QUEEN + ADAM LAMBERT @ Perth Arena gets 9/10

Queen + Adam Lambert
Perth Arena
Tuesday, March 6, 2018


These sort of situations, where you see legendary old bands replace an iconic frontman gone too soon, can be fraught with danger and risk tarnishing a legacy and alienating fans. When that icon in question is the one and only Freddie Mercury, and the replacement is a couple generations younger than the band and a reality TV talent quest contestant, it can be even more dubious.

But any doubts were put to rest after Adam Lambert, alongside original Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor, blew the roof of Perth Arena with a hit-packed performance on Tuesday night.

Lambert was quick to address the point a few songs in “Some of you may be thinking, ‘Well, he’s no Freddie.’ No shit! There will only be one rock god, named Freddie Mercury… I’m a fan, just like you.” He endeared himself to the audience, as someone living out their dream, trying to do the best job he can.

It’s his second world tour with the band, having been here in 2014, so he’s had time to really settle in and feel comfortable. He approaches the songs respectfully – being faithful to the original melodies, but also not just copying, he sings them in his own way.

As well as the amazing musical performance, it was a huge scale stadium show as you would expect – designed by Stufish, the same company who designed Roger Waters’ incredible stage show. The shape of the stage was modelled after Brian May’s famous ‘Red Special’ guitar, with the neck being a runway out into the middle of the audience. There was a giant screen at the back, and an incredible, massive, custom lighting rig suspended above. It featured a huge curved screen on the front, and could move up and down and all sorts of amazing things as we would soon see.

The show kicked off to the sounds of We Will Rock You, as the giant robot from the cover of their 1977 album News Of The World appeared on the big screen with his arms outstretched, appearing to grasp onto the lighting rig and lift it up to reveal the stage and instruments in a haze of lights and smoke, as May and Lambert walked out together down the runway to huge cheers.

In a brief teaser of the song, Lambert confidently sang “We will rock you” like it was a promise, and as the full band appeared and they launched into Hammer To Fall from 1984’s The Works. A couple of early album favourites followed with Stone Cold Crazy and Tie Your Mother Down. It was a little lacklustre at first, as the band warmed up, and the sound mix found its place in the cavernous room.

But they found their groove as they launched into Another One Bites The Dust, with the spotlight on current bass player Neil Fairclough (original member John Deacon, who wrote the song, departed in 1997). It was one of the songs that really suited Lambert’s voice.

From there on in, it was an almost non-stop onslaught of hits. You sometimes forget how many great songs they have. Queen recorded an incredible 14 albums before Mercury’s untimely death in 1991, but the band knew the crowd want to hear the big songs, so they didn’t mess around and delivered an incredible setlist, with a few deep cuts thrown in to keep it interesting.

Fat Bottomed Girls rocked with May ripping it up. Dressed all in black with white sneakers and his grey shock of curls, you realised in a way the 70 year old is the real frontman now, and as his image was cast large up on the big screen, we really appreciated just what an incredible guitarist he is. Consistently ranked as one of the best of all time, his virtuoso playing is so casual and understated, he makes it look easy.

Killer Queen saw Lambert rise from the stage, sprawled out on top of Frank (as he was introduced) the robot’s head, in a magenta sequined suit and platforms. He really camped it up for this one, joking that Frank “gives great head”.

Don’t Stop Me Now was another track where Lambert’s flamboyancy shone, and Bicycle Race saw him ride a tricycle around the stage, before he left after I Want It All, giving May a chance to take the spotlight solo.

Sitting on a stool right out at the end of the runway, with just a 12-string acoustic, he provided one of the most touching, heartfelt moments of the night. After joking around playing our ‘national anthem’ and leading the audience in a singalong of Waltzing Matilda, he played the beautiful Love Of My Life that featured some amazing video wizardry that made it appear like Mercury was singing alongside May. As the song finished the two turned and smiled at each other and May waved at his old friend, as his image turned and walked away, fading into darkness.

After May had a bit of fun with the crowd and a giant selfie stick that projected the image on the big screen, Lambert returned for a soul stirring performance of Somebody To Love – another track he really shines on, showing of his impressive range.

Taylor than took for the fore for an impressive drum solo battle with a young protégé. He then sang Bowie’s vocal part on Under Pressure, and stepped away from the drums to take over lead vocals for A Kind Of Magic.

Who Wants To Live Forever was epic, and concluded with Lambert descending into the stage amid lights and smoke, looking something like Han Solo being frozen in carbonite.

There was an impressive, colourful laser show, which led to the stage transforming again, with Frank appearing on the big screen, and May being raised into the air on a platform that appeared to be Frank’s hand. High above the crowd, amid projections of space and swirling stars, Dr Brian May CBE (his PhD is in astrophysics) launched into an insane extended guitar solo, that had a real Pink Floyd vibe about it.

The show then charged to a close with Radio Ga Ga and of course Bohemian Rhapsody, featuring clips from the original music video, inciting a mass singalong and headbanging.

After a break, suddenly Freddie’s image again appeared on the big screen, leading us along in a call and response singalong, before the band burst back onstage with We Will Rock You – a song Perth Wildcats fans would be used to singing and stomping along to in this venue, but tonight had a whole other dimension. And as a fittingly triumphant finale We Are The Champions saw Lambert sporting a golden crown and robe, ending an epic night celebrating the epic songs of possibly the most epic band in history.

If there’s one criticism of Lambert it is that he’s almost too polished. Mercury had a real sense of passion and drama in his voice and performance – a rough rawness and energy – and this is one element that Lambert simply can’t match. His voice is undoubtedly phenomenal, and hits all the right notes, but lacks Mercury’s depth and edge, and at times the pitch perfect delivery and choreographed moves end up reminiscent of a Disney princess.

Overall though, he does a great job and is a more dynamic and engaging performer than Queen’s previous frontman Paul Rodgers – and you feel Freddie would be happy with this reincarnation of the band, bringing his songs back to life for the fans. It’s the closest thing many will ever get to the real thing.


Photos by Sharon Burgess

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