the show must go on: queen + adam lambert rocked the joint in vegas.

No one can replace Freddie Mercury. No one. The good news is no one is trying to replace Freddie. That being said, Queen’s Brian May and Roger Taylor couldn’t have found a better singer than Adam Lambert to take the stage with them on their current North American tour.

Queen + Adam Lambert at The Joint, Las Vegas, 6 July 2014.

Queen + Adam Lambert at The Joint, Las Vegas, 6 July 2014.

Queen + Adam Lambert rolled into Las Vegas for a sold out, two-night stand at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino’s The Joint over Fourth of July weekend. Seating just around 3,000 people, The Joint is easily Queen’s most intimate venue on this 24-city tour. Despite the pared down stage (by Queen’s standards), they still left an indelible footprint on The Joint, burning through a two-hour set of obscure gems, greatest hits and re-imagined classics.

The lights dimmed to the familiar chords of Procession, from the Queen II album. The curtain dropped and Queen blasted into their set, opening the show with a raucous rendition of Now I’m Here on the strength of May’s signature Red Special guitar sound and Taylor’s adrenaline-pumping drums. Before the audience had a chance to breathe, they launched into the jolting rocker, Stone Cold Crazy, reminding fans Queen can still put the pedal to the metal.

For the next two hours, Queen, Lambert and their supporting cast (bass player Neil Fairclough, Spike Edney on the keyboards and Roger’s son, Rufus, on drums and percussion) deftly ripped through a set of Queen classics as though they never missed a beat. Whether bouncy sing-alongs like Fat Bottomed Girls, the raw power of Tie Your Mother Down or Lambert’s vocal gymnastics on Somebody To Love, Queen and Lambert were flexing their muscles, daring the audience to not love it. The Vegas audience roared with approval when, mid-show, May coyly asked, “What do you think of the new kid?”

For his part, Lambert—the “new kid”—prowled, strutted and preened across the stage like he owned it. Anyone who’s following Freddie Mercury can’t be a shrinking violet and Lambert certainly made this set his own, putting his own stamp on Queen’s daunting setlist. He was never more at home than with Killer Queen. Perched on a purple chaise and guzzling Moet & Chandon, Lambert was campy, theatrical, over-the-top and basking in music befitting both his vocal range and Broadway diva stage presence. For Lambert and the fans, Killer Queen was just one high point of many on this night; an obvious marriage of classic Queen and Lambert’s interpretation. Watching May share the stage and clown with Lambert during Killer Queen, it was evident that he was truly enjoying the performance.

Lambert also paid homage to Freddie with his vocal on a slower, rearranged version of Mercury’s solo song, Love Kills. But Lambert’s most soulful tribute to Mercury was during the powerful and emotional Who Wants to Live Forever. “Who dares to love forever, when love must die?”

With a catalog as deep as Queen’s, they found clever ways of squeezing in fan favorites in the least expected of places. Leading into an emotionally charged Under Pressure (Roger sharing vocals with Lambert), bassist Neil Fairclough paid homage to John Deacon as he ripped through a smooth and soulful bass solo that included traces of Body Language and Dragon Attack.

Brian May at The Joint, Las Vegas, 6 July 2014.

Brian May at The Joint, Las Vegas, 6 July 2014.

The most poignant moment of the night came during Brian May’s two-song acoustic set, beginning with the Mercury-penned ballad Love Of My Life. As is customary at Queen shows, May deferred to the audience to sing along with him. For the closing verse, May and the audience were treated to a video of Freddie singing, eliciting cheers and tears from the crowd in an emotional and cathartic moment for both May and the audience.

The mood quickly lightened as May was rejoined by the band (sans Lambert) for a rousing, countrified version of ’39, which was followed by Roger taking the lead on the bittersweet ballad, These Are The Days Of Our Lives, which was accompanied by a video montage of Queen from their earliest days. Probably the most spontaneous moment of the night came during this song as the audience cheered loudly at the first image of original bassist John Deacon, who retired from performing after Freddie died.

