I take an unconventional, edgy look at a forward-thinking rock show starring Adam Lambert, Brian May, and Roger Taylor.
I recently had the privilege to photograph and review the Queen + Adam Lambert concert at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, MN. I can finally review my work to you after its exclusive run in TCGS magazine. Enjoy!
Growing up, I basically had no choice but to become a Queen fan. My parents played Queen cassette tapes, CDs, and concert DVDs to the point where Queen’s music and visual art became part of my formative rock experience. My mom Patty especially was a fan, and through her I learned about lead vocalist Freddie Mercury, his homosexuality, and how he died from complications of AIDS.
Fittingly, I chose my mom to accompany me to the show. Being an original Queen fan alive during their 70s/80s heyday, she would have all the insider tea on whether or not the show was up to snuff and did their best years justice.
The Xcel Energy Center crowd wasn’t exclusively Queen fans from the 70s; a young female fan wearing an original “Adam Lambert: Glam Nation Live” tour shirt was evidence that his Glamberts were out in full force. Many a gay man were representing at the gig, too. There were even fans wearing Freddie Mercury masks. Fans of all genders donned their real or faux tributes to Mercury’s famous mustache, too.
My mom and I had great seats in the lower level, at an ideal viewing angle for all the action. The stage, shaped like a giant guitar, featured the end stage as its body, the runway as its neck, and a b-stage as its head. The show itself was a no-holds-bar showcase of state of the art lasers, moving screens, and big props.
The giant robot from Queen’s “News of the World” album cover literally opened the show, appearing to lift the monstrous screen covering the stage, to reveal Queen + Adam Lambert performing a tease of “We Will Rock You.” Other than this, the initial set was comprised of Queen’s rowdier, fire starting hits like “Another One Bites the Dust” and “Fat Bottomed Girls.”
Half a dozen songs in, Adam Lambert sang his latest solo single, “Two Fux,” with live instrument backing from Queen. The performance was a standout, a rollicking good time that transformed the stage’s massive screen into a full scale sing a long video to teach the audience the lyrics. It made me want to see another glitzy Adam Lambert solo tour happen ASAP…
There were several Adam Lambert costume changes; essentially every time he returned to the stage, he looked totally different. His flamboyant outfits (including an all-pink, glossy suit) were met with universal enthusiasm from the crowd; there didn’t seem to be a homophobe in the bunch. Even his gayest jokes were met with laughter.
When Adam Lambert talked about Queen fans who might have things to say about him singing in Freddie’s place, the crowd around me shouted encouragement and compliments at him. Refreshing! Besides that, Lambert’s stage banter was mostly focused on his immense respect for the surviving band members that invited him on the tour.
All of this Glambert fabulousness was made more noticeable by its absence. For a show billed as Queen + Adam Lambert, Adam wasn’t always on stage. Though unexpected, this was the show’s saving grace. It gave the original members, Roger Taylor and Brian May, their chance to connect with the thousands of fans gathered. It also introduced them to younger fans like me. By saving Lambert for the most appropriate songs, the show had its cake, and ate it too.
It was like tag team-style teamwork. Drummer Roger Taylor had a live drum bottle with another musician, and there were a few fantastic solo Brian May performances. Adam Lambert handled all the uptempo and theatrical numbers, nailing stuff like the anthemic, iconic “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and “Bicycle Race,” where he actually rode a bike around the stage.
My mom was especially excited when Adam Lambert sang “Get Down, Make Love,” her favorite Queen song. It reminded her of listening to the radio in high school. She also just plain loved Adam Lambert, and said she much preferred him to Paul Rodgers, Queen’s previous guest lead vocalist. “I just don’t think there’s anybody else that could have done a better job than Adam,” she said. “If anyone else sang the songs I don’t think I would want to attend the concert.”
The robot that opened the show served as a character that moved the plot of the show along at all turns. It was actually sort of cute and endearing, and became one of my favorite parts of the experience. That robot was sort of like a rock band Pixar character; I even bought a shirt featuring him after the show. At one point, Adam Lambert climbed on its head and said he thought he’d give the Twin Cities “some head.” Ba-zing.
There was a fantastic acoustic performance by Brian May singing the bittersweet song “Love of My Life. Freddie Mercury appeared next to him on screen, singing while looking toward Brian May within an augmented reality. It was a huge hit with the crowd. It did not come across as tacky or gimmicky. Brian May even smiled back at him. Truly well done stuff.
After the midpoint of the show, the stone man appeared and lifted Brian May off of the surface of the moon and into the stars. Floating in space, May performed “Last Horizon,” a glorious guitar solo that lasts the better part of ten minutes.
Probably due to decades of rock concert experience, the crowd didn’t move an inch when Queen + Adam Lambert said their goodbyes. It was my first time at the Xcel where the crowd seemed to know there’d be an encore. Perhaps it was the fact they still hadn’t heard “We Are the Champions,” which is only the greatest singalong track of all-time.
All in all, Queen + Adam Lambert is a fantastic touring act and my mom and I hope to see them return. The tour’s production quality - and, ya know, the actual talent - far exceeded the industry standard. After years of touring together, Queen + Adam Lambert just feel right together. Most importantly, they handle the mustached elephant in the room, Freddie Mercury, with proper reverence and genuine affection.
In my mother’s own words, “one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to, top of the line.”
Worth note: Brian May had a few costume changes of his own. In fact, May rocked a Minnesota Wild hockey jersey during the encore songs. The crowd went crazy.
IMAGE USAGE RIGHTS: Feel free to share, just credit @DerekPlease on all platforms. Thank you!
What's your favorite Queen or Adam Lambert song? Hit me up: