Lazy Luddite Log

25.3.18

Queen + Adam Lambert

Belinda did something very clever and got us both tickets to see Queen with Adam Lambert. It was a birthday present for me and came into effect several months later (and just a few weeks ago). It is something I would have never contemplated, partly because a habit formed in my impoverished youth makes me overlook all the live gigs I could go to, and partly because on some level I have always felt that it was too late for me to see Queen live. I had followed a cover band for a while (with the name Fat Bottomed Girls) and also seen the jukebox musical based on Queen songs (written by Ben Elton). However I had mentally relegated Queen concerts themselves to a past I was too young to have experienced. And, granted, what we saw recently was different from Queen in its heyday, as was sensitively acknowledged during the gig, but by goodness it was still a fantastic experience.

I started to get a bit excited about the concert a few days beforehand, but only in the sense that I was looking forward to a night out at a big public event at Rod Laver Arena. It was only really as the band members emerged onto the guitar-shaped stage that I was suddenly stuck with the realization that Brian May and Roger Taylor were down there and all set to play the songs they had been playing all my life and most of theirs. It was a moving moment for this long-standing fan and after a few songs it looked like Belinda sensed she was in the presence of musical greatness.

The band comprised Brian May (guitars and vocals), Roger Taylor (drums and vocals), Adam Lambert (vocals and cavorting), Spike Edney (keyboards), Neil Fairclough (bass), Tyler Warren (percussion). Brian and Roger are original members of Queen. Spike has been playing with Queen in live gigs since the 80s and is regarded by fans as 'the fifth Queen'. Original bassist John Deacon has been retired since the 90s but some of the songs he wrote with the band were in the set-list. The presence of Freddie Mercury (1946-1991) was felt both in terms of his absence and also in the sense that footage of him performing was played on a big screen (taken from the massive 1986 Wembley gig). The audience engaged in a vocal call-and-response session. Many of us found it rather emotional. Young pop star Adam Lambert did a fantastic job of singing the Queen back catalogue. He has powerful projection and an impressive vocal range. He also has a definite stage presence and connected well with both the band and audience.

We were served a long and satisfying set-list of Queen songs (from most of their albums) and the audience got right into it. There was plenty of singing along (in the case of fans like me this included specific backing vocal patterns and drum figures and so forth). It was a stack of fun even from way off in the most distance seats. Amplification is vital to these big arena concerts but I'm happy to say it was only as loud as it needed to be. The screens were also very impressive and, combined with some artificial fog, produced a surprisingly realistic depiction of the big melancholy robot (from the 1977 News Of The World album art) bursting forth from back-stage.

There was some nice use of misdirection too. As we were watching some of this wizardry, an additional drum-kit emerged from the floor in the 'neck of the guitar' part of the stage that projected well into the ground level audience space. There the stars of the show (Roger, Brian, Adam) gathered separately from the supporting musicians to play a set of more intimate songs. This arrangement later allowed for Roger to engage in a 'drum battle' with Tyler. There were also guitar solos (naturally) from Brian and a bit of slapped bass from Neil. Adam sang a charting song of his own and now-and-then Brian and Roger took on vocals for songs they had written themselves. Everyone was in fine form. I was particularly impressed with Roger both drumming and singing at the same time.

Possibly the nicest part of the night was Brian sharing a hobby of his - stereoscopic photography. With a specially-made camera he took three-dimensional 'selfies' with the audience in the background. It was a very clever way of making a huge venue have an intimate moment. It was also just fantastic to see these life-long musicians (with Brain and Roger pushing 70) still having a fantastic time sharing music loved the world over.

We both purchased tour t-shirts - I got a relatively generic shirt depicting the Queen band crest while Belinda got one depicting the iconic pulp fiction robot that was mascot of the show. It was a night to remember and also reminded me that sometimes there is still a chance to do something even if you think it has passed. I left the gig buzzing.

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