Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last several years, you know that Queen has been crowned (see what I did there? 😂) one of the best musical groups of all time. Many people believe this is due to the astronomically talented former front-man (and lyricist, composer, etc.), the inimitable Freddie Mercury. And while most people would not necessarily be wrong to lay Queen’s popularity at his feet, there were several other members of that band that contributed to their success, as well.
I’ve been a Queen fan since I was a young child. My older brother and sister were fans and played Queen’s music frequently. It wasn’t something that I sought out, per se, when I was a child, but I appreciated it when I heard it. It wasn’t until I was older—in high school and college—that I fully grasped how incredible Queen was—and dare I say still is. I started seeking out their less well-known songs from their wide catalog, loving not just the musical performance of each piece, but the delicate intricacies woven throughout: between the musical partnership with the lyrics and the lovely quality of Freddie’s voice, the experience of listening to these “new” songs was magical.
I also was a former watcher of American Idol, and watched the season when Adam Lambert was a contestant. I remember saying to my husband that I expected Adam would go far, but not necessarily on American Idol, given what I’d seen from AI in the past.. I wasn’t sure the world was truly ready for him yet… similarly how much of the world wasn’t really ready for Freddie when he was here. Adam’s vocal talent is prodigious, and it is very apparent that he has had strong vocal coaching. I was not surprised to learn that he had been in musicals and light operas—with pipes like those, I’d have been surprised to learn he hadn’t considered Broadway as a profession! But though he’d been on national tours for musicals, and even performed at the Kodak Theatre alongside Val Kilmer in the musical “The Ten Commandments.” I was shocked (and admittedly horrified) that Adam did not win that season of American Idol. In fact, if I recall correctly, that was the last season I actually watched (or paid much attention to) American Idol at all.
When I heard that Brian May sought Adam Lambert out and asked him to front a kind of “revival” (and I put that in quotes for a reason) of Queen, my first thought was:
Seriously! Is that not a match Made in Heaven? (I kill myself, I really do. 😂) I thought that Adam’s theatrical rock style and stellar vocals would be a perfect match in Freddie’s tragic absence. Apparently Brian May and Roger Taylor agreed, as did a rather huge fan base. Of course, there are always those nay-sayers who believe Queen just shouldn’t go on without Freddie, and I understand (to a point) and respect this standpoint, but I honestly believed if anyone could fill Freddie’s 4-inch platforms and lace-up Adidas, Adam Lambert could. And then it happened—Adam and Queen teamed up, did a huge tour, and…
Skipped Denver Entirely.
BOOOOO. HISSSSS. I mean, really! How could Queen—who played their FIRST EVER U.S. SHOW in Denver in 1974—skip Denver in their “reunion” tour?!? But, alas, they did. But then, just a few short years later, they announced a date for a new tour here in Denver!
“Okay, okay, enough history already… get to the point!”
I had high hopes, and dare I say high expectations, for this concert. I was practically giddy while driving to the Pepsi Center with my husband. We left early so we had time for dinner, and still managed to get in just as doors opened. Of course, I had to immediately hit the merch table. I was a little disappointed at the small selection, but still walked away with two t-shirts (I’m still lamenting not ponying up for the program, but it’s just as well). One of the t-shirts (that I didn’t buy) featured Adam Lambert, but looking so much like 90s George Michael that I had to do a double-take. I’m still not over the loss of losing George, so it was kind of like a little punch to the gut. I don’t know if he did the look intentionally, but it was a very striking similarity.
Then, we go up to find our seats (in the nosebleeds) and we’re immediately pulled aside by an employee who upgrades us from the upper 300 section to the 100 section—just 17 rows up from the floor! Much closer vantage point, for sure! But I did go back and forth on whether or not to keep the new seats, as with the 300 section, we were right in front of the section with no one to block my view (those who know me know how, shall we say, “vertically challenged” I am), whereas down in the 100s, we had the potential to have a bunch of tall people in front of me. As it turned out, there was a relatively short woman who was right in front of us and she made sure I was able to see. Bonus! So, we kept our upgraded seats.
Looking at the stage setup was amazing. It was obviously guitar shaped, with the neck of the guitar being the catwalk out into the audience. There was a big cage-like structure set up, and we couldn’t tell if it was displaying the sign saying Queen + Adam Lambert, or if it was being projected on. (We later learned it was displayed.)
Oh! I forgot to mention. When we got to the 100 level, we passed another merch table getting to our section, and wouldn’t you know they had a TON of items! Why the main merch table on the main floor wasn’t used for ALL of the items, I’ll never understand… but this merch table had a line wrapping all the way around the bowl. It was crazy. Given Frankenankle, I knew there was no way I’d be able to stand in that line and wait. Shout-out to my amazing husband: he made sure I got to my seat okay and then went and stood in line for me to get me an amazing Freddie Mercury t-shirt. He really is the bestest. 😘
And then we waited. And waited. And waited some more. The concert began over 40 minutes later than expected. The crowd was getting antsy, but it gave us a chance to talk with our neighbors in the row and we met some very interesting people. So, at least it wasn’t a total waste. But then the lights went out, the crowd went wild, and the cage lit up like a Christmas tree—with an animated robot that looked like the cover of the album News of the World, Queen’s album from 1977.
