Queen + Adam Lambert - Live in Dallas!

Queen + Adam Lambert
American Airlines Center
, Texas
Aug. 4, 2017

By A. Lee Graham
Words and Image

Set List:
We Will Rock You (intro) | Hammer To Fall | Stone Cold Crazy | Another One Bites The Dust | Fat Bottomed Girls | Killer Queen | Two Fux | Don’t Stop Me Now | Bicycle Race | I’m In Love With My Car | Get Down, Make Love | I Want It All | Love Of My Life | Somebody To Love | Crazy Little Thing Called Love | Under Pressure | I Want To Break Free | You Take My Breath Away | Who Wants To Live Forever | (guitar solo) | Radio Ga Ga | Bohemian Rhapsody | We Will Rock You | We Are The Champions | God Save The Queen

The queen is dead; long live the queen!

Before slipping into Smiths discussion, let’s define our terms: the “queen” in question is Queen + Lambert, not Queen. Both feature guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, but only one lineup features the 35-year-old dervish sparking debate among Queen fans.

That would be Adam Lambert, as flamboyant as the late Freddie Mercury but more visibly so. Sporting endless combinations of sequins, silk and frilly fabric, the vocalist, plucked from obscurity on American Idol, now fronts what many consider among rock’s greatest acts.

Rounding out the lineup are Taylor’s equally percussive son Rufus, bassist Neil Fairclough (original bassist John Deacon retired in 1997) and keyboardist Spike Edney. They churned out the hits while celebrating the 40th anniversary of News of the World. The 1977 album added “We Will Rock You” and “We Are The Champions” to the rock lexicon and soccer stadiums worldwide.

Before a rapt Dallas audience, the musicians plowed through those tunes and many more. Every melody came cloaked in different costumes, multi-color light displays and an elaborate series of backdrops that rose and fell, pushed forward and back.

The eye candy created an immersive experience. While many arena bands boast giant video screens, Queen went a step further by augmenting its own giant screen with a narrower video space high above the drum set, as well as permeable “cage” rigging onto which lights and video were projected.

With lasers cutting through the air, the effect proved mesmerizing as the band powered through “Under Pressure,” “Hammer To Fall” and what might be called a “love suite” featuring no fewer than five songs with “love” in the title.

While lacking the full-bodied grit and animalistic persona that made the late Freddie Mercury a true rock and roller, Lambert’s strengths lay in hitting some impressive high notes. Whether riding an over-the-top bicycle on “Bicycle Race” or a robot head rising from the floor as a tribute to News of the World cover art, Lambert had props aplenty to work with.

But showmanship is only one element in Queen pageantry. Music is another — and more important — consideration, one drawing mixed reviews from yours truly. Great as it was to hear Queen music in a live setting (and who can argue with the wall of sound May creates with his homemade guitar and wall of Vox amps?), the set list offered no surprises. None. It featured the hits but eschewed deeper cuts.

“It's Late” and “Spread Your Wings” vanished from the set list days before the tour hit Dallas, disappointing many Queen fans. Still, May’s guitar solo showpiece helped salvage the disappointment. The guitarist rose from the stage, pushed upward by the robot’s steeling hand. With a planetary backdrop and star field illuminating the darkness, May (also an astrophysicist), seemed to float on air while coaxing harmonic grandeur from the instrument. Some truly spellbinding minutes.

If only the set packed more stellar moments, featured more News of the World material and cut deeper than the let’s-satisfy-the-casual-fan surface, a good show could have been great.

Somewhere along the line, “heritage” acts have turned rock shows into family-friendly hit machines. As Arnel Pineda does with Journey, Adam Lambert does with Queen: trot out the hits while ignoring deeper cuts that sadly go unplayed.

Lambert fans may have enjoyed “Two Fuxx,” but the solo tune came at the expense of actual Queen songs. Then again, this was Queen + Adam Lambert, not Queen. Viewed from that vantage will heighten the enjoyment of a tour that, when considered on its own merits, has much to offer.