“Let’s address the pink elephant in the room,” Adam Lambert said to the crowd five songs into his show with Queen at New York’s Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night. “I’m not Freddie.”
But while it’s true Lambert isn’t the late, great Freddie Mercury, the fans at the show seemed thrilled to hear the former American Idol contestant belt out the legendary British band’s classics along with founding Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor.
Backed by an elaborate stage production that included a runway into the audience and some truly eye-popping video and laser effects — not to mention on-stage balconies from which some lucky fans got to view the show — Lambert did a fine job delivering a wide range of Queen’s rockers, ballads, and everything in between.
The singer, who, lest we forget auditioned for American Idol by singing “Bohemian Rhapsody,” also sported an array of truly fabulous costumes, on which no amount of sequins or glitter was too over-the-top. Freddie would have approved.
A technically perfect vocalist, Lambert seemed to come alive the most on songs that required him to use his acting ability. He ran giddily around the stage for “Don’t Stop Me Now,” perched on a piano to deliver a campy “Killer Queen” while waving a red fan, lounged on a motorcycle for “Bicycle Race” and gave major attitude on “We Will Rock You” and “Another One Bites the Dust.”
But guitarist Brian May was really the heart and soul of the set, as was evidenced when he sat on the edge of the runway with an acoustic guitar and delivered a tender rendition of “Love of My Life” as fans’ cellphones lit up the arena. A brief archival video of Freddie singing the end of the song added extra poignancy to the moment.
May also stretched out with numerous lengthy guitar solos, including a super-extended number in which he appeared to be perched on a giant asteroid while shooting stars and planets twinkled around him. Fitting for a guy who has a PhD in astrophysics — and who has an actual asteroid named after him.
As for two of Queen’s signature numbers — “We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” — Mercury was very much present. In “Rhapsody,” the band didn’t attempt to recreate the stacked vocals in the “Mamma Mia” portion, electing instead to show the song’s video and play the original recording. And prior to “We Will Rock You,” video of Freddie doing his famous “Ay-oh” chant was played.
Here’s the set list for the Queen + Adam Lambert Rhapsody tour, which runs through August 23 in Charlotte, NC, before heading to Asia and Down Under in 2020:
“Now I’m Here”
“Seven Seas of Rhye”
“Keep Yourself Alive”
“Hammer to Fall”
“Don’t Stop Me Now”
“In the Lap of the Gods…Revisited”
“Somebody to Love”
“I’m in Love with My Car”
“Another One Bites the Dust”
“Machines (Or ‘Back to Humans’)”
“I Want It All”
“Love of My Life”
“Doing All Right”
“Crazy Little Thing Called Love”
“Under Pressure” (Roger and Adam duet)
“I Want to Break Free”
“Who Wants to Live Forever”
“Tie Your Mother Down”
“Fat Bottomed Girls”
“Radio Ga Ga”
“Ay-Oh” (Freddie on Video)
“We Will Rock You”
“We Are the Champions”
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