When Queen initially announced that they would be touring with Adam Lambert, I was quite skeptical; could Adam really even dream of living up to Freddie Mercury? While admittedly Adam is certainly not Freddie, he truly is an astounding singer in his own right. It was rather humbling when he proclaimed that he knew that there would only be one Freddie Mercury. This is a show that will certainly go down in the books as one of the best that I have ever attended.
The show took place at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA on July 16th, 2014. I was able to score front row seats, and their placement gave me an amazing view of what was one of the most elaborate stage setups I have seen. Arguably only the Rolling Stones show I attended could top this stage. The show commenced with the curtain dropping a few verses in to “Now I’m Here,” a lesser known, but brilliant, song off of the album “Sheer Heart Attack.” Adam sang the lyrics effortlessly, sounding amazing the entire time. Brian May and Roger Taylor look remarkably well for their ages, 64 and 66 (at the time of writing Brian is now 67) respectively. It was also nice to see Roger receive some help on the drums by none other than his son, Rufus. After the more obscure opening number, Queen kicked into some of the hits that put them on the map: “Stone Cold Crazy,” “Another One Bites the Dust,” and “Fat Bottomed Girls.” The harmonies in the latter were executed perfectly, a true testament to Adam’s ability. A bit later on, Adam lied down on a plush purple and gold couch at the end of the catwalk, performing a stunning rendition of “Killer Queen.” Adam was really in his element here. Following this up was another showstopper, “Somebody to Love,” which sounded as fresh as though it were written yesterday!
Towards the middle of the show, Adam left the stage for Roger and Brian to perform a quieter, more introspective set that involved many classic pictures of the late, great, Freddie Mercury. It truly is wondrous how they honor him during the show; it is almost like he is still there performing. [Fun fact: Last time Queen performed in Philly with Freddie was July 24th, 1982 at the now nonexistent Spectrum]. During this slower set, Brian May took to the mic for “Love of My Life,” a truly beautiful song, and the more folk-like “’39.” Roger also got a stab at the vocals during “These Are the Days of Our Lives.” While this little tribute was certainly fitting, the crowd was anxiously waiting the return of Adam and the spectacle that a Queen show normally encompasses.
After returning to the stage, Adam duetted with Roger on the brilliant “Under Pressure.” That bass line has got to be one of the best in music, and get this, it is played on a real bass and not a computer – go figure! Following this was a performance of the Freddie solo song “Love Kills,” that will soon be reworked for an upcoming Queen album (no word yet on whether or not Adam will lay down some vocal tracks on this album). Next up was one of my favorite moments of the show; standing under a glittering disco ball at the end of the catwalk, Adam belted out “Who Wants to Live Forever” with as much emotion as Freddie did. This song truly gave me goosebumps.
After these few songs Brian May broke into was definitely my least favorite part of the show. While Brian is certainly an influential, pioneering guitar player, a 20-some-odd minute guitar solo is utterly unnecessary. Most in the crowd were looking down at their phones and hoping that it would end. It really was a buzzkill – add a song in that time (maybe two!). Finally, everyone came back out for a powerful performance of the classic “Tie Your Mother Down,” following by arguably my favorite Queen song, “The Show Must Go On.” Adam really put his all into this song and it showed to the amazed audience. For the end of the main set, the ever-famous “Bohemian Rhapsody” was played, featuring a duet between Adam and Freddie on the screen. Now this was the most brilliant tribute to Freddie of the night. With Adam and Freddie trading off lines at the end of the song, everyone in the audience was surely emotional.
The show was rounded off with an encore performance of the anthems “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions,” with Adam donning a leopard print suit topped off with a large crown on his head. Throughout the show Adam went through between 5 and 10 costume changes! Brian and Roger went more casual with white shirts and what looked like mildly-jeweled pants.
As I mentioned earlier, this is certainly one of the best shows that I have attended. In regards to the setlist, I really wish they would have played “Don’t Stop Me Now,” as that is one of my favorites. I know they played it earlier on in the tour. Why drop a song and not add anything in its place? “You’re My Best Friend” would have been nice as well, though to a lesser extent. Luckily, I am going to see this show again in Atlantic City at Boardwalk Hall on July 26th, so I look forward to providing another review and comparing the two shows!