Freddie Mercury is irreplaceable. That point was made expressively Sunday night at the Sprint Center. But the songs and music of the band Queen are timeless and indelible and worthy of revival under the right circumstances, a point made emphatically Sunday night.
For about two hours, two of the founding members of the legendary British rock band, guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, fronted by lead vocalist Adam Lambert, led a crowd of about 13,000 through a set list that spanned two dozen songs, some of them more than 40 years old. And it made for a night that was as sentimentally satisfying as it was relentlessly entertaining.
Lambert, an “American Idol” runner-up in Season 8 (he lost to Kris Allen), is the ideal surrogate Freddie Mercury: He’s fearlessly campy and uninhibited, and he has the vocal might that can punch holes through arena walls.
The trio, backed by three other musicians, opened with a teaser: about 15 seconds of “We Will Rock You,” a classic stadium-sized anthem that would make a later appearance.
They officially opened with “Hammer to Fall,” and then “Stone Cold Crazy,” two relatively obscure tracks, neither of which charted in the U.S. but both of which drew plenty of recognition from the crowd.
From there they barged full-steam-ahead into solid-gold terrain, starting with the funk-rock classic “Another One Bites the Dust,” which led to the whimsical and libidinous arena anthem “Fat Bottomed Girls,” then into the lustrously irresistible groove-fest “Killer Queen,” all of which Lambert handled with equal parts deference and panache.
Throughout the show, Lambert paid respects to Mercury and his larger-than-life reputation. He also deferred to May and Taylor, calling them “rock Gods” and “legends.” But he did not back down from commanding the stage, vocally, physically and otherwise, and imparting upon the show his own personality and flavor.
He changed costume/wardrobe several times, though each time he emerged wearing seemingly a different variation on the same theme: a leather jacket (sleeveless, usually), leather pants and boots, with studs and spangles adorning most of it.
The best of the bunch was the blazing blood-orange ensemble that matched the color of his hair. I think he was wearing that when he pedaled around the guitar-shaped stage on a tricycle during the delightful version of “Bicycle Race,” ringing a handlebar-bell throughout.
He also infused the show with appropriate amounts of sexual innuendos and gyrations and gestures that usually involved the microphone stand. During a rabble-rousing version of “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” he flashed some impressive Elvis dance moves
Mercury was remembered throughout the show, but with tasteful restraint. One of the many highlights of the show was May’s solo-acoustic version of “Love of My Life,” a lovely ballad from the “Night at the Opera Album.”
May played it simple and straight. Toward the end he was joined, on the video screen, by footage of Mercury singing the final verse or two. It was a touching remembrance.
They ended the first set with — what else? — “Bohemian Rhapsody,” turning over the chorus parts to footage from the original video, displayed on the large video screen. For such a complex and ornate song, it aroused a memorable, verbatim and rafter-rattling sing-along, equal in volume to the ovation for May’s guitar solo toward the end of it. As he did all night, Lambert sang everything just right: with much drama and aplomb but without overdoing it.
The show ended with the teaser that started it: a version of “We Will Rock You” that almost split the arena open at its seams. Then came “We Are the Champions,” a rock-opera hymn with the fervor of a fight song.
It brought the close of an evening that from the start was about rewarding winners and legends and bringing back to life and back on to the playing field the music of one of the most creative and unique bands in the sport of rock music.
We Will Rock You (intro); Hammer to Fall; Stone Cold Crazy; Another One Bites the Dust; Fat Bottomed Girls; Killer Queen; Two Fux; Don’t Stop Me Now; Bicycle Race; I’m in Love With My Car; Get Down, Make Love; Somebody to Love; Crazy Little Thing Called Love; drum solo; Under Pressure; I Want to Break Free; Who Wants to Live Forever; guitar solo; Radio Gaga; Bohemian Rhapsody. Encore: We Will Rock You; We Are the Champions.