Queen + Adam Lambert

REVIEW: Queen + Adam Lambert – “You Are the Champions” (2020)

QUEEN + ADAM LAMBERT – “You Are the Champions” (2020 iTunes)

Queen were one of the earlier groups out of the gate with new “lockdown” recordings.  From their homes they re-recorded “We Are the Champions”, dedicated to frontline workers, with Adam Lambert to raise money for the World Health Organisation’s “Solidarity Response Fund”.  Whatever the cause may be, we are here to review the music.

The idea here is that Queen are not the champions this time — we are!  Together we have locked down and sacrificed, and we are doing it for each other.  The lyrics don’t really fit but we know what Queen meant.  Lambert doesn’t actually change the words to “You are the champions” until the halfway point.

This track is the familiar Queen arrangement, though shortened by a verse.  Adam Lambert is a fine singer, as he proves in the outro.  Queen didn’t go with the big layered vocals here; perhaps you need a recording studio to do that.  Instead Lambert’s voice takes the spotlight by itself.  Even the instrumentation is sparse — no solos, and only a couple Brian May guitar noodles to savour.

There’s a striking music video with stark footage of empty streets.  I like that Lambert did his hair and makeup to the nines while the other two look casual.  Let’s join Queen and Adam in thanking our frontline healthcare workers — and thank you Queen for recording again.  How about a new album next time?

3.5/5 stars

#633: Don’t Take Offence At My Innuendo

GETTING MORE TALE #633: Don’t Take Offence At My Innuendo

I didn’t understand Queen until it was almost too late.  When I was a highschool hair metal brat, Queen were “too pop” for my tastes.  Much of their music seemed to be novelty songs to me.  Highschool pep rally music:  “We Will Rock You”, “We are the Champions”.   In the late 80s, North America had all but given up on Queen.  My exposure to them was minimal until 1991.

MuchMusic began playing a new Queen video called “Innuendo”.  The animated short was intense with firey guitar histronics (courtesy of Steve Howe from Yes) and an exotic Zeppelin edge.  Having just got into Zeppelin big time, this was very appealing.  At school, old pal Scott Peddle concurred.  “That new Queen is quite the Zeppelin tune,” and I agreed.  As far as I was concerned, any band that could homage Zep’s “Kashmir” with their own unique slant, well, I had to check them out!

M.E.A.T Magazine had a new interview with Brian May that year, and so my learning began.  It was the first I heard of Freddie’s rumoured health problems.  Queen hadn’t toured since 1986 and this raised questions.  Little did I know, but the British tabloids were all over Freddie with candid photos and near-death pronouncements.  Brian denied the health concerns, but admitted that it was Freddie who didn’t want to tour.  This was because as singer, he couldn’t smoke, drink and party with the rest of the band.  He had to take care of his voice.  So went the interview.  Brian assured readers that Queen would continue, as they were already half-way through the next Queen album, eventually released in 1995 as Made  in Heaven.

The next chapter in my learning came during the summer.  In guitar magazine interview, Brian May ran through all the Queen albums one by one.  I drank in every word, as I got a rough outline of what this band was all about.  Diversity, mostly, and I liked that.  Zeppelin too was diverse, but I sensed that Queen took it to another level.  I made plans to begin collecting Queen.

After highschool, I managed to stay in touch with a guy named Andy.  Andy had an older brother with an extensive record collection.  Andy told me all about this song called “Bohemian Rhapsody”.  He was over one night when my mom came downstairs to tell us some bad news.  It was the 23rd of November, 1991.  Freddie Mercury had made a statement.

“Following the enormous conjecture in the press over the last two weeks, I wish to confirm that I have been tested HIV positive and have AIDS. I felt it correct to keep this information private to date to protect the privacy of those around me. However, the time has come now for my friends and fans around the world to know the truth and I hope that everyone will join with me, my doctors and all those worldwide in the fight against this terrible disease. My privacy has always been very special to me and I am famous for my lack of interviews. Please understand this policy will continue.”

