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Review & Set List: Queen + Adam Lambert @ Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne

by Paul Cashmere, Noise11

Adam Lambert was quick to address the elephant in the room at the first Queen + Adam Lambert show in Melbourne. “Some of you might be thinking to yourselves ‘well he’s no Freddie’. No shit!’ and thereby rebooting any audience expectations. He didn’t have to. Adam Lambert is perfect for the role.

Lambert, like Mercury, is a flamboyant pop star. When Paul Rodgers fronted Queen and you had a rock star out front of a rock band, the recipe wasn’t right. Robbie Williams had the pop but not the flamboyance when he recorded ‘We Are The Champions’ with Queen. The selection of Lambert came after a lot of trial and error but they finally got it right.

Adam Lambert does Freddie Mercury more convincingly than he does Adam Lambert. It all comes down to the songs. Queen songs are a collection of some of the greatest rock songs of all-time. With the exception of the Pink song Lambert recorded (that really was a waste of space) this show was a perfect rock concert.

Queen is a sound. Brian May’s guitar and Roger Taylor’s drums are just part of that sound. Their songwriting genius is even more important and that is what you get at a Queen show. This is hit after hit after hit after hit. The Queen setlist as a document of rock history.

Queen was a team of individual songwriters who worked as a team of musicians. Mercury, May, Deacon and Taylor were four equal parts. I was actually surprised that founding member John Deacon, who retired from Queen and the music industry in 1997, didn’t rate a mention all night. The number of time Freddie featured paid honour to his legacy but an acknowledge of the work of Deacon would not have gone astray. ‘Love Of My Life’, the May/Mercury collaboration on video with Brian performing from the front of the catwalk was a focal moment.

Deacon’s songs are the ones with the dominant bass-line. Two of his instantly identifiable classics, ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ and ‘I Want To Break Free’, are showcased in the setlist. ‘You’re My Best Friend’, another of Deacon’s songs, hasn’t been played live by Queen since 1980.

There were seven songs on this tour that you did not hear live on the last Queen + Adam Lambert show in 2014. ‘Hammer To Fall’, ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’, ‘Bicycle Race’, ‘I’m In Love With My Car’, ‘Get Down Make Love’, ‘A Kind of Magic’ and that strange choice of Pink-penned Lambert song to this tour. Scratched from the last tour were ‘Now I’m Here’, ‘In The Lap of the Gods Revisited’, ‘Seven Seas of Rhye’, ‘39’, ‘These Are The Days Of Our Lives’, ‘Dragon Attack’, ‘The Show Must Go On’ and ‘Last Horizon’.

The main robot imagery of the current tour comes via the sixth album, News Of The World, with the band using an animated version of the alternative cover as their opening visuals.

This time around no songs were represented from the first two albums. Instead this setlist picks up after album three, Sheer Heart Attack, with ‘Stone Cold Crazy’ and ‘Killer Queen’. Brian May did make mention of that fateful first tour when they were booed off stage at Sunbury in 1974 with chants of “go back to Pommyland, ya pooftahs”. The Australian audience of 2018 is much more refined than their yobbo ancestors of the 70s.

Queen + Adam Lambert is Queen honouring Queen. Brian May and Roger Taylor have done an incredible job keeping the legacy of Queen alive, in concert, in theatre with ‘We Will Rock You’ and in experience ‘The Queen Extravaganza’. In laying down the groundwork over the past 20 years, Queen have established the formula for future generations to hear their music live as it was intended. At least for now, we still get to see two of the founders performing the songs they created.

The set list:

Main Set
  • We Will Rock You (from News of the World, 1977)
  • Hammer to Fall (from The Works, 1984)
  • Stone Cold Crazy (from Sheer Heart Attack, 1974)
  • Tie Your Mother Down (from A Day At The Races, 1976)
  • Another One Bites the Dust (from The Game, 1980)
  • Fat Bottomed Girls (from Jazz, 1978)
  • Killer Queen (from Sheer Heart Attack, 1974)
  • Don’t Stop Me Now (from Jazz, 1978)
  • Bicycle Race (from Jazz, 1978)
  • I’m In Love With My Car (from A Night At The Opera, 1975)
  • Get Down, Make Love (from News of the World, 1977)
  • I Want It All (from The Miracle, 1989)
  • Love of My Life (from A Night At The Opera, 1975)
  • Somebody to Love (from A Day At The Races, 1976)
  • Crazy Little Thing Called Love (from The Game, 1980)
  • Drum Battle
  • Under Pressure (from Hot Space, 1982)
  • A Kind of Magic (from A Kind of Magic, 1986)
  • Whataya Want From Me (from Adam Lambert, For Your Entertainment, 2009)
  • I Want to Break Free (from The Works, 1984)
  • Who Wants to Live Forever (from A Kind of Magic, 1986)
  • Guitar Solo
  • Radio Ga Ga (from The Works, 1984)
  • Bohemian Rhapsody (from A Night At The Opera, 1975)
  • We Will Rock You (from News of the World, 1977)
  • We Are the Champions (from News of the World, 1977)
  • God Save the Queen (from A Night At The Opera, 1975)