Queen + Adam Lambert Auckland 3rd September [Concert Review]

Note: Footage from the concert below and on my YouTube page

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I’m going to find it hard to review this concert – for being a Queen fan for so long there’s so many memories and expectations tied up in seeing an influential band like this finally, in the flesh. But it was a great experience, yes for the fact of seeing Brian and Roger in the flesh but they put on a damn good show regardless of any cynicism one might have about a band still touring decades after the death of their beloved front man. It’s by now getting cliched to compare Lambert to Mercury but I’m going to have to do it never the less. As the other fans and reviews suggest – Adam is a great fit for the band and does indeed make the songs his own, finding his own stage presentation to fit the songs, his own unique flamboyance – playing tribute to Freddie but not copying his style. I can’t claim to be an Adam Lambert fan so I still found myself comparing his performance to the way Freddie would have delivered a song, but that’s going to happen if you’ve spent as much time obsessing over a band as I have done with Queen. But if anyone was going to take this show back on the road with the original members and give it new life, it may as well be Lambert – he’s got a great voice and the stage experience to rock an arena or stadium audience with ease.

The Adam Lambert fans might not agree with me – but the parts of the show that hit me the hardest were when Brian took the mic, first performing Love Of My Life, with Freddie appearing on the large screen to help us sing key moments. This was a live staple from 1975 onwards, the acoustic sing-along of Love Of My Life and there was something so touching about a room of 8,000 singing it along with Brian, with Freddie appearing momentarily. It was just nice to hear Freddie’s voice once again booming throughout an arena. At the end of the song it looked like Brian wiped his eyes, perhaps as affected as the audience at singing along with his lost friend. Roger, long-time Queen keyboardist Spike Edney, touring bassist Neil Fairclough and Roger’s drummer son Rufus Taylor joined May for a stomping jam through of May’s 39″ off Night at the Opera. One of my highlights of the night for sure.

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The show was great – high production values with one of the most impressive lighting rigs I’ve ever seen at an arena show, a huge screen that was made to appear as the circular Queen ‘Q’ logo. The rig that made up the Q itself moved over the band in a spectacular fashion, reminiscent of the moving lighting rigs Queen employed in tours between 1977 and 1986. During Lap of the Gods, the fantastic final song off Sheer Heart Attack the giant circle light detached from it’s place in the center of the stage and turned into quite the magnificent ring hovering over the band. Lap of the Gods is a brilliant song – and this was a performance well worthy of previous Queen performances of the song – such as at Wembley in ’86. Brian May later took a guitar solo, incorporating parts of his Bijou guitar piece from Innuendo, and filling the arena with his trademark delay harmonizing. This was set to a hypnotizing array of red lasers and cosmos-esque images.  Visually, very elaborate – and perfectly fitting to a the legacy of the Queen live show.

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Other musical highlights include a drum battle between Roger and Rufus, both amazing drummers – Roger with his very unique tom heavy style, and Rufus a technically skilled modern rock drummer. Roger took lead vocals for A Kind Of Magic, great to hear the man singing and would have loved to hear more of him. Neil Fairclough provided the best bass solo I’ve ever heard, dropping in riffs from Queen classics such as Nevermore off Queen II, Don’t Try Suicide from The Game and Body Language and Staying Power from the underrated Hot Space. Adam performed the lesser known songs really well, stuff like Dragon Attack off The Game. It was kind of amazing to hear a song such deep cuts played live and still sounded as fresh as when they were first toured.

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The show ended with the traditional onslaught of Queen hits – Tie Your Mother Down with Rufus Taylor on drums, I Want To Break Free, Radio Gaga with the crowd doing their best to imitate Live Aid and Crazy Little Thing Called Love. Then it was on to Bohemian Rhapsody, with Lambert nailing the vocals as a singer as trained as him should. But the original members could not be out-shined – Brian taking his place at the base of the walkway, busting out the most iconic guitar solo he ever wrote while wearing a shiny gold suit reminiscent of the band’s early 70s glam attire. Freddie appeared again on screen in the operatic section of the song and again at the end in a duet with Lambert, each singing a line each. Freddie was most definitely watching over proceedings, but Lambert held his own. The night ended as all Queen gigs have since again 1978, with We Will Rock You followed by We Are The Champions. Lambert wore a crown in regal style, and they all stood together side by side taking one last bow towards the crowd which was by now well and truely one over. Brian and Roger are playing their cards right, appearing to still love performing to the adoring masses, and securing their legacy for many more decades thanks to the suitable front-man they’ve found in Adam Lambert. As another reviewer mentioned, with so many classic rock bands unwilling to tour for the fans (such as Zeppelin and Floyd) – it’s a lucky thing that we have a band such as Queen so dedicated to keeping the legacy alive. That is if we leave our cynicism at the arena doors.

