“Wembley. What do you think of the new guy?”
A packed arena explodes into applause at Brian May’s words, their appreciation obvious.
The new guy grins, sways on the spot and puts a hand to his heart. Acceptance as a new Queen front man can be tricky to attain, as he knows well.
Over the years many have tried (and failed) to step into Freddie Mercury’s shoes. Ex-Free rocker Paul Rodgers achieved mixed success in the mid-2000s, while Dappy, Robbie Williams and Jessie J have all been scoffed at for trying. Replacing the moustached magician has proved nigh on impossible thus far.
This is where new recruit, Adam Lambert, differs to other would-be Freds. In stressing that “there’s never going to be another [Freddie Mercury] and I’m not replacing him. That’s not what I’m doing”, Lambert has managed to achieve a level of authenticity that has been sorely lacking in the band’s recent performances.
Resplendent in head to toe studded leather, high heels and more eye shadow than Dame Edna, Lambert definitely draws on his predecessor’s penchant for the outlandish.
Left dripping in sweat next to his grey-haired bandmates, he has strutted, pouted and thrusted his way through a 23-song set of over two hours. His outstanding vocal ability has been put to the test time and time again in a back catalogue stuffed with hits – ‘Killer Queen’, ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ and ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ to name a few – but the 33-year old American has stood tall (and not just because of the platform shoes). Even several costume changes have left the star unfazed.
It is during these wardrobe sessions when the youngster takes a break and the old guard take over. Brian May wheels out an acoustic rendition of Night at the Opera track ‘’39’, before giving us a good half hour of his most cosmically brain-warping guitar squealing. Then Roger Taylor engages in a fiery father and son drum battle with 23-year old Rufus. These add little to proceedings and serve as nothing more than an ego boost for a couple of old timers desperate to prove their chops to a new generation.
More welcome is the tasteful big screen Freddie footage that crops up occasionally. May is accompanied on ‘Love of My Life’, and it is touching to say the least. A cameo on ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is equally popular. These short acknowledgements of the glaring elephant in the room are ecstatically received and add a touch of class to proceedings. Better to add more of these than the self-indulgence of May’s mid-concert science experiment.
Lambert’s performance does have its faults though. ‘Save Me’ is a complete disaster – he never quite captures the soul-baring intensity of the song – and he hasn’t quite mastered the stagecraft that left fans eating out of the band’s hands in their pomp. Yet.
There is no doubt, however, that the truly regal Queen are at their rip roaring best only when Lambert is on stage. A worthy successor to the throne indeed.