Heading into the homestretch, May took the stage for himself to deliver an illusive and dark 12-minute guitar solo that weaved improvised licks through snippets of Last Horizon (from his 1991 solo album, Back To The Light) and traces of Brighton Rock. There’s a reason Eddie Van Halen considers May a contemporary and his solo on this night cemented it.

Queen + Adam Lambert closed out the night with all the subtlety of a Mike Tyson punch, bringing the heat with Tie Your Mother Down, an inspired, fist-pumping, hand-clapping Radio GaGa, Crazy Little Thing Called Love and the truly mesmerizing The Show Must Go On and the all-time classic, Bohemian Rhapsody. Freddie came back to perform with the band on the big screen, delivering the the final verse before May’s guitar solo and operatic middle section. Queen closed Rhapsody with a fury, but that was not the end of the show.

Returning for just one encore—and you know what it has to be—they blew the roof off The Joint with a heart pounding We Will Rock You and gold-glittered We Are The Champions, leaving everything on the stage.

With the exception of the youthful Lambert and Rufus Taylor, this retirement-aged group of stately Britsh gentlemen played with as much vigor, passion and emotion as any 20-something rock band out there today. It’s clear Lambert invigorated May and Taylor. They were enjoying every moment of the show.

There is no better way than this to honor the legacy of Freddie Mercury.

The show must go on.

From left to right: Neil Fairclough (bass), Rufus Taylor (percussion, drums), Adam Lambert (vocals), Brian May (guitar, vocals), Roger Taylor (drums, vocals) & Spike Edney (keyboards).

From left to right: Neil Fairclough (bass), Rufus Taylor (percussion, drums), Adam Lambert (vocals), Brian May (guitar, vocals), Roger Taylor (drums, vocals) & Spike Edney (keyboards).


Setlist:
Intro—Procession
Now I’m Here
Stone Cold Crazy
Another One Bites the Dust
Fat Bottomed Girls
In the Lap of the Gods…Revisited
Seven Seas of Rhye
Killer Queen
Somebody to Love
I Want It All
Love of My Life
’39
These Are the Days of Our Lives
Under Pressure
Love Kills
Who Wants to Live Forever
Guitar Solo
Tie Your Mother Down
Radio GaGa
Crazy Little Thing Called Love
The Show Must Go On
Bohemian Rhapsody
We Will Rock You
We Are the Champions
Outro—God Save the Queen

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15 Comments

Filed under concert, Las Vegas, music, opinion, review, Uncategorized

15 responses to “the show must go on: queen + adam lambert rocked the joint in vegas.

  1. Pingback: LIVE: Queen + Adam Lambert (Las Vegas, NV) 7/6/14 | adamlambertlive

  2. I was there & your way with words perfectly captures the many moments. I’m getting emotional all over again.Well done! I could see the show again & again. There’s always a twist & unbelievable entertainment with Adam Lambert/Queen.

  3. MagooEBJ

    Thank you. It IS about the music–glorious, live and thriving QUEEN music at that— not some bogus, media-inspired faux-rivalry between Mercury (who sadly died so many years past) and Lambert (a mega-talent who idolizes him). And, “the new kid” with every necessary skill and extraordinary vocal talent and stage charisma, brings it. Brian and Roger deserve kudos from true QUEEN fans for making this incredible tour with Adam Lambert as their frontman possible.

    • Agreed, Magoo. I’ve heard some Queen fans kvetch about this tour; saying “it’s not Queen without Freddie.” No one’s trying to replace Freddie. Even though Paul Rodgers wasn’t my cup of tea, I respected Roger and Brian’s decision to get back out and perform. You can’t fault them for wanting to continue playing and it doesn’t tarnish the legacy one bit. As for Adam Lambert…well, in the absence of Freddie, he is the perfect guy to step in. Their show in Vegas fulfilled my every expectation.

      Thanks for reading!

  4. An excellent, well-written & unbiased review – thank you.

    • Thanks, Jules. But I would correct you on one count: I’m TOTALLY biased! I’ve been a huge Queen fan for as long as I can remember. When I saw Lambert perform with them on American Idol in 2009, my initial reaction was, “yeah, that would work.” I’m glad I was right. 🙂

      Thanks for reading.

