Adam Lambert, with Queen, shines under pressure

Singer Adam Lambert, left, performs with guitarist Brian

Singer Adam Lambert, left, performs with guitarist Brian May of Queen at Madison Square Garden on July 17, 2014. (Credit: Getty Images / Michael Loccisano)

This shouldn't work. In fact, there was a moment in the middle of the Queen + Adam Lambert show at Madison Square Garden Thursday night when it seemed like it might not.

It came when guitarist Brian May was essentially leading a sing-along of "Love of My Life," with the audience taking up the parts of the late Freddie Mercury. Then, a video of Mercury completing the song was shown, bringing the crowd to its feet and May to tears.

Why exactly did they need Lambert again?

After all, up to that point the former "American Idol" runner-up and current "Glee" star had proved to be a good study, but not necessarily ready to front the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band. Leading the crowd in a chant of "Bite It!" during "Another One Bites the Dust" didn't exactly help.

Later, however, after the halfway point, Lambert started to grow into the role. He handled "Under Pressure" gloriously, with drummer Roger Taylor taking on David Bowie's vocals nicely. He followed with a poignant version of "Who Wants to Live Forever" that showed he could interpret a song differently from Mercury with his powerful voice.

The way he went toe-to-toe vocally with a video of Mercury during "Bohemian Rhapsody," though, showed that Queen had made a good choice in signing him up.

Can Lambert really replace Mercury, who died of HIV-related complications in 1991? Of course not. But he may be able to help take the band in a new direction.

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