Concert Review: Queen Turns Up to 11 With Adam Lambert as Fan and Frontman

Adam Lambert with Queen's Brian May
Michael Roszkowski

Five songs into a killer Queen show Wednesday night (July 26) at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, Adam Lambert stopped to ask a question. “Is this the real life? Or is it just fantasy?”

Lambert’s quip, referencing the opening lines of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” may have been tongue-in-cheek, but it’s also reality for the “American Idol” season eight runner-up, who had the good fortune of being chosen to front Queen alongside original members Dr. Brian May on guitar, and drummer Roger Taylor (Neil Fairclough plays bass; Spike Edney handles keyboards, and Tyler Warren rounds out the lineup on percussion).

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It’s a big job, as Lambert went on to explain, namely because singer Freddie Mercury died tragically in 1991. “Let’s be honest, there is only one Freddie Mercury,” the 35-year-old said from the stage. “I’m a fan just like you guys. I’m just up here in a really expensive seat.”

And it’s a spot that Lambert has earned, as evidenced by the two-hour rock ‘n’ roll laser light spectacle that he led. The set list went heavy on hits, but also sprinkled in a few deep cuts and Lambert’s own original song, “Two Fux,” which was skillfully executed thanks to his otherworldly vocal range and a stage presence that drew the audience in with each line.

Lambert — careful not to mimic Mercury — brought his own artistry and interpretation to the music. Specifically, his emotive interpretation of “Who Wants to Live Forever” as well as handling Mercury’s vocals in a duet of “Under Pressure” with Taylor induced goosebumps. It was simply that magnificent.

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Lambert’s interpretation of “Killer Queen” was another highlight. On the 2014 tour, Lambert performed the song while on sofa. This time, he emerged from below the stage seated on the head of “Frank,” the robot that adorns the cover of Queen’s 1977 album “News of the World” (celebrating its 40th anniversary this year). Lambert’s theatrical background came into play on this number as Lambert delivered it with a sparkle in his eyes and just a touch of vamping — the kind you’d expect in a small Broadway theater.

The robot was an important piece of the show, building momentum before the musicians took the stage as his giant hands broke through the set, lifting up the stage to reveal the band, with Lambert teasing the crowd with a snippet of “We Will Rock You” before crashing into “Hammer To Fall.” The payoff of “We are the Champions” (complete with Lambert wearing his deserved crown) would come later, but there was plenty to enjoy before then.

Adam Lambert

With his leather jacket, sunglasses, and well-heeled shoes (we counted five costume changes throughout the night), Lambert was every bit the rock star, tearing through classics like “Stone Cold Crazy,” owning the catwalk while strutting to “Another One Bites the Dust,” and riding a tricycle for “Bicycle Race.” By the time “Fat Bottomed Girls” came around, the group had the Prudential Center in a singalong frenzy. A stellar May guitar solo — one of many — took things to 11.

Lambert wasn’t the only one at the microphone. Taylor, who celebrated his 68th birthday on Wednesday night, mesmerized on the track “I’m in Love With My Car” (from “A Night at the Opera,” and the B-side to “Bohemian Rhapsody”). He later faced off with Warren on an epic drum battle and enjoyed a moment of surprise as Lambert led the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday.”

May, 70, scaled things back a bit seated with an acoustic guitar for a lovely version of “Love of My Life,” a beautiful moment that superimposed Mercury singing the last lines on the screen beside the guitarist. Said May: “I think a good song should never die.”

Truer words were never spoken.

Photos by Michael Roszkowski

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    1. Karen McHale says:

      We saw Queen + Adam Lambert at the Hollywood Bowl in June. Awesome show! Adam is so incredibly talented but you NEVER forget Freddie! His presence is ALWAYS there throughout the show and Adam knows that everyone will always hold that love for Freddie. But Adam is Adam and he does a GREAT job of being Adam and he does great justice to the music. It was an incredible show! And people of ALL AGES were in attendance, which is the best part.

    2. Sam says:

      My 14yo daughter and I see him next Fri in Dallas. So excited!!!

    3. Gail says:

      I was there on Wednesday..can’t agree more it was fabulous…made this 64 year old feel like a kid again!

    4. Sally Johns says:

      Thanks for this fab review. I’m so happy that Adam is finally getting his due in the press this time around. To those who insist on commenting that there was only one Freddie Mercury..there is and will only be one Adam Lambert! Like many others, I’ve been a Queen fan since the 70s. In fact I was blessed to see them in Detroit years ago with Freddie Mercury. I’ve also been a Glambert since Adam’s first note of “Bohemian Rhapsody” during his audition for Idol. This is a match made in heaven, and anyone who is truly a fan of Brian, Roger AND Freddie would want the music to live on and be experienced live. Yes, it is different with Adam, but to dismiss it as not worthy is unfair. In my 65 years of living, the Cleveland stop of the current tour was the best concert I have ever seen and experienced. Long live Queen and the King!

