AC/DC did it. Van Halen managed remarkably well. Journey are a band reborn and Foreigner are still filling arenas. Tales of successful stadium rock bands synonymous with flamboyant former frontmen are ten a penny. Why Queen cannot follow – or be allowed to follow – their lead is baffling.
2015 will mark the 24th anniversary of Freddie Mercury’s death and it’s time to move on. Honestly. It’s not a case of ignoring a legacy or devaluing the past. Due respect morphed into damaging reverence where Mercury was concerned and Queen’s stuttering progress during the last two decades has been dreadful to watch.
Channelling the common desire and trademark determination of Johnson, Hagar, Pineda and Hansen, Mercury’s successor is on a mission to prove, once and for all, that the show can – and must – go on. Adam Lambert must be sick of hearing that oh-so familiar ‘it’s just not Queen without Freddie’ refrain but he hides the frustration well. It is Queen. And, yes, it is without Freddie. Welcome to the real world.
That world is a far, far better place for the assured Lambert and his refreshing take on a back catalogue brimful with brilliant rock anthems. The American Idol finalist has breathed new life into a staid act. And he’s done it in the face of a shit storm of wholly undeserved criticism, ill-judged scepticism, deep mistrust and staggering insensitivity (the backlash following Queen’s live New Year’s Eve set on the BBC was extraordinary). Lambert has never pretended to be anything other than the respectful custodian of Mercury’s sparkling legacy but his band mates have hardly helped douse the flames.
Brian May and Roger Taylor might have identified the one man capable of fusing past, present and (possibly) future where Queen is concerned but even the giant trailers transporting towering lighting rigs the length and breadth of Britain are tactlessly daubed with Queen + Adam Lambert. From day one the Indiana-born entertainer has never been allowed to be a part of the band – merely an extension of the brand. This tour – like the stories of those bands referenced above – will prove that’s sheer folly.
Lambert dazzled in front of a full house on Tyneside, matching a series of outlandish outfits to his versatile vocal range. If the opening four numbers proved to be a forgivable false start (nerves may well have got the better of the eager-to-please singer) then his take on Killer Queen – while stretched across a chaise longue and supping Champagne – proved to be the turning point.
Lambert nailed it and just about everything else that followed. Even a potentially challenging ‘duet’ with a virtual Mercury didn’t faze the 32-year-old as he traded choruses on the evocative Bohemian Rhapsody. May and Taylor looked on with pride as their protégé pulled out all of the stops and Lambert’s reward should be a more inclusive role moving forward.
Fear of the frighteningly blunt pro-Mercury lobby might prevent that but the majority of a capacity crowd appeared to appreciate the driving force behind their favourite band’s glorious resurrection. Lambert is the right man, in the right place at the right time and without him there really would be no Queen.
Exclusive image courtesy of John Burrows @ishootgigs