Reality Rocks

Queen + Adam Lambert Rock London With “Queenbert” Concert

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

In July 2012, London history was made. An epic event like none other took over the city, with fanatics from around the globe journeying to the U.K. to witness a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle--so that one day they could boast to their grandchildren that they were there, in London, up in the bleachers, watching it all go down.

Oh, yeah--and the 2012 Summer Olympics happened in London in July, too.

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Adam Lambert with Queen's Brian May in London

I kid, I kid. But seriously, folks, the three-night London concert residency by "Queenbert"--aka Britrock legends Queen with special guest Adam Lambert--was an undeniably major occasion, and it was a vocal Olympics of sorts, too. (Adam is the champion, my friends.) While Queen's previous post-Freddie Mercury frontman, Paul Rodgers of Free/Bad Company fame, was barely qualified for a bronze in this category (Paul's a great rawk singer, but his gruff and bloozy style and deadpan demeanor were no match for the operatic Queen catalog), Adam definitely earned himself a vocal gold medal during Queen's marathon 135-minute kickoff concert at London's Hammersmith Apollo on July 11. And he may have earned himself a place in the history books, for real.

It should be noted that this was NOT, necessarily, Adam's audience. Although an impressive number of dyed-in-the-leather Glamberts were in attendance, this was, for the most part, a Queen crowd (one that included celebrity spectators like Bob Geldof and Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi, yet). See, while Queen are massive the world over, it's in their native U.K. that they're revered as national treasures and true rock 'n' roll royalty, and where Adam is still a relatively unknown rising newcomer. (His sophomore album, Trespassing, which debuted at number one in the U.S. almost two months ago, only came out in Britain this week.) So the possibility of Adam not being accepted in this new frontman role--of being booed or bottled, or at least being labeled a poor man's Freddie--most definitely existed here. But not long after Queenbert strutted onstage to the dramatic intro strains of "Flash" (yes, they really did open with the Flash Gordon movie theme--has finer statement-of-intent entrance music ever been written?), it became obvious that Adam would soon practically be embraced as an honorary Brit.

The Queen fans endlessly hooted and hollered for Sir Lambert, and interestingly, they almost seemed anxious for his triumphant return whenever he left the stage for a requisite costume change. Many concertgoers even sat down during those intervals, and only hopped back on their feet when Adam reemerged wearing something even more unfathomably fabulous than his previous get-up. (His lush scarlet "Dragon Attack" jacket, which looked like it had been fashioned from the pelts of rare Elmo puppets, was a wardrobe highlight; perhaps the one disappointment of the entire evening was the sad fact that similar coats weren't available for sale at the Queen merch booth.)

Adam in fact seemed to become freer and happier and smilier and just plain awesome-er as the show went on, and as the outpouring of audience love continued unabated. So by the time he kicked off his platform boots to perform the rest of concert barefoot (platforms hurt, you know), he was as loose as an English goose.

The lovey-est lovefest, however, took place onstage between Adam and the Queen members themselves, particularly the magnificently druid-robed and silver-haired guitarist Brian May, who apparently is now Adam's BFF. The two were constantly cuddling up shoulder-to-shoulder, playing to each other, beaming moony-eyedly at each other, and singing one another's praises; there was some serious mutual-admiration-society stuff going on. Adam repeatedly bowed and curtsied to Brian in a most genteel and gentlemanly manner, and Brian regularly referred to Queen's guest singer as "Ladies and gentlemen, the incredible Adam Lambert!" and made lofty declarations like "If it weren't for the amazing Adam Lambert, none of us would be here." With ringing endorsements like that, it's no wonder London's Queen fans were so readily, enthusiastically accepting.

But it should be noted, this was not The Adam Lambert Show. Queen's Brian May and Roger Taylor (and even Roger's son Rufus, who played a second drum kit) still received top billing, and both of Queen's elder statesmen got their own turns at the mic. (And both sang so surprisingly well, especially Brian, it's a wonder they ever hired Paul Rodgers a few years ago in the first place.) Roger handled the David Bowie role in an "Under Pressure" duet with Adam, as well as lead vocals on "A Kind Of Magic," unexpectedly smoothly, and Brian was a natural-born frontman on "The Show Must Go On," "'39," and "Tie Your Mother Down."

However, it was when Brian and Roger saluted the late, great Freddie Mercury, with song, that there was a kind of magic onstage that brought tears to fans' eyes and goosebumps to their flesh. Roger crooning "These Are The Days Of Our Lives" while archival '70s Freddie  footage screened behind him, and Brian performing a virtual "Love Of My Life" duet with Freddie (sort of like Tupac's hologram performance at Coachella, only more lo-fi and much more high-emotion), were moments that reminded everyone, once again, how truly amazing Freddie Mercury was, and how he can never, ever replaced.

And that was an important point, especially for any haters out there dismissing Adam with "He's no Freddie Mercury!" gripes. That much is true--he's not Freddie Mercury. HE'S ADAM LAMBERT--and that was clearly more than enough at the Apollo. Adam showed respect and deference for Queen and their large, looming legend throughout this concert (even emotionally "dueting" himself with Freddie's video-screened likeness on "Bohemian Rhapsody"), and he never came across as a Mercury impersonator. But still...when he led the adoring audience during a call-and-response chant on "Another One Bites The Dust" or the Live Aid-inspired synchronized hand-claps on "Radio Ga Ga," there was no doubt that he was a star in his own right. (Personal side note: I am thrilled to report that I can now cross "participate in 'Radio Ga Ga' clapping choreography at a Queen concert" off my bucket list. I'd been rehearsing those arm movements for years.)

By the time Queenbert's Olympian rock revue ended in a hot cloud of pyro smoke with (of course) "We Will Rock You"/"We Are The Champions," it was heart- and fist-pumping to see just how far Queen and Adam Lambert had come since they'd first memorably performed that medley on the "American Idol" Season 8 finale three years ago. Which begs the question: WHEN ARE QUEENBERT GOING TO PLAY AN AMERICAN CONCERT? They've rocked Kiev, Moscow, and Poland, and have two more sold-out London shows planned this week, but this should not be the end of their mini-world tour. The show must go on, because this show is simply awesome.

FULL SETLIST:
Flash (intro)
Seven Seas Of Rhye
Keep Yourself Alive
We Will Rock You (fast version)
Fat Bottomed Girls
Don't Stop Me Now
Under Pressure (Roger & Adam duet)
I Want It All
Who Wants To Live Forever
A Kind Of Magic (Roger singing lead)
These Are The Days Of Our Lives (Roger singing lead)
The Show Must Go On (Brian singing lead)
Love Of My Life (Brian singing lead)
'39 (Brian singing lead)
Dragon Attack
I Want To Break Free
Another One Bites The Dust
Radio Ga Ga
Somebody To Love
Crazy Little Thing Called Love
Bohemian Rhapsody

ENCORE:
Tie Your Mother Down (Brian singing lead)
We Will Rock You
We Are The Champions

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