Is Queen + Adam Lambert A Tribute Or Triumph? Auckland Concert Review, Plus Analysis Of “Under Pressure”

Brian May, Adam Lambert.

I read on Facebook today somebody likening Queen + Adam Lambert to the Pink Floyd tribute show that possibly too frequently plays the 1,200 capacity Founders Theatre in Hamilton. Well two sold out nights of 9,000 (18,000 total) in Auckland capping off a sold out world tour (including New York’s Madison Square Gardens) would at least suggest some differences. So too presumably the presence of the man who wrote A Kind Of Magic (original drummer Roger Taylor) and the man who wrote We Will Rock You (original guitarist, PHD holder Brian May).

Last night’s concert was quite incredible. 32 year old Adam Lambert was born to be in Queen and just as Bee Gee Barry Gibb came to understand his catalogue was too significant not to be heard live despite the loss of his brothers, so too is the music of Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon.

More important than the fact the staging and light / laser show was as expertly realised as any I’ve seen at an indoor concert, more important than Taylor and May being A-list rock musicians who wrote many of Queen’s finest songs and more important than Adam Lambert’s vocals and charisma being almost as remarkable as Mercury’s, it’s the reality Queen + Adam Lambert is tonally bang on.

What that means is that in concert they sound outstanding, they sound like Queen and they don’t sound like a tribute act. Lambert is both in sync with his famous band as well as being his own man in much the same way Brian Johnson of AC/DC is, despite having inherited the mantle of Bon Scott. Of course the AC/DC / Queen lead-singer comparisons are far from exact considering Johnson replaced the deceased Scott just months after his death and Lambert’s arrival is more than 20 years on from the death of Mercury. There’s also the small matter of AC/DC somehow picking up the pieces of losing their lead singer to almost immediately releasing Back In Black, selling more than 40 million copies and securing their legacy in the process.

Queen in the mid-80s: Freddie, John, Roger and Brian.

Nevertheless, all told Queen have have had a far greater musical and cultural impact than AC/DC and it is unrealistic to expect new chart-toppers from a band whose history stretches back approximately 45 years. Unlike Paul Rodgers who became the post-Mercury Queen frontman for a time, Lambert could not be more right for this band, nor more honouring of his hero’s legend. He is flamboyant without being cringe-ably camp and is very likely the most remarkable singer to have ever featured in the 12 years of American Idol (2009 runner-up).

Click here to read New Zealand Herald writer Russell Baillie’s review of the concert and see below the lyrics and video to one of last night’s standouts, Under Pressure. How is it you can hear a song a million times but it’s not until you see it live that you stop and think about the lyrics? Sure, I knew the Queen / David Bowie 1981 #1 hit Under Pressure reportedly once had the working title People On Streets and that the final title clearly indicates people battling pressure. But it wasn’t until Roger and Adam were trading lines that I thought about the simple compassion of Under Pressure’s ending:

‘Cause love’s such an old-fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves
This is our last dance
This is our last dance
This is ourselves
Under pressure
Under pressure

I’m pleased Roger and Brian found Adam and I’m pleased he found them. Freddie and maybe even the long retired John would be proud.

10 Comments Add yours

  1. Unknown says:

    New Zealand seems to have better understanding of Queen & appreciation of music, it must be the influence of pure untainted environment, natural beauty. It wants me to go & live amongst such joyful people.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Excellent analysis and review, Tim! I've seen Queen+Adam Lambert 3 times and would see them many more times if at all possible. But like all good things, it ends and Lambert has a solo career which I pray is helped by the wonderful exposure from this awesome collaboration. That is, I sincerely hope that the people who were awed by his voice and charisma will follow his career and music in the future! Thanks. 🙂

    1. linda says:

      Same 4me! Thus was epic! And not ready 4 it 2end wish All the world got 2 experience the Amazement that was Queen/Adam Lambert

  3. Anonymous says:

    Beautifully written review. Thanks enjoyed reading it.

  4. Anonymous says:

    as someone who experienced Queen live with Freddie back in the 70s and with Adam at a sold out Forum in LA (as well as the pre-tour iHeart show), I completely concur.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I have LOVED Adam Lambert and Queen; what a huge treat for fans of both! I saw this concert opening night in Chicago plus both Vegas shows and watched Queen fans around me (many were older men) totally won over by Adam – some even brought to tears; so touching! A joyous collaboration and I am so thankful I got to experience this live. And hey – Queen will have a high quality DVD on the market for anyone who missed the live concert!!

    1. Anonymous says:

      I want to know more about the DVD. I too. went to 3 concerts, converted my husband to a real Lambert fan. He even follows the news and is waiting for another Queen/Lambert concert. I hope they collaborate for new music together. This would be a band of the future that could make history !

  6. Anonymous says:

    haha YES I had the same reaction with Under Pressure, its amazing how well it stands the test of time, still, perhaps ever MORE, relevant today. Love Queen, I think Brian is amazing, am thrilled they managed to find just the right tone for the show, its a really fine line to walk, honoring past but not a tribute, putting a fresh spin on things but not straying too far from original. Paul is great but with him it simply didnt sound like Queen, now it does. 🙂

  7. Anonymous says:

    I love Queen and love Adam – but wish they could have done a concert for us poor people in wellington

  8. Thanks for your write up. I saw 11 of their concerts and would have gone to them all if life hadn't gotten in the way. There live music was… Unbelievable. Put a great singer and great musicians together with great music
    What is ther not to like? And for
    All those who wanted to focus on thinking they knew best what Brian and Roger should or shouldn't do as if they mattered… You missed a once in a life time opportunity to see and hear queens music perfectly epic. Looking forward to Adam's 3rd solo album and a DVD of 2014 Queen + Adam Lambert tour. Keeping fingers crossed their will be more collaborations to come for these guys, the joy of making music together could be seen by all no matter what your seat number was on your venue ticket. Long Live Queen.

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