Queen And Adam Lambert At iHeartRadio Theater
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By Steve Baltin
During a video interview that aired prior to Queen And Adam Lambert's performance at the iHeartRadio Theater in Burbank, Calif., on June 16, Queen guitarist Brian May stated what seemed obvious. "For us it was all over when Freddie [Mercury died], we never thought we'd be playing The Forum and Madison Square Garden again."
Pink Floyd, Alice In Chains and, perhaps most famously, AC/DC, who lost lead singer Bon Scott in 1980 and replaced him with Brian Johnson and went onto even greater success, are just a few of the bands who have shown that the show must go on, literally. But the thought of Queen going on without the charismatic and once-in-a-lifetime talent of Mercury is different (though the group did tour in the past with Paul Rodgers, another all-time great, but one who had a markedly different vocal style and stage presence than Mercury). In polls debating the greatest frontmen in rock history, Mercury is deservedly near the top alongside the likes of Robert Plant, Steven Tyler and Mick Jagger. Personal preferences aside, there is no denying Mercury belongs in the conversation. That's what makes this current Queen and Lambert pairing even more shockingly impressive.
The teaming made their full national debut at last year's iHeartRadio Festival in Las Vegas, delivering arguably the best performance of the weekend. Last night, appearing only three days before the proper kickoff of their forthcoming tour in Chicago, the pairing made clear their much ballyhooed Vegas appearance was legit.
The taut eight-song set opened with "We Will Rock You," an obvious choice that fired up the audience, getting them to wave their fists and sing along to the familiar refrain. Lambert then asked the crowd if they were ready to get funky as the group kicked into "Another One Bites The Dust." The show went to the next level with "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," during which May delivered two solos that electrified the crowd.
Lambert introduced the next song by saying it would be something new for Queen. Indeed, the group tackled "Love Kills," a 1984 Mercury solo song he worked on with iconic GRAMMY-winning producer Giorgio Moroder for a restored version of the film Metropolis. Lambert said it was a disco song without the disco done "Queen style," and while most of the song was done as a sweet ballad, with Lambert and May seated on stools, the song did feature a disco kick near the end, taking on a contemporary remix feel.
The energy surged back up for an aggressive "Fat Bottomed Girls," the most rocking song of the night, which Lambert dedicated to all the "fat-a**ed b****es out there."
So much of the reason why this incarnation of Queen is exciting is Lambert, whose confidence and theatricality fit like a glove. While his admiration of Mercury is clear to see, he is wisely not trying to replace an irreplaceable legend. Of course, May and drummer Roger Taylor remain two of rock's finest at their respective instruments and they propel this version of Queen to lofty standards. That pedigree came through especially on the rock grandeur of "Fat Bottomed Girls," but also on the musically bipolar "Under Pressure," Queen's classic duet with David Bowie, which excelled with Taylor handling a majority of the vocals.
Following a spirited rendition of "We Are The Champions," done on this night without its pairing with "We Will Rock You," the night wrapped with "Don't Stop Me Now" from 1978's Jazz. The perfect vehicle for Lambert's vocal range, the trademark Queen song was the unquestioned highpoint of the set.
In an interview with Rolling Stone in March, May said that this teaming with Lambert "is the closest that you'll ever get to see Queen as it was in our golden days, but it's not a reproduction." That's exactly why this pairing works. It is an iconic band sharing their legend with a frontman who understands and appreciates their legacy. And the results are a joy for anyone who loves Queen.
"We Will Rock You"
"Another One Bites The Dust"
"Crazy Little Thing Called Love"
"Fat Bottomed Girls"
"We Are The Champions"
"Don't Stop Me Now"
(Steve Baltin has written about music for Rolling Stone, Los Angeles Times, MOJO, Chicago Tribune, AOL, LA Weekly, Philadelphia Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, and dozens more publications.)