Queen and Adam Lambert - Hammersmith Apollo
The crowds gathered outside the Hammersmith Apollo all seem to have one question that they are simultaneously wondering aloud: how is Adam Lambert, American Idol runner up and pretty boy extraordinaire, even going to begin filling the shoes of almighty Queen frontman and all round rock legend Freddie Mercury?
The answer is, he’s not even going to try. Tonight isn’t about trying to replicate the snake-hipped Mercury, even though the influence on his understudy is obviously apparent. The crowd is a mixture of older Queen fans and those there to glimpse their new, younger idol and it’s the latter that steal the show. Over the top and in a frenzy of excitement (apparently some have been queuing since the early hours this morning), it’s the youngsters who seem to be most pumped for the band to take to the stage. You could slice through their anticipation with a knife and you get the feeling that this atmosphere can’t be that far removed from the hysteria which used to surround Mercury. Despite the fevered fan girls and boys crushed at the front trying to get close enough to smell their lovingly dubbed “Glambert”, the overall feeling tonight is one of remembrance and tribute - particularly when the screens show footage of Queen back in the 70s.
History and sentiment aside, there is no doubt that tonight is a straight rock ‘n’ roll show packed with back to back hits. Lambert's falsetto is mostly cohesive, although he does throw his own spin upon the mix. Opener ‘Seven Seas Of Rhye’ is mostly drowned out by screams down the front, and it’s not until ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ drops a few tracks in that the crowd really seem to get into the groove of things. From there on in the set is an easy cruise for Brian May and co. His guitar sounds fresh and the quickened live pace only serves to further energise the impressive back catalogue.
At times Lambert pulls poses bordering on the ridiculous, but more than makes up for it with his vocal capability. Some might find him slightly annoying, but he casts away any pretence of “coolness” and gives it his all. Brian May looks like the ultimate rock star, swaggering through his riffs easily with the air of someone a third of his age. The band and Lambert feed off each other, the youth of their frontman contrasting with the experience and knowledge of the original Queen members until you realise that age doesn’t matter.
‘It’s A Kind Of Magic’ is a standout and has the entire crowd singing along, but it’s definitely ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ that seals the deal as the closing track. The harmonies soar and adrenaline pumps throughout the classic tune, leaving the crowd chanting for more. ‘We Will Rock You’ has a second, drawn out airing during the encore, the drum beat echoing throughout the room and we clap along until it feels like our hands are red raw. It’s a “Best Of” that most bands can only dream of having the chance to play. The phrase “all killer, no filler” seems made for nights like this.
On the way out, “it was good, but not the same” seems to be the popular opinion amongst those audience members who were lucky enough to be there the first time around. For the rest of us it was a chance to hear a multitude of classics in a live setting that, without the presence of Lambert, might never have happened. Despite an unsettling feeling of karaoke at times, it would be churlish to leave the Apollo feeling short changed.