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Concert Reviews:
Queen + Adam Lambert remain the "Champions" at Little Caesars Arena

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Sunday, July 28, 2019

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DETROIT -- The late Freddie Mercury himself declared "The Show Must Go On" back in 1991, just months before his death. So it's fair to say he'd be the last person to have a problem with Queen continuing 28 years later -- especially when it's being maintained so magnificently by bandmates Brian May and Roger Taylor with Adam Lambert.

The troupe's show Saturday night, July 27, at Little Caesars Arena -- its third time through the metro area since 2014 and the first Queen performance in Detroit proper since 1982 -- was indeed a charm. This has been a definitive posthumous edition of the band since Lambert sang with May and Taylor during his 2009 "American Idol" runner-up run, and it just keeps getting better. And this summer's Rhapsody Tour arrives with Queenmania at an all-time high thanks to the box office and awards season success of the biopic "Bohemian Rhapsody" -- just one reason LCA was packed to its gondola gills on Saturday and that the concert was the summer's hottest ticket alongside Bob Seger's DTE Energy Music Theatre run last month.

Queen + Adam Lambert simply had everything in place to, well, rock us over the course of 29 songs and two hours and 15 minutes. The set was packed with an abundance of greatest hits and just enough deep dives into the Queen catalog, presented both full-length and in medley form -- a hard-hitting early show triplet of "Seven Seas of Rhyme," "Keep Yourself Alive" and "Hammer to Fall" among the most effective of the latter. Queen's production was killer, too; There were with fewer props than in 2017 at the Palace of Auburn Hills, with a focus this time on visual effects such as a Victorian theater motif on the video screens (including real fans in boxes behind the stage) and, during the last quarter of the show, lasers.

And then there was the musicianship, from Taylor's powerhouse drumming to May's onslaught of fluid, tonal guitar solos. But the not-so-secret weapon remains Lambert, who has the pipes to pull off the material and, just as importantly, a winking, self-aware sense of campy theatricality that pays homage to Mercury's spirit while still showcasing Lambert's own style. On Saturday that allowed him pull off all five of the flamboyant outfits he sported during the show (finishing with a royal Edwardian robe and crown during the encore) and also look perfectly natural straddling a motorcyle that rose onto the end of the ramp extending into the arena floor for "Bicycle Race."

Lambert -- who led a singing of "Happy Birthday" to Taylor, who turned 70 the day before -- paid ample tribute to the company he was keeping, both present and the absent "pink elephant in the room." "There's no replacing the one and only rock god," he said of Mercury. "I am a fan just like all of you...You and I will celebrate Freddie and Queen together!" Mercury made a few select "appearances," too: He "dueted" with May during a solo acoustic "Love of My Life;" was part of the video for the operatic section of "Bohemian Rhapsody;" and, on video screen, led the crowd in his famed "Ay-Oh!" call-and-response chant before the Queen crew (including three additional musicians) returned for an encore. "He's still with us, every day," May said at one point.

But Queen + Adam Lambert laid its own claim all night, from emotive, melodramatic favorites such as "In the Lap of the Gods...Revisited," "Somebody to Love," "The Show Must Go On," "I Want it All" and "I Want to Break Free" to the rock anthems -- "Now I'm Here," "Tie Your Mother Down" (which blasted out of May's guitar solo rendition drawn from Dvorak's "New World Symphony"), "Fat Bottomed Girls," "Radio Ga Ga" and, of course, "We Will Rock You"/"We Are the Champions." Lambert skipped through the lively "Don't Stop Me Now," while he, May and Taylor romped through "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" and "Under Pressure" set up at the end of the ramp.

The most heart-warming moment of the night, meanwhile, was the May-Taylor duet on a truncated version of "Doing All Right" -- an apt reference to the state of the band in 2019. More than all right, actually; They are still the champions, and there's no reason to stop them -- now, or ever.

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