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When “American Idol” fave Adam Lambert was officially invited inside the Great Cathedral of Queen and offered the throne on the Altar of St. Mercury, do you suppose he was handed one of those rubber acolyte’s bracelets as a not-so-subtle reminder: Always ask yourself, Adam. WWFD?
“What Would Freddie Do?”
Saturday night in a shake-the-rafters Mohegan Sun Arena, Lambert, fronting a five-piece Queen anchored by founding drummer/vocalist Roger Taylor and guitarist/vocalist Brian May, resoundingly answered a perhaps more important question.
HWAD — How would Adam Do?
Just freakin’ fine, thanks.
For two-and-a-half hours, the ensemble officially billed as Queen + Adam Lambert put on a mostly tremendous rock show supported by streamlined effects and a helpful runway leading to a small, intimate stage mid-hall. Lambert’s vocals were nuanced and powerful throughout and replicated Mercury’s operatic range and melodic dynamics insofar as such a thing is possible. He was confident and flamboyant and worked the costume changes in natural homage to Mercury’s legacy, but did so comfortably and within his own persona. Lambert also seemed genuinely moved and honored to be onstage with May and Taylor, and had an absolute blast with the whole thing — particularly when he led a singalong in honor of May’s 67th birthday.
But don’t forget: this was a Queen deal. May and Taylor came through in equally stellar fashion. Their playing and singing belied those creeping actuarial tables in good-humored, energetic and gracious fashion, and support members Spike Edney (keyboards/vocals), Rufus Tiger Taylor (drums/vocals and, yes, Roger’s son) and Neil Fairclough (bass/vocals) contributed mightily. Oh: and those all-important Queen harmonies? They appeared to be live and without taped assistance.
The catalog was representative, and a monstrous opening salvo of “Now I’m Here” and “Stone Cold Crazy” from “Sheer Heart Attack” was almost too great for the band to follow. But of course they did. Yes, all the big hits were represented — the climactic “Bohemian Rhapsody,” featuring Lambert’s line-by-line duet with a big-screen Mercury — was beautifully imagined and pulled-off.
But it was the lesser-known tunes that provided the greatest emotional moments. May’s short acoustic set, featuring Mercury’s “Love of My Life” and the guitarist’s own lovely “’39,” was warmly melancholy. And Taylor emerged from his kit to sing maybe his finest song, “These Are the Days of Our Lives.” Fans know the band’s official video of that song was Mercury’s swansong, and an accompanying big-screen montage of Queen images throughout their career was overwhelmingly moving.
If anything, the obligatory bass, drums and guitar solos could easily have been replaced by more, ah, tunes. Ditto for Lambert’s far-too-long call-and-response exercise with a frequently bewildered audience. On the whole, though, it’s hard to imagine that Mercury would be anything but proud.