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I may have been slightly unfair on Lambert at times – but this is only due to being such a strong fan of the original Queen. The show they’ve put together really is something special, even if it yet again seeks to highlight to lost talents of the unmatched Freddie Mercury in some ways. A part of me thinks they don’t need to still be touring in this way, Brian and Roger both have amazing voices and are great songwriters and performers in their own right, they could have each focused on their solo careers instead of continuing with the world conquering beast that is Queen. I’m divided as to whether I think they should keep touring for many more years – part of me would love to see the show again, but the other part of me feels it’s a great tribute, perfect for a fleeting moment for fans and the band to get together and celebrate their legacy, but perhaps one that should stick around just long enough for it’s best qualities to be appreciated. I hope for a few festival dates at least, they’re putting on a show that feels much larger than the arena’s it’s being staged in. At the end of the day, I’m pretty amazed I’ve had the chance to see any of these Queen members in the flesh and hear these songs live. Credit to Lambert for putting his solo career on hold to play this part in Queen – there’s not many singers who could do as good a job as he has – he’s a much better fit than Paul Rodgers, having the vocal chops, the right glam image and the chemistry with the remaining Queen members to pull it off.

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To end this review on a hardcore fan note, I waited outside the venue (the next night, after getting a spare ticket to the 2nd show) for many hours with some other New Zealand and Australian Queen and Adam Lambert fans. Brian took the time to stop and meet the fans, a real honor and it shows how humble a guy he is. The best I could manage was to tell Brian some of my earliest memories were listening to his music. I don’t remember his reply, I was too in awe of standing next to the guitarist who I’d been looking at on album covers for such a long time. Still haven’t learnt how to keep my cool when meeting heroes or people I admire.

Brian May meeting New Zealand fan

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15 thoughts on “Queen + Adam Lambert Auckland 3rd September [Concert Review]

  1. Thoughtful and interesting review thanks! I noticed in that vid you included that Brian says Adam Lambert is unwell and heard elsewhere that he was so sick a doctor was brought in for him after the final night (Sept 4) concert. I have to say you could not tell anything was wrong during the show – he’s a consummate professional. Hope he’s ok. I was fortunate enough to also catch 2 shows in Australia and met Adam Lambert when he took the time to chat with fans who were waiting outside their hotel. He is actually the sweetest man! Anyway, I would have given my right arm to keep going to see these Queen concerts – they were astounding! So sad they had to end!!

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    • Thanks for the comment Terry! Yeah I did hear Brian say that, which is interesting I didn’t notice he looked unwell during the concert either. I only saw part of the 2nd Auckland concert and it seemed he may have had slightly more energy at the 1st concert, what did you think? Definitely a professional never the less.

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      • Actually, Adam was unwell already at the first Auckland concert, and the doctor was brought in Wednesday night. Brian told a fan at a Meet & Greet that night. You could see him warning the Maori gentlement after the second night that he had a cold, before joining noses.
        Really liked your review. Of course Freddie is in your mind being a “hard-core fan”. I suppose some of us will wince years down the road when someone replaces Adam, or covers his originals. For now, I love him and Freddie, each brings something different.

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    • It was actually the FIRST Auckland show that Adam was said to be sick during and needed a Dr but quite possibly was still not well for the 2nd? No doubt one day we will know. Great review anyway – I know what a conflict it is trying to appreciate a new version of something with which you are so familiar. Couldn’t make it live, but the fan videos give some idea of the fantastic staging and performances.

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  2. So awesome and totally get you… Just want to say that a very good reason that this was all a good idea was to keep the music alive for a whole new generation of Queen fans… I am only sad that I was too sick on the night to stay and wait for the opportunity you got.. to be tongue tied and lost for words in the presence of greatness.

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  3. Very nice review. Don’t feel like you have to “apologize” for loving the Brian May Freddie tribute the best. After all you said you are that hardcore Queen fan. As a hardcore Adam Lambert fan and now a Queen fan you were really fair to Adam and can tell you respect his amazing voice. Only think I would respectfully disagree with is that you would prefer Brian & Roger to tour on their own. I cannot tell you how many people I know regret not going to one of the shows. Brian has said they’ve received offers from everywhere to perform. They should while they are happy, healthy and raring to go!!!!!! The world loves them all!!

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  4. I was lucky enough to see this Show 3 times… I’ll never get over Madison Square Garden ! Love Queen and their Music but have to say that Adam Lambert is the one that brought that Tour ALIVE.
    For me.. he’s the most charismatic, unbelievably talented singer anywhere. Thought Brian May and Roger Taylor sounded great.. May’s guitar never sounded better.. but Adam .. Adam.. he made that Show Go On………

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  5. Watching the diversity of the crowd has been so exciting to see,love that so many young people are appreciating Queen.I admit my main focus is Adam, but my love and admiration has grown for Brian May & Roger Taylor. Both gentleman truely know who they are 40 yrs later and realize Adam Lambert has the goods to front their band.I am hoping for more future collaborations with Adam Lambert, it would be a shame for this to end. Ultimately it is the fans who will decide ,so far the sell outs in major arenas U.S. Canada, Asia , Australia & N. Z. speak volumes……

