It's been almost 30 years since Freddie Mercury died. When the superstar frontman of Queen passed in 1991, he left behind one of the greatest catalogs of hits in all of rock music. Filling his shoes is a truly impossible task. Despite this, surviving Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor have sustained the brand of their music by touring with proxy singers for the past 15 years.
The first singer up to the task was Paul Rogers, the Bad Company frontman who played with Queen from 2004 through 2009. Now, that responsibility falls to former American Idol runner-up, Adam Lambert, who has been filling in on vocals for the group since 2011. Now in the eighth year of their collaboration, the band is enjoying a significant boost in prominence thanks to the runaway success of the 2018 Queen biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody. Queen + Adam Lambert performed for a sold-out crowd at Sunrise’s BB&T Center Saturday night.
Not quite a cover band but incapable of true authenticity without Mercury, Queen + Adam Lambert was an exceptionally strange concert experience.
Lambert is certainly not the new Freddie Mercury, but the good news is that he’s not trying to be. In fact, the former American Idol contestant may just be the perfect candidate for the job, because he’s trying to live up to the legacy of his own idol. The singer took time early in the show to address this point by telling the crowd that he was there to celebrate the "irreplaceable rock god" with them as a fellow fan, effectively winning over the audience with his humility.
Lambert, in full grandiose costume, was theatrically emotive to the point of almost being a distraction, but his vocal endurance was remarkable. His renditions of Queen's well-loved songs were impeccable throughout the show and constituted a marathon vocal performance that spoke to his truly rare talent as a singer.
May and Taylor both displayed their bulletproof musicianship throughout the marathon set as well, and they showed genuine appreciation for the adoration they received. May made every lick and flourish on his signature Red Special guitar look effortless, and he wore true satisfaction on his face throughout the two-and-a-half-hour set.
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The three focal performers seemed to relish their collaboration and were backed by a solid group of musicians, all of whom shared amiable chemistry on stage. All of the band’s hits were represented, and the show had spectacle to spare. Costume changes, props, and lasers were all deployed throughout the course of the nearly thirty-song set, leaving nary a dull moment.
One of the show’s most intriguing moments was Brian May's extended guitar solo, in which he was elevated high above the stage and appeared to be floating in space. Though the solo itself could have been more interesting, it was yet another highlight of the robust production.
Of course, the highlight of the show was the main set closer, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which lost none of its sheen as one of the greatest rock anthems of all time and proved to be the most substantial sing-along moment of the night. It served as the perfect distillation of what Queen + Adam Lambert could offer fans: a sing-along. When viewed as a celebration of Queen’s legacy as an unparalleled hitmaker rather than a full-fledged Queen show, Q+AL was a truly entertaining, though particularly low-stakes, experience.