  5. JLM

    Enjoyed reading your review. We saw them play in LA at the Forum and watched the ustream of Vegas. This tour is magic and real rock n roll come a live again, So much to love!!!

    • Seeing Queen perform in a small venue was certainly a treat, but I would love to see the entire spectacle of a huge, Queen arena show. They always did everything big. Maybe they’ll tour again? Hmm… 🙂

      Thanks for reading.

  6. RadioRobby

    I’ve always loved Queen and their music, but I never saw them live (w/ Freddie). I admit that I went last night to see Adam as much as Brian, Roger, et. al. We were treated to a show that can’t be topped by any other I’ve seen. Phenomenal musicianship, artistry, and, vocal prowess — and fun besides! It’s a wonderful thing when artists of Roger and Brian’s generation still give a strong, and dare I say incredible performance as they do; so I am so, so glad they want to continue and that they are. I also hope that regardless of all the comparisons of Adam to Freddie (why can’t we just love them both?), that Adam gets some great exposure from the tours with Queen. He is one of the most underrated singers out there!

    • I watched the entire season of American Idol with Adam Lambert. I’ll be perfectly honest: he was never my favorite, but that’s not because I thought he wasn’t talented. It was clear, to me, he was so, far away, many miles ahead of every other singer on that season that it wasn’t even a fair fight. Plus, those shows pick and prod and deconstruct singers way too much; to the point that they reduce them to a pile of critiques. They know longer just let the music flow through them. That never stopped Lambert, because he was way more polished than the rest. And yes, I was stunned that he didn’t win.

      That all being said, I recall watching the finale when they sang with KISS and Queen. In both instances, I thought Lambert was great. Though his voice isn’t as “dirty” for heavy metal, he can certainly hit the notes. But singing with Queen is when I said, “oh, yes. That would work.” I’m sure I wasn’t alone, and I’m glad they did it.

      To your point about Freddie – Adam comparisons…yeah, it’s unfair to do that. Lambert isn’t trying to replace Freddie and I respect that. But he’s the first singer since George Michael to sing with Queen and have the range to pull it off. I’m glad I got to see this tour.

      Thanks for reading.

  7. Lil

    Thanks for the review man, glad a longtime Queen fan agrees that the Show Must Go On and appreciates the current tour! I saw 4 of the gigs (San Jose, The Forum + Vegas x 2) and I am still coming down from my high! Thanks again!

    • Where were your seats for Vegas, night two? I was in Row EE. It was like a dream come true to see Brian May playing his Red Special 10 feet away from me. I’m still in awe of what I witnessed.

      As a lifelong Queen fan, I understand (sort of) the objections of some Queen fans out there, but I’m not on board with it. Not at all. I wasn’t a huge fan of the Paul Rodgers collaboration, but I respected Brian and Roger’s desire to continue performing. They liked Rodgers, so they performed with him. In no way did that tread upon Queen’s legacy.

      With Lambert, it’s the same thing. Only difference is you’ve got a singer who has the range and stage presence to truly pull off the essence of Freddie Mercury. Even better is Lambert is clearly respectful of Freddie’s legacy, but still putting his individual stamp on it. As he should. That, in my mind, only emulates and honors Freddie’s legacy.

      As with the Paul Rodgers years, I respect Brian and Roger’s decision to continue performing and bringing Queen back to the States after too long a hiatus, just as I respect Deacy’s decision to retire from performing.

      Haters gonna hate. Too bad for them.

      Thanks for reading. 🙂

  8. Pingback: Adam Lambert Week in Review – July 6-12, 2014 | On the Meaning of Adam Lambert

  9. Pingback: KJ MacDonald: “The show must go on [O espetáculo tem de continuar]: Queen + Adam Lambert arrasaram o The Joint, em Las Vegas” « Adam Lambert Brasil | A sua maior e melhor fonte brasileira sobre o cantor!

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