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  6. I am diehard Queen AND Adam fan from beginning. I liked your review! If I had done one, my focus would have been Adam, but neither is right or wrong, just different. My favorite thing from all the shows I attended was the joy emanating from the stage. To see Roger, Brian, Rufus, Neil, and Spike smiling, laughing, and shaking their heads at silly or breathtakingly talented Adam has to suck the audience into the whole experience. This was a learning, once in a lifetime,maybe more, experience for Adam and you could see how much he appreciated and was loving it. The good thing for Adam’s fans was getting to know Brian better. What a man! Everything about him commands respect. Even tho a fan, I didn’t know him “personally.” Now I feel I do, but my marriage proposal went unanswered, haha. Anyway, thanks for the review and happy you loved the show.

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  7. Good review, yes interesting discussion on old bands or when there is just a few remaining people in a band, and the validity of their shows. Personally, I dont know I think in the end its a case by case basis and how well its done or not. I will say sometimes the issue is quality, especially bands with singers with high soaring voices they do not hold up well over time and can sound awful, some of them simply dont want to be a lesser version of their best selves. I have a special place in my heart for Queen and have tremendous admiration for Brian May as a human being so more than any other band, I was overjoyed at the chance to see them live again. Adam Lambert let them do that, in a quality way.

    Now, listening to various you tube videos for sure my ears are jarred by certain songs being so not Freddie, like Another One Bites the Dust etc, this is nothing against Adam its just not “right” to my ears and my heart. However, the excitement of a live show offsets that and man they did an amazing show, a good old fashioned rock show like they just dont do anymore, the staging was amazing, everyone of a high skill level and then the touching touching moments, yeah if you see Dr Bri being so touched to be playing Queen in arenas again and to be honoring Freddie, and thinks of this in a cynical way, well then I dont even know. The whole show was magic in so many ways, a blessing none of us old fans ever thought we would get. I thank Brian and Roger because they did not need to do it and I thank Adam Lambert too.

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  8. I must say high praise coming from a hard core Queen Fan! I know it is difficult for Queen fans to see another man in Freddie’s front man spot, but for me Adam Lambert is my Freddie! I love Adam’s own music and he just killed performing Queen songs! There is no one in today’s music world that could do Freddie justice, but Adam! His Voice, Charisma & Showmanship is astounding, and he added one more factor, He is Sexy as hell! He owned that stage! His presentation, was different, but as dynamic as Freddie! In the end it is about the music and I thank the Gods I was able to go to two concerts to hear Queen’s music brought to life again! It was Magic!!

    From what I heard from fans and Brian is that Adam was not feeling well at the final concert, but there was no hint onstage! He was perfection. He is the consummate performer. He did 110 GlamNation concerts without missing one. I know he was sick for the 2 New York City shows I went to, but I did not know that until after the concerts. He was perfection on that stage and gave 150%.

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    • Barbis, I was surprised to hear that Adam was sick at the two NY concerts. Adam rarely gets sick and to my knowledge also has never missed a concert, being the pro that he is. He was outstanding at Madison Square Garden with not a hint of illness. He does a good job of pacing himself and taking care of his voice. He sometimes will lower his songs one octave when he has many concurrent dates with a lot of “power songs” that can take a toll on his voice. He also keeps water or throat coat tea on stage, keeping his vocal chords moist. I’ve seen Adam live 11 times, 2 of them with Queen. He stuns me every time, especially with songs like Who Wants to Live Forever and The Show Must Go On with Dr. Brian May’s exquisite guitar solos following Adam’s breathtaking power notes. The mutual respect, admiration and affection between these men, Roger and rest of the band radiates into the audience, drawing us in and connecting us to the complete Queen/Adam experience. I’ve long been a Queen fan and Adam, as Freddie wished, is along with the best rock musicians , Queen, made sure the The Show Must Go On. It has, in great style, excellence and fun loving camp as Killer Queen. Hope they will continue to thrill us!

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  9. Pingback: Shut up Hasmih: “Queen + Adam Lambert, Auckland – 03/09″ « Adam Lambert Brasil | A sua maior e melhor fonte brasileira sobre o cantor!

  10. Thanks Hamish for the great, insightful review and especially for recognizing Adam Lambert’s talent and contribution to Queen’s iconic music. I saw them in Chicago and Maryland, both outstanding with Queen & Adam fans alike becoming one thrilled, appreciative audience. It was a joyous experience, seeing Dr. Brian May, Roger Taylor and Adam Lambert having such fun and electricity on those stages. What an experience of a lifetime! I understand your love and loyalty to Queen. I feel the same about Adam and Queen has reignited my awe of their incredible talent that couldn’t be better! It truly was a love fest that I hope will continue in the future, perhaps with some new music with Adam, but I will be grateful for anything they choose to do.

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  11. Pingback: Video of the day | brianmay.com

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