×

Concert Review: Queen and Adam Lambert Capitalize on ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

The latest tour makes the most of what fans liked about the film: the hit music and an almost reverent take on Freddie Mercury's life.

About half way through Queen and Adam Lambert’s Saturday night show at the Forum in Inglewood, guitarist Brian May took the stage solo to perform a few numbers. He began by acknowledging that day’s 50th anniversary of the first manned moon landing, as the video screen behind him streamed a real-time replay of the Apollo 11 mission.

“This is the day when three incredibly brave American boys first reached the nearest heavenly body in the sky,” said May, who is famously also an astrophysicist. “Remember that? Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins changed the course of history.” May went on to reference Albert Einstein’s time dilation paradox, before launching into the Queen tune “39.”

A retro act referencing a historic moment: We have arrived at peak pop culture nostalgia. But when it comes to capitalizing on reboot mania, Queen has done everything right. The band has managed to stay relevant over the years, thanks to its occasional moments in the zeitgeist — such as “Wayne’s World” in 1992 and Lambert’s Queen covers in 2009.

And then, of course, came 2018’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the Queen biopic that earned Rami Malek an Oscar for his portrayal of late frontman Freddie Mercury. The success of that film sparked this year’s “The Rhapsody Tour,” once again tapping “American Idol” alum Lambert to fill the Mercury role. Indeed, the latest tour makes the most of what fans liked about the film: the hit music and an almost reverent take on Mercury’s life.

Lambert, of course, is quick to make sure fans know he’s not trying to be the legendary singer, who died in 1991. “I’m going to call the big pink elephant in the room,” Lambert told the crowd. “I am not Freddie Mercury. Because there will only be one Freddie Mercury. I’m just like you guys, I’m a big fan too. And there’s no replacing the one and only Freddie Mercury. All I’m here to do for you tonight is to celebrate Freddie and to carry a torch for Freddie. I hope I’m making him proud.”

Like any successful reboot, the new Queen still offers up something for the long-term fans, in May and drummer Roger Taylor, while also offering up Lambert, and a return to relevancy thanks to the film, for younger audiences.

May knows that it’s working, calling Lambert “the gift from God” at one point. Lambert returned the compliment: “Every time I go on stage with these guys I realize what an honor this is. And how lucky I feel.”

Queen
CREDIT: Photo Bojan Hohnjec

There was frequent use of Mercury imagery, including a touching moment when May sang Mercury’s “Love of My Life” until the end of the song, when a video featured Mercury singing the final verse as May smiled and looked on. Queen also continues to perform “Bohemian Rhapsody” live as a hybrid, sang mostly live but with the “mamma mia” section on tape from the song’s famous video.

The mostly older audience likely appreciated all the nods to the Queen they grew up with. But Lambert still made plenty of the show his own, interjecting his own swagger and personality in the mix — from licking a microphone to frequent, and outlandish, wardrobe changes.

The setlist offered the usual greatest hits package, with plenty of songs from the movie getting their due. There was no surprise to the ending: Queen and Lambert wrapped up the initial set with “Bohemian Rhapsody,” while “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions” served as the encore.

It wasn’t earth-shattering stuff, but reboots rarely are. What they’re supposed to do is give audiences something they’re either excited to see again, or curious to see for the first time. For my 9-year-old, newly obsessed with Queen thanks to “Bohemian Rhapsody,” it was a perfect first-ever concert for him. For the older concertgoers around us, it was a chance to hop in the time machine and recapture a bit of joy, all these years later.

Or as astrophysicist Brian May might note, another way to practice Einstein’s theory of special relativity.

Concert Review: Queen and Adam Lambert Capitalize on 'Bohemian Rhapsody'

More Music

  • Marc Byers

    Execs from Motown, Live Nation, Recording Academy Set to Speak at Culture Creators' Inaugural C2 Summit

    Culture Creators, the organization which recognizes minorities in film, television, music and fashion, is holding its first-ever C2 Summit on Oct. 21 in Washington D.C. Its mission: to engage, mentor, and provide recruitment opportunities to students of color attending historically black colleges and universities. Students were selected from an application process and will participate in [...]

  • Rami Dawod SESAC

    SESAC Toasts Rami Dawod as Pop Songwriter of the Year

    Camila Cabello’s “Never Be The Same” and “Electricity” by Mark Ronson and Silk City featuring Dua Lipa are just a few of the co-writing credits celebrated during an October 16 dinner at Nobu Malibu hosted by SESAC in honor of Rami Dawod. Named Pop Songwriter of the Year by the performance rights organization, Dawod is [...]

  • Luis Fonsi Erika Ender Latin Grammys

    The Second Latin Explosion: How 'Despacito' Ushered in a New Generation of Stars

    Music is an ever-evolving art, and for the Latin Recording Academy, that’s meant riding multiple waves of attention. The most recent arrived with the stratospheric success of “Despacito,” which kicked off a second Latin Explosion with full force in 2017. The Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee hit, later featuring verses by Justin Bieber, made Latin [...]

  • Ricky Martin Celia Cruz Gloria Estefan

    From Idea to Legacy: Latin Grammy Awards Mark 20 Years of Global Recognition

    The idea of creating a separate organization to honor the diversity of Latin music was a discussion that took place for years before it actually happened, but an event driven by one of pop music’s most important crossover artists solidified it. During the 41st Grammy Awards ceremony, a young Ricky Martin was scheduled to perform [...]

  • Taron Egerton Elton John Rocketman Live

    Elton John and Taron Egerton Duet at 'Rocketman' Awards Season Event at the Greek Theatre

    “Rocketman” has officially launched into awards season. Paramount hosted a screening of the film with a live-performance of the score by the Hollywood Symphony Orchestra and a headlining performance by Elton John and the film’s star Taron Egerton. John and Egerton — who is in contention for best actor for his portrayal of the singer [...]

  • BTS 'Good Morning America' TV show,

    BTS Show Love for Lauv and Their Army of Fans in Video for Reworked 'Make It Right'

    Early Friday morning (Oct. 18), BTS gave fans a taste of what their upcoming “comeback” (Korean pop terminology for new music) may be like with a reworked version of “Make It Right.” The Korean boy band collaborated with the American singer-songwriter Lauv, who starts the soulful ballad off with a verse in English. Advocates for [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content