It’s hardly surprising that the opening night of Queen’s first UK tour in five years treads a fine line between crass sentimentality and glorious celebration; Freddie Mercury’s flamboyant signature is writ large across this typically extravagant show.
Where Paul Rodgers was briefly permitted to make the frontman’s role his own as Queen’s +1, it’s impossible to escape the sense that Adam Lambert is swimming against a tide of sneering cynicism and nauseating nostalgia. Under pressure? And then some. That he survives a nervy rendition of Another One Bites The Dust and thrives in the face of a virtual Freddie (their ‘duet’ on Bohemian Rhapsody bristles with emotion) is testimony to Lambert’s steely determination. Stepping into Mercury’s shoes prompted suspicion and derision, but tonight there’s only admiration as a full house salutes an eye-catching entertainer with the glittering wardrobe to match a sparkling vocal range.
Brian May and Roger Taylor realise the gamble has paid off – big time. Queen’s stalwarts revel in their return to the arena stage, with a giant, illuminated ‘Q’ and spectacular light show complementing an unrelenting barrage of killer Queen anthems. Taylor hands the drum stool to son Rufus Tiger as he takes the vocal lead on Kind Of Magic, and May thrills the locals with a fun rendition of Fog On The Tyne.
It’s not all about Freddie or the ‘new boy’. It never was. But the bold amalgam of classic Mercury and Lambert’s cabaret gold might just be Queen’s crowning glory.