It was pretty spectacular, I must say. The animation and the display was incredibly cool and fascinating to watch… and it worked in concert with a screen behind the cage. And then the cage rose, revealing the band, to the opening strains of “We Will Rock You.” Yes, much screaming commenced.
Remember earlier when I mentioned that there was a t-shirt featuring Adam Lambert looking like George Michael? Well, as it turned out, it wasn’t just a t-shirt. HE LOOKED JUST LIKE GEORGE. Holy cow.
Seriously crazy, man! He even had a lot of the same mannerisms as George, and I don’t just mean the performance stuff. I mean little things. Having spent time with George in the past, it was easier to pick up on some of those… but I digress.
The music was absolutely incredible. Adam’s vocal talent was a bright shining star throughout the entire evening. He even gave a speech about how he, too, is a fan of Freddie Mercury, and he knows there’s no way he (or anyone else) could EVER replace Freddie, and that he is no Freddie. But I’ll tell you… he did Freddie amazing justice, and I could imagine Freddie smiling down on the entire evening.
There were a lot of songs from News of the World played, and I imagine it’s because this is the 40th anniversary of its release. Plus, it had some pretty good songs on it. 😉 This might be a good time to list the entire set list (as I recall it—I was trying to keep up):
- “We Will Rock You” (a small snippet to open the show) which morphed into “Hammer To Fall” (from The Works)
- “Stone Cold Crazy” (from Sheer Heart Attack)
- “Another One Bites the Dust” (from The Game)
- “Fat Bottomed Girls” (from Jazz)
- “Killer Queen” (from Sheer Heart Attack)
- Adam Lambert’s “Two Fux”
- “Don’t Stop Me Now” (from Jazz)
- “Bicycle Race” (from Jazz)
- “I’m In Love with My Car” (from A Night at the Opera)
- “Get Down, Make Love” (from News of the World)
- “I Want it All” (from The Miracle)
- “Love of My Life” (from A Night at the Opera)—Brian May solo on acoustic guitar
- “Somebody to Love” (from A Day at the Races)
- “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” (from The Game)
- Drum Solo/Battle, feat. Roger Taylor
- “Under Pressure” (from Hot Space)—Roger Taylor filling in for Bowie’s vocals
- “It’s Late” (from News of the World)
- “Spread Your Wings” (from News of the World)
- “Who Wants to Live Forever” (from A Kind of Magic)
- “Last Horizon” (Brain May guitar solo, though it really sounded like an instrumental mash-up of Made in Heaven and Tie Your Mother Down)
- “Radio Ga Ga” (from The Works)
- “Bohemian Rhapsody” (from A Night at the Opera)
The encore consisted of the full version of “We Will Rock You” followed by “We Are The Champions” (both from News of the World).
My small and petty complaint about the set list was that it felt too short and lacked “You’re My Best Friend,” one of my all-time favorite Queen songs. But again, as I say, it’s a very small and petty complaint in the grand scheme of things!
Adam had several costume changes throughout the show, all fun and appropriately flamboyant (though I’m still trying to figure out the George Michael look-alike bit… yeah, yeah, I know, I need to let that go). The laser lights that went off during “Who Wants to Live Forever” were spectacularly paired with Adam’s perfect (and I do not use this word lightly) vocals. This song, more than any of the others, really highlighted his vocal prowess and range. It was an absolute pleasure to behold. He also rode an adorable, yet adult-sized, tricycle on the stage during “Bicycle Race.”
My only real complaints are highly minimal, and not related to Queen or Adam Lambert directly at all, and that’s the fact that “The Can” (aka The Pepsi Center) just doesn’t have the greatest acoustics for concerts. The sounds tend to get muddied easily, reverb stretches too high, the plexiglass walls cause the sound (especially the treble) to be too live and bounce a bit too much. In fact, I try to avoid concerts at this venue for this very reason, though it’s one of the more popular venues (read: larger venues) for the super popular acts to play. I have to say, though, Queen’s sound techs did a fantastic job of acclimating to their surroundings and providing the absolute best sound possible. My video recordings (I captured a few, several done as Facebook Live posts for my friends who couldn’t be there) all sound fantastic and clear. I was pleasantly surprised to go back and listen to them and hear that.
All in all, it was one of the absolute best concerts of my life, and that’s saying something. There’s so much I could talk about, and I could go on and on for days, but y’all are probably already bored, so I’ll wrap this up. I can definitely say, though: if they come through again, I’ll be getting tickets without hesitation. And if they come to a venue near you, I HIGHLY recommend going to see them. You will not be disappointed. Here is a listing of the rest of the stops on their 2017 tour:
7/13 — Chicago, IL — United Center
7/14 — St. Paul, MN — Xcel Energy Center
7/17 — Montreal, QC — Bell Centre
7/18 — Toronto, ON — Air Canada Centre
7/20 — Detroit, MI — The Palace of Auburn Hills
7/21 — Cleveland, OH — Quicken Loans Arena
7/23 — Uncasville, CT — Mohegan Sun Arena
7/25 — Boston, MA — TD Garden
7/26 — Newark, NJ — Prudential Center
7/28 — New York, NY — Barclays Center
7/30 — Philadelphia, PA — Wells Fargo Center
7/31 — Washington D.C. — Verizon Center
8/02 — Nashville, TN — Bridgestone Arena
8/04 — Dallas, TX — American Airlines Center
8/05 — Houston, TX — Toyota Center