Queen will rock you, with Adam Lambert’s help

Queen + Adam Lambert in Vancouver B.C. @ Rogers Arena 7/2/17

Photo by Ryan Johnson
Photo by Ryan Johnson

“I know what you’re thinking,” said former American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert to the sea of Queen fans at Rogers Arena post Canada Day, “He’s no Freddy Mercury. Believe me, I know! Every time I get onstage with [Queen] I think, is this real or is it fantasy? I’m a fan just like you. I just have the really expensive seat and the really gay suit!”

Despite his not always fantastic repertoire of solo songs, give an impeccable vocalist like Lambert Queen hits to sing and the powerful support of truly amazing original members Brian May and Roger Taylor, and the result is something everyone needs to experience. If only to shed a few tears for the incomparable Freddie Mercury. But Lambert isn’t bad. He’s not bad at all.

This year marks the second tour involving the Queen/Lambert collaboration and the 40th anniversary of News of the World—this meant that the fitting mascot for the show would be the robot, equal parts creepy and endearing, from the cover of that classic 1977 album. The show was visually stunning from the beginning, and despite Lambert’s awkward and slightly unsure beginning with the intro to “We Will Rock You”, “Hammer to Fall” and “Fat Bottomed Girls” (where he said the unfortunate phrase “where all my fat-ass bitches out there?”), he came into his own by “Killer Queen”. Lambert started off the night in a tight black leather ensemble that showed off his tattooed arms and bright red hair. This would be the first of six pretty sensational costume changes which included his signature heavy makeup and some sweet glitter hooker boots.

May’s blonde glam perm is still intact, and fans wouldn’t have it any other way. He has not only stayed viciously pristine in his guitar delivery but still maintains his stance as a fun stage performer. Best of all, Lambert gave him the room he deserved to be in the spotlight for most of the night. From literal out-of-this-world big screen graphics to a pink bike adorned with flower bouquets for “Bicycle Race”, to May performing an epic guitar solo in the air seemingly in the clutches of a robot hand, the group really pulled out all the visual stops. “Killer Queen” had Lambert perched atop a robot head, hitting all the gorgeous high notes with perfect precision and telling the crowd, “I thought I would give you a little head…if you don’t mind. It’s an all-service facility here at Queen”.

While the whole night seemed to be a high point musically, great vocal shout outs can be given to Lambert particularly for “Another One Bites the Dust”, “Who Wants to Live Forever” and “Don’t Stop Me Now”. It was refreshing to see a whole ensemble make everything they were doing look so, so easy. A cheesy drum battle midway through the show—supposedly necessary in order to give drummer Taylor his due spotlight time—led to the group’s David Bowie collaboration “Under Pressure”.

“I want to sing a song for you—with your help—by a dear friend of mine, Freddie”, said May as he began “Love of My Life”. This was the big sentimental point of the evening, with the big screen split to show both May and the late Mercury singing along. There may have been tears. There were a few points in the night where the multimedia spectacle brought Mercury both visually and audibly into the mix, which worked on all levels.

“Do you take requests?” said Lambert to May. “I have a big life request. Can you find me…” the audience blurted out “Somebody to love?!” The crowd at Rogers was very obviously having a great time as Lambert went a little Elvis on “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”—vintage leg shakes and all. And May and Taylor’s respective relationships with each other, Lambert and their fans was wonderful to see in person. 

The end of the set had Lambert belting out “Radio Ga Ga” and of course the highly anticipated “Bohemian Rhapsody”—a highlight of the evening that featured Lambert’s vocals juxtaposed to those of the original Queen track and their iconic music video up on the big screen. May donned a silver cape for this portion of the evening, proving that Lambert wasn’t the only one prone to costume changes. The encore featured “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions” with Lambert wearing a lush crown and beaming under a large disco ball. As concertgoers clamored out of the arena to the tune of Bowie’s “Heroes”, a lot of them were musing about just how much of a spectacle that show had been. And it really, really was.