      • Maryanne says:

        I agree wholeheartedly … though I’m over 10 years younger than you, I was a fan since I was 12 (in the 70s) and didn’t get to see them with Freddie until 1982 when I was 18. What tour did you see them with Freddie? Did you see them with Mott the Hoople?

    5. Rachel says:

      Specifically, his emotive interpretation of “Who Wants to Live Forever” Can listen to Adam sings this song 24/7. He’s amazing with it.

    6. Sandra says:

      I was there as well on Wednesday night and it was incredible! I’m so glad I got to enjoy with my son’s who are 14 and 11. The 14 yo knew so many of the songs,it’s heartwarming to see a new generation enjoying great music! Bravo to Adam!

    7. J. Carreno says:

      I was there as well that night .,this was my 2nd time seen them live …1st time at MSG on the Hot Space Tour …this time I brought the wife & my son
      he is 13 years old …to my surprise knew all the songs (he plays piano by the way) “Radio GA-GA” was superb –“Bicycle Race” was a treat …
      Long live QUEEN!

    8. Dolly Bernard says:

      Seen them in Cleveland…. OUTSTANDING and fun filled, the most Epic part was Freddie… cried like a baby!!! 👏👏👏👍👍👍☝☝✌

    9. Mike says:

      I was at the Newark, NJ show and it was undeniably one of the best concert’s I have been to. Goosebumps throughout. For two hours I was 46 going on 20. This band is timeless.

    10. Derek Price says:

      Lookind forward to Uk tour.Booked for Manchester December

    11. Lou says:

      No other band today can evoke the variety of emotions a concert goer experiences w @queenwillrock @adamlambert but WAIT that’s #Queen’s MO…basically hit ’em hard, bring ’em down, then blast out/slay the arena/stadium. Great review TYSM!!

    12. Completely agree with everything in this review. Under Pressure gave me goosebumps as well, and Who Wants to Live Forever will be etched in my mind for a very long time.

    13. Wayne says:

      Hammer to Fall, not Hammer will fail

    14. E L Long says:

      There is only ONE Freddie Mercury EVER.

      • Wonderwoman says:

        *sigh…… why do people feel the need to go on every mention of Queen and state the bleeding obvious. It’s not relevant here mate. Nobody said there were 2 in fact, you’re the only one going on about it. There is only one Adam Lambert too but stating it over and over is ridiculous. Move on.

      • Kathleen Trahan says:

        Yes we all know there was only one Freddie..I got to see him 5 times but I have also seen this era and it is amazing. Mr. Lambert has a voice unmatched and has much more range and control than even Freddie had. Both singers are excellent but if Lambert is good enough for May and Taylor then he is good enough for us fans to honor and these songs need to be heard live for new generations to see their power. Freddie said he did not care what Queen did with his songs just not to make it boring. Well this era of Queen is ANYTHING but boring.

    15. Spot on review, they are magnificent and Adam Lambert is incandescent, this is a show not to be missed…the joy and FUN they have on stage with each other means you as a member of the audience do, too…but FYI Dr May just turned 70 the other day :D

    16. Pattygale says:

      It’s hard to believe, but this tour is even more amazing than the last. Yes, the music is fabulous, yes the lasers are incredible, but also making the show unforgettable is the interaction among all the men onstage. Their respect and affection for one another is obvious and the result is a joy filled evening for all.

    17. maherrera says:

      Freddie was a god!!! But they are doing him justice by having the one person who is close to Freddie’s charisma and vocal range. Thank you guy’s for giving Adam a chance. A loyal queen fan.

    18. LKay says:

      I love how the song, God Save the Queen, was playing while the band took their bows. It took me until the next day to realize they weren’t playing My Country ‘Tis of Thee! LOL! :-P

    19. LKay says:

      Best rock concert EVER! Queen + Adam Lambert = match made in heaven! I’m so thrilled that the incomparable Adam Lambert has the opportunity to share his otherworldly talent with the legendary Queen.

      • They always end their shows with GOD SAVE THE QUEEN. It’s a recording of Brian playing it on guitar. I practically cry when I hear it because I know the show is over.

        • Sally Johns says:

          Hi, Laurie. I’m with you… the concert goes by so quickly. I’m really sad that the North American part of the tour is just about over. When I look at videos of the shows since the one I saw in Cleveland last week, it seems like a dream that I was able to experience it live. At least we know there will be more videos coming in five weeks or so from overseas. See you on Facebook!

    20. Excellent review and read it twice. one minor correction: May turned 70 yrs. thanks for such a wonderful review.

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