There was such a stigma surrounding AIDS then, more so than today.  It is easy to be critical of Freddie’s decision to keep his illness secret.  Unless you were there in 1991, then you really can’t know how difficult it was for AIDS sufferers at the time.

Andy and I were shellshocked.  The rumours were true.  The denials were false.  Brian later admitted that he knew early on that Freddie was sick.  Still, Andy and I had no idea how serious it was.  We talked, we listened to Queen.  Freddie died the very next day (the same day as Eric Carr of Kiss).  I had hardly got to know him.

My mom was headed to the mall and she asked if I wanted anything.  “Yes,” I answered.  “The first Queen album please.”  She returned that afternoon with Queen, 1973.  It was my first Queen.  I intended to collect them in order.

Getting all the albums in original order went sideways shortly after.  Less than three months after Freddie’s passing, came a worldwide phenomenon:  Wayne’s World.

Overnight, Queen were everywhere again.  Everyone knew every word to “Bohemian Rhapsody”.  The few months’ head start that I had were meaningless.  Two weeks later, Hollywood Records released Classic Queen in North America.  This was essentially a revised Greatest Hits II from 1991, (which they didn’t even bother to release here) with older hits thrown in.  Later that year came a new version of Greatest Hits, with the track listing revamped to avoid overlap with Classic Queen.  Confusing?  Indeed, it must have been to old fans who already had the old Greatest Hits with the original cover art.  That immediately became a collectable.  To new guys like me, I was just trying to keep up.

Hollywood Records reissued all the old Queen albums as part of their 20 Years of Queen series.  There were bonus tracks.  I had begun my Queen collection on cassette, but I was irked to discovery that some of the CD editions had bonus tracks that were not on the cassettes.  And so, I already had to re-buy.  Interestingly, some of those old 1991 bonus tracks are remixes that are now out of print and not available on the newer Queen reissues.

It was a blessing that I stopped buying them in chronological order.  After all, I didn’t want to wait that long to get Innuendo, an album with more than the average amount of heavy Queen rock.  Next, I got News of the World.  Its bonus tracks was a pretty awful remix of “We Will Rock You” by Rick Rubin and featuring Flea.  Fortunately the album itself was much better.  Queen’s best?  Quite possibly, due to “It’s Late”, a Queen epic as regal as any.  The 6:27 Brian May workout is a clear highlight on an album of nothing but.  “It’s Late” sunk its hooks in me deep.

As it was difficult for Hollywood Records to to extract new releases from a defunct band, the reissues continued.  Queen At the Beeb was out of print, so it was re-released with new cover art as Queen at the BBC in 1995.  This collection of live oldies from Queen and Queen II were not what the hit-buying general public were interested in.  My copy was a cassette promo from the Record Store, intended for store play.  The boss never played it so I claimed it.

Working at the Record Store, I was able to fill in most of the blanks in my collection.  A nice find was a version of The Miracle with 14 tracks instead of the more common 13.  I still have that.  (The additional track was the 12″ remix of “Scandal”.)  It was ol’ buddy T-Rev who made sure I knew these things.

As the years passed, Queen releases became less important.  The long-awaited final album Made in Heaven became a shelf warmer at Christmas 1995.  Regardless of its deep emotional contents, people didn’t want to know.  The unfortunate effect of Queen’s sudden comeback in North America is that people lost interest a few years after they gained it.

Not me.  Made in Heaven became a dark favourite.  Two years later, Queen indicated they weren’t done yet.  The trio of Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon regrouped for one last song:  the ballad “No-One But You (Only the Good Die Young)”.  It was a tribute to Freddie and Princess Diana, and released on a new compilation called Queen Rocks.

