In 2014, I had a Groupon offer come through for discounted tickets for the Philadelphia stop of the Queen + Adam Lambert tour. While I appreciate Queen and their status as rock legends, I was never a big fan. I knew the songs that everyone knows, but wasn’t any more familiar with them than that. Plus, even though I was a fan of Adam Lambert from his days on the television series “Glee”, it just seemed like a poor substitute for a Freddie Mercury led Queen. But, if you get a Groupon that offers you tickets for 50% off and no fees, and you don’t have anything else on your concert schedule, you go to the show (#justbuythetickets). After all, Brian May and Roger Taylor are not getting any younger, so I figured it was smart to take the opportunity to see them.
Turns out, I was so impressed with the show in 2014, that when they announced they were coming back to Philadelphia almost exactly three years later, I didn’t wait to see if there would be a Groupon. I bought the tickets as soon as they went on sale, and was excited to see them again with much better seats (the Groupon tickets in 2014 put us in almost the last row of the arena).
If you aren’t familiar with Queen, they truly are rock legends. They formed in London in 1970, with original band members Freddie Mercury (lead vocals), Brian May (guitar, vocals), Roger Taylor (drums, vocals), and John Deacon (bass guitar).
Throughout the 1970’s and early 80’s, Queen’s success steadily rose, culminating in them becoming one of the biggest stadium rock bands in the world. They began gaining international success with the release of their 1974 album “Sheer Heart Attack”, and 1975 release “A Night at the Opera”, which included the classic song “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Their 1977 album “News of the World” contained rock anthems “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions”, both of which continue to be popular today due to those songs being played at sporting events around the world.
Unfortunately, Freddie Mercury lost his fight with AIDS in 1991. In 1997, John Deacon decided to retire. Brian May and Roger Taylor decided to continue performing, utilizing various guest artists in the lead singer role. In 2004, May and Taylor recruited Paul Rodgers (former lead singer of Free and Bad Company) to be their front man, calling themselves Queen + Paul Rodgers, to clearly indicate that Rodgers was not replacing Freddie Mercury. Rodgers officially split ways with the band in 2009.
In 2012, the next incarnation of Queen formed with Adam Lambert in the lead singer role. Again, the band was billed as Queen + Adam Lambert. They have been touring the world together ever since.
With no opening act, the nearly sold out crowd at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia anxiously waited for the band to take the stage. With a scheduled 8:00 p.m. start time, every time the house music got louder or the stage techs tested the smoke effect, the crowd stood up in anticipation of the show starting. By the time the band finally took the stage at around 8:40 p.m., everyone was ready for the show!
And what a show it was! The video screen on the stage seemed to literally come to life, as the guys came on stage to a roaring ovation. After a quick tease of “We Will Rock You” and opening with “Hammer to Fall”, the amazing lights that were a highlight of the show really kicked in for “Stone Cold Crazy”.
The show then moved into three of Queen’s most recognizable songs “Another One Bites the Dust”, “Fat Bottomed Girls” and “Killer Queen”. Lambert then walked to the end of the stage, and talked about how one of the best things about Freddie Mercury, was that he didn’t care what people thought of him and did his own thing. This led into a cover of Lambert’s song “Two Fux”, featuring the lyrics of the refrain being flashed on the screen as Lambert sang them.
While no one can replace Freddie Mercury, Adam Lambert is a great substitute. His voice is strong and he can hold his own with the notes that Mercury always sang so powerfully. He’s also a showman, and his multiple costume changes into some pretty crazy outfits, definitely channeled Mercury’s bigger than life persona as well.
One of the things that I think the band has done well, is pay just the right amount of tribute to Freddie. One of the more touching moments in the show, is when Brian May comes out to the end of the extended stage alone with just his guitar and a stool. He does an acoustic version of “Love of My Life”, which he introduces by saying it’s one of his favorite songs that Freddie wrote. The crowd lit up the arena with their cell phone lights, and as the song is coming to a close, Freddie’s image comes up on the video screen, making it appear that Brian and Freddie are singing together.
The only awkward point of the show, was immediately following May’s rendition of “Love of My Life”. After having such a poignant moment, followed by May pulling out a selfie stick and doing a 360 degree video selfie with the crowd that was transmitted onto the video screen, Lambert came back out on stage. There was what seemed like a very scripted and “campy” dialogue between Lambert and May, exchanging about how Lambert was looking for “somebody…. somebody to love”, which of course was the lead in to the song of the same name.
Immediately after, however, the show really hit its full stride with “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, leading into an amazing drum battle between Taylor (playing on a drum kit on the end of the extended stage), and touring band member Rufus Tiger Taylor (playing on the drum kit on the main stage).
One of the highlights of the show for me, was “Under Pressure”, which is one of my favorite songs. Taylor sang the David Bowie part, with Lambert on Mercury’s lines.
The show started finishing up with Queen’s classic, “Radio Ga Ga”, with Lambert and May leading the crowd in the signature hand claps. The main set wrapped up with everyone on their feet for “Bohemian Rhapsody”, which featured Lambert on vocals for the first couple of verses, and then incorporated the original video and vocals on the screen to finish the song off.
After a short encore break, the band re-appeared with Lambert decked out in a silver sequined outfit and silver crown on his head, which drew cheers and applause from the audience, who clearly got a kick out of the outfit. They wrapped up the show with their two iconic rock anthems – “We Will Rock You” and “We are the Champions”.
While no one can ever replace Freddie Mercury, and nothing can recapture the magic the band had in their heyday, the Adam Lambert version of the show does a fantastic job. The lights, effects, video, costumes, and performance do a good job of capturing what a Freddie Mercury led Queen show must have been like. For those of us that didn’t experience the original, this is a worthy substitute, with an opportunity to see two rock legends in May and Taylor, both of whom continue to be masterful musicians.
Set List: We Will Rock You (teaser), Hammer to Fall, Stone Cold Crazy, Another One Bites the Dust, Fat Bottomed Girls, Killer Queen, Two Fux (Adam Lambert cover), Don’t Stop Me Now, Bicycle Race, I’m in Love With My Car, Get Down, Make Love, I Want it All, Love of My Life, Somebody to Love, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Drum Battle, Under Pressure, I Want to Break Free, You Take My Breath Away, Who Wants to Live Forever, Guitar Solo, Radio Ga Ga, Bohemian Rhapsody. Encore: We Will Rock You, We Are the Champions.
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