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Queen and Adam Lambert Deliver Clevelandian Rhapsody: Concert Review

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A few songs into Queen’s dazzling concert in Cleveland this past weekend, Adam Lambert took center stage for a brief speech that included two choice words for anybody still complaining that he’s no Freddie Mercury.

“No s—!”

The former American Idol sensation and current solo star, who has been performing live with Queen since 2012, went on to praise Mercury as a one-of-a-kind rock god, and explained that a big part of the reason he took this job was to help keep the band’s music alive for new generations.

It was a fantastically worded and delivered statement — filled with exactly the correct levels of respect, humility and bravado — and it earned a big roar from the packed crowd at the Q Arena.

It was also rather unnecessary, because throughout the 24-song, two-hour show that surrounded his monologue, Lambert more than proved that he was a great choice for the job.

All by himself, Lambert can’t hit every single note the scientifically proven awesome Mercury did in his prime. (As impressive as their collective performances were, neither could the dozens of famous rock stars who gathered to pay tribute to the late singer at Wembley Stadium back in 1992.) But after instantly commanding the stage with strong takes on early-era Queen rockers like “Stone Cold Crazy,” Lambert really blossomed when taking on more ornate material such as “Killer Queen” and “Don’t Stop Me Now.”

Guitarist Brian May, drummer Roger Taylor and their three-piece backing band were equally impressive, singing so well on the choruses of the opening “Hammer to Fall” that at first some cynical audience members (including me) suspected trickery. But don’t worry, they’re real … and they’re spectacular!

The entire show was well presented, from beginning to end. Instead of the typical pre-show playlist of other classic-rock songs playing at half-volume, Queen set the mood and built anticipation from the moment you walked into the arena by having a low-frequency electronic hum rise and fall as you waited for them to arrive, with the dynamics getting more and more intense as the show drew closer.

The stage — shaped like May’s famous “Red Special” guitar and featuring both onscreen and physical appearances from the robot on the cover of their 1977 album News of the World — was gorgeous. The set list was sheer perfection too. Even the guitar and drum solos had a point and were kept to a reasonable length.

A tribute to a recently departed rock legend provided perhaps the show’s most unexpected and magical moment, as Taylor took David Bowie‘s vocal part — while still playing drums — on an intimately staged and goose-bump-inducing version of “Under Pressure.”

Naturally, Mercury’s presence will loom large over anything the remaining members of Queen do for the rest of their lives, and they wisely and lovingly embraced that sentiment throughout the evening. Thanks to well-incorporated live audio and performance footage, he even performed duets with May, on “Love of My Life,” and Lambert, on the main set-closing “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

If you didn’t get the idea already, this is a really great show, and if you’re lucky enough to be near one of the cities Queen are playing on the remainder of this tour, you should definitely go.

Watch Adam Lambert and Roger Taylor Perform ‘Under Pressure’ in Cleveland on 7/21/17

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