NEW YORK – Adam Lambert wants to get one thing out of the way.
“I know what some of you diehard fans are saying: ‘He’s no Freddie Mercury,’ “ Lambert said early into Queen’s dazzling concert at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Friday night. “No (expletive).”
It was the first of many nods to the late Mercury, whose singular voice and boundless charisma helped Queen become one of the most popular bands of the 20th century. Lambert, 35, clearly felt the weight of expectation going into Friday’s performance, despite having sang with the English rockers’ current lineup (which includes original members Brian May and Roger Taylor) since 2011.
But the former American Idol contestant needn’t have worried. On Queen’s current North American tour — which continues Sunday in Philadelphia and wraps Aug. 5 in Houston — Lambert is a more than competent Mercury stand-in, bringing pop-punk snarl and a superhuman vocal range to fan favorites such as We Are the Champions, I Want It All and Who Wants to Live Forever, an emotional evening highlight that, like Under Pressure before it, left many concertgoers dewy-eyed.
Lambert also emulated Mercury’s flamboyant style, rocking a multitude of costume changes throughout the two-hour set that included glittery high-heeled boots, tight leather vests, and one particularly memorable hot-pink, flower-embroidered ensemble, which he happily declared “the gayest suit you’ve ever seen.”
Slinking down the guitar-shaped catwalk, gyrating across the stage and pedaling on a rose-covered bike for – you guessed it – Bicycle Race, Lambert exuded raw energy and dynamic showmanship, even when his self-confessed “dad jokes” earned more groans than guffaws.
But the night was as much about Queen co-founders Taylor, 68, and May, 70, who each got moments to shine. Perched behind his drum kit, Taylor was in fine voice on his electrifying hit I’m in Love with My Car and later dueted with Lambert on Under Pressure, which he dedicated to the song’s late co-writer and vocalist, David Bowie. Shortly after, May slowed it down for an acoustic Love of My Life, a longtime Queen concert staple for which he sat on a stool at the edge of the stage.
“This is a song I used to sing with Freddie,” May said as he introduced the ballad, finishing off the performance by taking a snapshot of the virtually sold-out crowd with a selfie stick. Projections of Mercury accompanied Love of My Life and singalong closer Bohemian Rhapsody, which earned deafening cheers as brief clips of the rock icon (who died in 1991 of complications from AIDS) flashed across the screen.
The arena concert was bolstered by flashy production values, including massive, rotating lighting rigs, confetti canons and a giant robot’s head that rose up from under the stage. But it was the reverence to Queen’s past, along with Lambert’s generosity and magnetism, that ultimately made it such a satisfying evening for the band’s longtime fans.
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