Queen guitarist Brian May asked the question everyone at Madison Square Garden Thursday night was asking: “What do you think of the new lineup?”
He was hoping for a big response, considering Queen + Adam Lambert had just completed a rousing version of “Under Pressure,” with drummer Roger Taylor handling David Bowie’s vocals on the classic. And he got one, sort of, though, if we’re being honest, it was nothing compared to the reaction the video of the late Freddie Mercury singing “Love of My Life” got only minutes earlier.
That only underscored what this tour -- one of the biggest of the summer so far -- really is. “After all these years, you gave us the chance to come here and be rock gods again,” May said, which was actually refreshingly honest. What exactly are May and Taylor supposed to do without Mercury, who died in 1991 of HIV-related complications? Simply sit at home and count their money?
They enjoy performing and they’re still pretty great at it, as May’s lengthy, stylistically far-flung guitar solo showed.
Lambert is no Freddie Mercury. He has a booming voice, but nowhere near the range of the legendary frontman. And, in the position he’s accepted, he has even less chance to shine, singing beloved classics that other people wrote that he connects to with varying success.
He tries to revive some of Mercury’s campiness, especially on “Killer Queen,” which he delivered reclined on a couch. However, Mercury’s campiness was combined with swagger and cool that all came naturally to him.
Lambert is putting on an act. None of this is natural and how could it be? What makes it even tougher to believe is how nice Lambert is about it. He’s nothing but deferential to the legendary May and Taylor, as he should be. And his reverence for Mercury is obvious, especially when he sings with a video of Mercury during “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
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That doesn’t make Lambert very rock ‘n’ roll. It makes him a nice guy. In fact, the whole tour seems like a bunch of nice people in a bad situation trying to do the best they can.
The result is a nice evening of Queen songs that simply makes it clear how great Mercury really was.
SET LIST: Now I’m Here / Stone Cold Crazy / Another One Bites The Dust / Fat Bottomed Girls / Lap Of The Gods / 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 / Bass solo / Drum solo / Under Pressure / Love Kills / Who Wants To Live Forever / Guitar Solo / Tie Your Mother Down / Radio Ga Ga / Crazy Little Thing Called Love / The Show Must Go On / Bohemian Rhapsody // ENCORE: We Will Rock You / We Are The Champions