Review: Queen & Adam Lambert 2018

Sunday 18 February 2018

Review: Queen & Adam Lambert 2018

It was 2014 when I wrote my last review of Queen and Adam Lambert. On a cool September evening, I made my way into Vector Area with my father in tow. We passed feathers and glitter, those exuberant and those more subdued, who are attracted to either Lambert, Queen or both. I had low expectations of anything Queen-related because it’s no surprise Freddie could never be replicated. I was left pleasantly surprised to say the least and wrote my most glowing review.

Fast-forward to last night, and not much has changed… except the name of the venue (now Spark Arena). There were the crowds of loyal Queen supporters and Adam-fans that packed the streets and merchandise booths surrounding. The streets were lined with punters heading to the venue, and in numbers considerably more than I remember in 2014. 

As I look around the foyer there are less feathers and sequins, and more merchandise t-shirts saying “Queen” or “Adam Lambert”. What I notice again while standing here getting my sugar-laden doughnuts is the mix of people here again – the balding and the bland mixed with the young and the old. Word must have gotten out about the quality of the performance in 2014 (I mentally pat myself on the back and take credit for something I don’t really deserve) and fans have come out from the woodwork who were as skeptical as I back in 2014.

With quiet excitement, my father and I make our way in – we’re seated on the floor in row 28. He turns to look at me with raised eyebrows and a sparkle in his eye… I can tell he’s excited and it’s the closest he’s ever been to his music idols. As I pan the stadium, it is a full-house. I can’t see a spare seat around the entire arena. We find row 28 and as we sit, he notes the music playing as people find their seats, is a hidden track on one of Queen’s albums. He recalls a story of falling asleep listening to one of the albums with his headphones on (like most nights) where he woke up with the sound of something he hadn’t heard before… a secret track at the end of the album. If this isn’t proof of a loyal and devoted fan, and probably a more reliable critic than I, then I don’t know what is.

The concert opens with the robot from Queen’s album cover ‘News of the World’. He breaks a cage to reveal the band and Lambert on stage opening with a small clip of ‘We Will Rock you’. The crowd cheers and leaps straight onto their feet. After their introduction I hear “SleepingverysoundlyonaSaturdaymorningIwasdreamingIwasAlCapone…” being sung loudly in my ear. My dad was beaming singing ‘Stone Cold Crazy’ and he came alive with the fast-paced lyrics few knew, bobbing up and down as though he was 21 again (albeit a few creaks and grey hairs later – love you Dad!). I wasn’t the only one a little lost on this track, and there were a few that made the cut which the audience (except Dad and the other true-fans) didn’t know.

‘Another One Bites The Dust’ had the crowd roar, smoothly followed by ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ where Lambert summoned his sisters. We were off to a great start and the audience approved. Adam returned – after a quick costume change – poised on the Robot’s head (who we learn is called Frank). In a fuchsia embellished suit, he sings ‘Killer Queen’ with his natural flair and flamboyance paired with his incredible vocal abilities. He takes a moment to welcome Auckland and notes what the first-timers would be thinking – “You’ve probably noticed I’m no Freddie… no sh*t!” the crowd revels in delight. “There’s only one rock god… Freddie Mercury!” the crowd goes wild for the artist who left his signature mark on this world.

Arguably this is a pertinent point, wisely acknowledged by Lambert himself before he gets too far into the concert. Lambert is no Freddie and he doesn’t try to be. He fits well with Queen with his impressive vocal ability that reaches phenomenal heights, and his flamboyance that commands the stage – as did Freddie – but he does it in his own way, with his skills speaking for himself. This is why Queen and Adam Lambert paired together works so well. It’s no poorly-executed replica of a band trying to stay relevant; it’s a beautifully executed tribute to the music that has impacted so many.

The band plays hits like ’Bicycle’, ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’, ‘I Want It All’ and more. Roger Taylor had his spotlight singing ‘I’m in Love with my Car’ and ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’. He does well and steps up more so than he did in 2014.

Brian May beautifully performed ‘Love of My Life’ on a seat with his guitar under the spotlight at the bottom of the runway, the same as he did before. I’d usually complain about repeating the same content in the same way, but the effortless beauty and duo with Freddie on screen from a live concert is so captivating I simply cannot complain.

The set was very entertaining, and lighting executed perfectly throughout the concert. Frank the robot was used in ways to transition between sets and to change up the stage which ensured there was never a dull moment. May had many opportunities to show off his guitar skills and enjoyed taking center stage with his Beyonce-fan blowing his impressive curly mane and cloak… yes, cloak.

Lambert did get his independent moment in this concert, performing his ‘What Do You Want From Me’. While I’m glad he got to have his defining moment as him and not as the version of Freddie, I’m not a fan. It highlights the greatness of the music Queen made and the pop song seems trivial in comparison. I can forgive one song when the rest of the show was performed to such a high standard.

What was clearly evident after Lambert and Queen have spent time on the road together, is that they are confident and effortless together. Each enables the other, and independently they wouldn’t be able to do what they do. They have a natural fit that credits the music, Freddie, and Lambert’s vocal capacity, and has the ability to appeal to a wide demographic between them. All in all they just got better over the past few years together. The entire concert met – if not exceeded – my expectations, and the audience agreed.

If I can offer one piece of advice, put your weary hat to one side tonight and go to the second show. I promise you will have an enjoyable night reminiscing the songs you love, in the midst of talent that spans generations.

They will rock you… (sorry, I needed to have a least one cheesy line), you’ve been warned!