So who can fill the leather chaps of Mr. Freddie Mercury? The New Year’s Eve crowd at London’s Westminster Central Hall were in clear agreement that Adam Lambert was a more than adequate choice.
The star in the making was joined by original group members Brian May and Roger Taylor during his final performance on 2009’s American Idol, and the trio teamed up once more at the MTV European Music Awards in November of that year. My opinion of Mr. Lambert was formed during that fantastic Idol run – he was great tv, but the more I saw of him, the more he reminded me, physically, of a fondly remembered old boyfriend, and as he maneuvered through the season with talent and charm, the less I recognized the emerging “he’s… err, gay? Bi? Right?” dilemma in my head and the more I fell for his charmingly earnest brand of theatrics. I think I’m on the losing end of that crush.
When the proposed tour-worthy collaboration was announced, I was fully on board. It made sense, and when challenging myself, and please know I didn’t make this “Rock Star 2”, I couldn’t think of another up and comer, talented and confident, who was also teen-friendly, that would be better to get Queen out on the road in full steam. Even more so after the London Olympics, where the Queen segment led many people to debate the infinitesimal possibility of anyone (sorry Jessie J, I thought you did well) any frontman ever squeezing into the aforementioned legwear.
Queen, New Year’s Eve, and Adam Lambert – did it work?
The show kicked off with “Don’t Stop Me Now”, which is more ubiquitous in the UK, a top ten hit in 1979 that is used, one might say overused, in adverts and movie and tv soundtracks. Game on. Lambert’s vocal were beautiful, and he threw in a gospelly, Elvissy ending, which he also went back to later in the show.
Swivelly hips and dangling solo earring a-go, Lambert looked good on stage, at his fighting weight and lightly made up, wearing de rigueur leather pants and, having borrowed, and then tailored, a sparkly shirt from Liza’s closet, he channelled a post-Wham George Michael, styling-wise. May was wearing a open-chested black shirt, upon which I couldn’t quite see if, or if not, bore his “Save the Badgers” logo (that’s his thing now, it’s an ongoing English environmental concern and he sported a prominent badge when he played, I think, on top on Buckingham Palace in 2002). Drummer Roger Taylor looked fresh and into it from the kick-off on, smiling and resembling how Kenny Rogers and Billy Joel meant to look after their “freshening up” trips to various L.A. doctors.
Throughout the evening, all of the interaction between AL and the Queen veterans seemed genuine and affectionate. The crowd responded to Lambert, but in a different way, and this comes from a minor Queen fan who only saw live performances on tv. The energy the new front man gives off is a new vibe. Not only do the keys of the songs seem different, but where Mercury’s in depth organic connection with the songs, something Lambert couldn’t and possibly shouldn’t attempt, makes perfect sense, what was… not missing, per se, but not a part of Lambert’s interpretation of the classics, was the defiant attitude, dipping into sexy menace, that Mercury possessed onstage. One could speculate that this came from the time and place of Freddie, professing onstage feelings from the heart of a man that was not really allowed to socially profess his viewpoint, but Adam Lambert’s contrasting comfort level and innate goodness shown through in a way that that made the vibe more mainstream, more easily digested, a different flavor.
It was, of course, New Year’s Eve, and a BBC televised show, so no one would be there with a blank face, checking their phones, but the crowd shots showed massively rocking, mostly middle aged people who were fully onboard with the collaboration, on their feet mostly and pumping fists constantly, except for a brief, funny change of expressions on some of the front-rowers when Lambert exhorted “I want to see all of you fat bitches shake that ah-ahh-ah…s” during “Fat Bottomed Girls”. Mostly his crowd chat was short, snappy and sincere, and during solos from May he sometimes turned away, towards the drum kit, to allow the spotlight to shine where it should.
The band did a short break at midnight to allow the BBC to go to the London fireworks spectacular, and it has to be said, Big Ben bonging in the new year in is a superb experience that makes the Times Square ball drop look like amateur hour. Because of the tv constraints, the set list was truncated, but enough of the catalogue was covered.
And so, the question remains, does Lambert adequately replace Mercury? The show made sure he didn’t have to, in toto. Significantly, Freddy was present in a video clip, he, in closeup, at the piano, without accompaniment, opening and closing an abbreviated “Bohemian Rhapsody”. The crowd went wild, and it felt like a respectful and necessary addition to the show. In my opinion, and hopefully those of Queen and Queen fans, Adam Lambert carried the rest of the weight throughout a great evening.
Don’t Stop Me Now
Someone to Love
Another One Bites the Dust
Fat Bottomed Girls
I Want It All
Crazy Little Thing Called Love
The Show Must Go On
Bohemian Rhapsody Part 1
Bohemian Rhapsody Part 2
We Will Rock You
We Are The Champions
More PCB: Pat Francis reviews Queen “On Air”