There was buzz in the air on opening night for the Queen + Adam Lambert North American leg of The Rhapsody Tour. Why?
With no new music and a set list that has remained pretty stable since the band first headed out on the road — first with Bad Company’s Paul Rodgers and then American Idol season eight runner-up Lambert replacing the irreplaceable late Freddie Mercury — Queen has literally kept the music alive. It all comes down to the spectacular brand placement and re-placement that remaining active members guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor have accomplished with the We Will Rock You jukebox musical, a documentary, a zillion greatest hits and catalogue reissues and — of course — the enormously successful biopic Bohemian Rhapsody.
The film not only put the signature band back on the top of the charts, it cemented the band with a whole new generation of fans.
They were there buying merchandise like it was going out of style and truly hyped about getting the Q & A experience. Lambert stressed how he’s there to “carry the torch for Freddie Mercury and let Brian and Roger continue to play these amazing songs.”
They were the first audience getting it on the present tour and when the lights went down and the drum rolls began, the crowd went crazy at what could be called the Fanfare for the Common Fan. Nobody will ever accuse Queen of subtlety. The extended cosmic guitar solo was unlike anything seen in a stadium since the sonic excesses of the seventies.
Good. From the rising gold crown that framed the stage to the gilded opera box seat some super VIP folks were enjoying the show from, this was a far more lavish production than the last go-around. And Queen should be regally decked out.
1 — Now I’m Here
Opening the show with one of the band’s best early rockers set a tone for the first part of the concert which really focused on the heavy side. It gave Brian May ample opportunity to showcase his really boss tone. The guy has an incredible signature guitar sound. Just check the solo in Killer Queen and leave your hating at the door already.
2 — Adam Lambert
Addressing the “Pink Elephant in the room,” the singer made clear his role as interpreter rather than replacement. And promptly performed a version of Don’t Stop Me Now where the “having a good time” chorus seemed obvious. The guy can deliver gems such as Somebody to Love, the camp Bicycle Race or the dramatic Who Wants to Live Forever with aplomb. And who can’t respect an artist who hits the stage wearing a suit apparently tailored from the same gold and black patterned wingback chair upholstery that my grannie used to keep a plastic cover on. Shiny happy Adam.
3 – Fat Bottomed Girls
Not the song one might expect would get the arena on its feet singing and clapping along, but maybe there were more naughty nannies in British Columbia than reported. The sledgehammer riff and chorus hook are so good you could recite a grocery list and it would sound epic. May certainly knows the song is worthy as he tore into his solo. And Roger Taylor, who is a rock solid drummer, can still nail those hard harmonies.
4 – Love of My Life
Brian May sang it solo on acoustic and the crowd joined in. The degree to which the multi-generational fan base knows all the lyrics is exceptional. As is May’s voice. This band apparently had three other lead vocalists in its ranks, they just weren’t nearly as good as the guy who got the gig. The whole stadium was lit up with phones and then along came ‘39. Yes, the set list is full career catalogue comprehensive, complete with plenty of homages/medleys of other songs that don’t get full treatment live.
5 – Staying Power
In so many ways, Queen is an unlikely success story. Could a band chart a tune like Bohemian Rhapsody today? Probably not. And what about something so oddly constructed as Under Pressure. These are not easily digested pop ditties but they have incredible endurance. Heck, even Radio Gaga has legacy. Part of it has to be the exceptional delivery that Mercury put into every song by Queen. Even the stinkers — and there are plenty — still have his stamp. And then there are those perfect moments such as the bass riff in Another One Bites the Dust or the chorus build in I Want It All to paste a permanent smile on everyone’s faces.
This is a feel good tour for sure and it leaves one feeling that way.