John Deacon retired, but then something strange happened.  The duo of Brian May and Roger Taylor reconvened as “Queen +”.  This moniker was used for a number of remixes on Greatest Hits III: Queen + Wyclef Jean, for example.  There was Five + Queen doing a new boy band version of “We Will Rock You”.  Queen + Paul Rodgers did an album (The Cosmos Rocks) and a number of tours.  But it wasn’t until a former American Idol TV contestant named Adam Lambert came on board that Queen regained mass public awareness.  Now, Queen + Adam Lambert are a hot touring commodity.

That might have to be enough.  Because nobody bought The Cosmos Rocks, Queen + Adam Lambert are unlikely at this time to record new music.  Instead they will be tearing up stages Down Under in 2018.  They promise all the favourites, and a few unexpected oldies.  Lambert is a versatile singer who can do it all, so Australia and New Zealand are now on alert:  Queen + Adam Lambert are coming and are promising a hell of a show.

  • Auckland – 17 & 18 February
  • Sydney – 21 & 22 February
  • Brisbane – 24 February
  • Adelaide (first Queen shows since 1984) – 27 & 28 February
  • Melbourne – 2 & 3 March
  • Perth – 6 March

 

GUEST CONCERT REVIEW: Queen + Adam Lambert 7/13/2014

QUEEN +

GUEST REVIEW by “Boppin”

QUEEN + ADAM LAMBERT – Live, July 13 2014 at the Air Canada Center, Toronto

I have to start off this review by saying I love Queen. I have listened to more songs by Queen than almost any band ever. I am told when people I know hear Queen, Steve Miller Band, Black Sabbath or 80’s metal, they think of me. So the review you are about to read really pains me to write. But I have to be true to myself and review the band as I saw them last night.

I went to this concert expecting to hate every little bit of Adam Lambert. I hated him on American Idol. Yes, I know. I hate to admit it, but for a while I did watch that show. How, you say, can a died-in-the-wool metal head and 70’s hard rock lover watch American Idol? Well. To answer that question, my family time TV viewing was limited to the type of shows we could watch together. Having a young pre-teen in the house meant only watching family type shows when she was awake. And she loved American Idol. At first I liked Adam Lambert. He was not your typical contestant on that show. But then he started showing off his pipes too much, and it got annoying. All of the viewers knew precisely when he was going to wail, and we got sick of him.

Then I heard the news that he was going to be the next lead singer for Queen.

Queen and American Idol. That is sacrilege. This would be like Gary Cherone in Van Halen. It wouldn’t work. It couldn’t work.

However, it did.

I hate to say this, but the three shining spots of the concert last night really had nothing at all to do with the original line up of Queen.

First, Adam Lambert was actually great. If Freddie Mercury was incredible, then Adam Lambert was great. He was spot on. He was campy, in a Freddie kind of way, and his voice was in top shape.

Second, Neil Fairclough, the bass player they hired to replace the retired John Deacon was amazing. His stand up electric bass was the biggest bass I have ever seen. It sounded sweet. And then he let Roger Taylor use drumsticks to play the bass (a first for me).

Third, Rufus Tiger Taylor. He is the son of Roger Taylor. And he has some serious chops. I didn’t realize how good he was until my wife pointed out to me that he was better than his dad. And last night, he was.

The concert was going along great, and then Adam Lambert left the stage, and the show for me mostly fell apart.

Please don’t get me wrong I love Brian May, but he was mostly off last night. His entire night sounded about a half second behind. His finger work was slow. His guitar solo (which was roughly 30 minutes) was about 28 minutes too long. It started out with a few minutes of Pink Floyd , then onto some Zeppelin, back to Floyd. I don’t think he was trying to copy David Gilmour or Jimmy Page, but the elements were there. At least I hope he wasn’t trying to copy them because he was doing a piss poor version if he was. For a guy that has seen many guitar virtuosos over the years, this was like watching a Junior High guitar talent show. The worst part for me was when Brian May screwed up in “Bohemian Rhapsody”. It was a real fingernails on the chalkboard moment for me.

