trying to one-up the other. Both May and Taylor make playing their instruments look deceivingly simple. But, the hard work and dedication they’ve put in over the past 47 years has definitely paid off.
All throughout the night, there were nods to Mercury; it’s very evident that the phenomenal artist is still greatly missed. Queen incorporated him into the concert with recordings of his previous performances. In one segment, May moved to the front of the stage to perform an acoustic version of “Love Of My Life,” dedicating it to Mercury. Near the end of the song, a recording of Mercury singing was placed on the screen, superimposed right next to May. They “sang” together, just like in times past. In another segment, a video was played of Mercury singing back and forth with a crowd. We got to “sing” along with him, every time he sang a certain melody, we would follow suit. It was awesome.
And the concert just kept getting better and better as they played into the night. Queen and Lambert performed David Bowie’s “Under Pressure” to a thrilled crowd and then continued with some lesser known oldies but goodies. Finally, they performed “Bohemian Rhapsody.” This is one of my favourite Queen songs and it was everything I imagined it would be. From Lambert’s solo beginning and May rising from below the stage to the final lines of the song, sung by both Mercury and Lambert. It was absolutely spine-tingling.
The encore, though, was something else entirely. Queen and Lambert returned to a wild and deafening roar to perform “Spread Your Wings” and then, the highlight of the entire night, “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions.” Lambert, wearing a gold crown, sang his heart out and Queen gave it their all – everyone in Rogers Arena was singing and cheering along. The song ended with a bang, glitter shooting high into the sky and twinkling down onto the crowd. I definitely saved a couple of those as mementos.
I left the concert that night breathless and awestruck, thinking, ‘Is this real life, or is this just fantasy?’ (hey, I had to!). I walked home with a big, goofy smile on my face, drunk with Queen love. To those who were there, I’m thrilled we were able to share such an experience, with memories that will last a lifetime. To those who weren’t, I hope I was able to bring back some of the magic from that night.