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QUEEN + ADAM LAMBERT @ Optus Stadium gets 9/10


Queen + Adam Lambert @ Optus Stadium

Sunday, February 23, 2020

9/10

Queen took us out for a night at the opera on Sunday. With state-of-the-art set design to emulate in the round performance spaces such as Shakespeare’s The Globe Theatre, it was a very English nod to their monarchistic iconography, with all the costumes and classic songs to match.

And when the walls all came tumbling down, the huge panels of lights waiting behind shape-shifted and navigated their way into all manner of gasp-worthy designs, accompanied by lasers, confetti and more, in a production from master designers Stufish (Roger Waters, U2). Plus of course our hosts for the evening, Adam Lambert, evergreen guitarist/astrophysicist Brian May and car-loving drummer extraordinaire, Roger Taylor.


It was the third time in six years we’ve seen this iteration of Queen, and less than two since their last trip to RAC Arena. While this quick return was clearly in part to capitalise on the success of Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, the fact that it allowed one of the great bands of the past 50 years to upscale to a venue four times as big with a jaw dropping production to match, made every cent spent worth it for all concerned.

Arriving onstage to the epic strings of Innuendo, the start was a bombastic and unfamiliar spectacle as the theatre was accompanied by lesser-known rockers such as Now I’m Here and Keep Yourself Alive, both of which have received a boost in popularity from the Bohemian Rhapsody film.

Somebody to Love was the first super hit, Lambert mimicking Mercury’s heartbreaking performance with appropriate longing, before a change up saw him lounging on a grand piano as if it were a chaise lounge for Killer Queen. He got the crowd onside early by acknowledging that like us, he is a Freddie Mercury super fan.

Don’t Stop Me Now was a landmark moment as the video screens took us tearing through tunnels and roaring through royal corridors at the speed of a video game. Then the walls came tumbling down and revealed the night’s second set, which formed the basis of what was to come, all to the strains of Mercury curio In the Lap of the Gods… Revisited. It was nothing short of a visual extravaganza.


From there the hits came thick and fast as Taylor sang I’m In Love With My Car, Lambert rode a Harley Davidson at the end of the catwalk for Bicycle Race, Fat Bottomed Girls took us out for a country hoedown, and John Deacon’s Another One Bites the Dust gave us a little disco to groove to (while Mercury was honoured frequently, former bassist Deacon’s presence was felt most in his funky hits such as this and I Want to Break Free). The crowd was out of their seats and May in particular proved an unstoppable force, running up and down the catwalk like a man half his age, particularly on his tour de force, I Want It All, performed in all its 80s glam rock glory.

For those who had seen Queen + Adam Lambert’s previous visits, certain signposts remained the same. May was joined by Mercury on the big screen singing Love of My Life (albeit interpolated with “Australian national anthem” You’re the Voice); Taylor and Lambert covered Bowie and Mercury for Under PressureRadio Ga Ga was still a huge late set highlight with its visuals from 1927 sci-fi film Metropolis, as was the stunning laser show for Who Wants to Live Forever; May did his epic guitar solo atop an asteroid; Mercury was on the big screen for a crowd singalong during the encore break; the encore of We Will Rock You into We Are the Champions remains a fitting finale.


In between, however, were some notable changes. The medley of Led Zep’s Whole Lotta Love into Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel was a fun illustration of Queen’s influences, with Lambert nailing Robert Plant’s high pitched wails. The Show Must Go On has previously been relegated to exit music on a backing track, but got the full live treatment here.

Perhaps key among these, and the reason this will be remembered as Queen’s greatest tour this millennium, was the much needed reimagining of Bohemian Rhapsody. Lambert was finally given the chance to shine singing Mercury’s 1975 coming out epic, and he nailed it. Never to be outshone, May returned for the triumphant guitar shreds in a robot suit, that was as totally fucking cool as it was full geek. It was without a doubt this iteration of Queen’s greatest take on their signature song.


As the confetti rained down to mark the end of We Are the Champions, and the band said their goodbyes to a backing of God Save the Queen, it was impossible to wipe the smile from your face. This was an immensely joyful celebration of one of popular music’s great catalogues. It was as fun as it was moving in parts (and pimped out with moving parts, everywhere). Even with Mercury unable to make it, you got the sense he’d be as happy as anyone to see his legacy done justice with such an eye-popping, singalong-inducing night at the stadium.

HARVEY RAE

Photos by Paul Dowd Photography

 

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