During the song “Love of My Life”, Brian moved down to the front of the stage alone with an acoustic guitar. He admits he is not a singer. Well, Brian we quickly figured out why. Your voice was awful. God awful. And you chose to have the audience sing the other half of the lyrics of the song. You could have heard a pin drop when the 100 or so people in the entire audience of 15,000 that actually knew the lyrics were singing (whispering?). Here’s a hint. Choose a song most of the audience knows if you want them to sing the lyrics for you, or put the lyrics up on a screen.

Coming from the area of the world where Neil Peart is from, and having seen Rush in concert many times (and more recently seeing how good Tommy Clufetos can bang the skins), the drumming of Roger Taylor was another let down. It wasn’t bad. It just didn’t wow me. But in 2014, solos really are passé unless you are really amazing, and Roger Taylor was not. He does not have a great singing voice either, which really showed when he tried to fill in for David Bowie during “Under Pressure”.

His son is a real up and comer though, and I hope he finds his own way in the music industry. It seems especially tough on children of famous musicians.

After the horrible “Love of My Life”, Brian May talked about space travel and how we were all going on a journey and we may never come back, then all of the musicians(other than Lambert) went to the front of the stage and did “’39”. Pardon me while I yawn.

Please Adam, come back and save us from this snooze fest. As the lights go down and the audience sees Adam there is a huge cheer.

However, after a couple of classic Queen songs, they forced him to sing a remix of a little known Freddie Mercury disco song called “Love Kills”. He announced Queen was using this version in an upcoming album. In my opinion, they should do a new album with new material, perhaps throwing in a few B-sides of old material, or do a live album. They could include Freddie, Paul Rodgers, Freddie Tribute Concert songs and Adam. Just my two cents. Also in my opinion, the band had plenty of time to come out with this new album before the tour, but they didn’t. And all they had for sale at the swag booths were $40 T-shirts. I have enough T-shirts thanks. Not one CD or vinyl. Nothing.

The entire show for me was like “backwards day”. I assumed Brian May and Roger Taylor would be the highlight of the show. I told my wife the only reason I am going was to hear Brian May. But the cast of nobodies were better.

I should end the review by stating the whole is better than the sum of its parts for Queen + Adam Lambert. When they are together doing classic Queen songs, they sound great. When they do solos, and off-key singing, it didn’t work.

If they had included 8-10 more songs, and skipped a lot of the solos, I would have rated it higher.

My wife summed up the concert when we got back to the car by stating she liked The Lady Gaga concert a few nights before better (No, thankfully I did not attend that one). I told her “Don’t say that!”

For me, Adam Lambert was 8.5/10, the band without Adam 4/10, so together the show was 7.5/10. Too bad. It could have been much better.

[This works out to 3.75/5 on the five-point LeBrain scale.  Thank you Boppin for this amazing review! — LeBrain]

SETLIST:

  1. Now I’m Here
  2. Stone Cold Crazy
  3. Another One Bites the Dust
  4. Fat Bottomed Girls
  5. In the Lap of the Gods… Revisited
  6. Seven Seas of Rhye
  7. Killer Queen
  8. Somebody to Love
  9. I Want It All
  10. Love of My Life
  11. ’39
  12. These Are the Days of Our Lives
  13. Under Pressure
  14. Love Kills
  15. Who Wants to Live Forever
  16. Guitar Solo
  17. Tie Your Mother Down
  18. Radio Ga Ga
  19. Crazy Little Thing Called Love
  20. The Show Must Go On
  21. Bohemian Rhapsody
  22. Encore: We Will Rock You
  23. Encore: We Are the Champions

More QUEEN at mikeladano.com:
QUEEN – Queen’s First E.P. (1988 EMI, originally 1976)
QUEEN + PAUL RODGERS – The Cosmos Rocks (2008, iTunes bonus tracks)
QUEEN + PAUL RODGERS – ”Fire and Water” (2008 Amazon.com bonus track)
BRIAN MAY & FRIENDS – Star Fleet Project (1983 Capitol Records)