Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Bohemian Rhapsody

Q for Queen
I'm gonna have myself a real good time
I feel ali - i - i - ive
And the world is turning inside out, yeah!
I'm floating around in ecstasy
So, Don't Stop Me Now!
Don't Stop Me -
'Cause I'm having a good time
Having a good time....

Half of Queen (Brian May and Roger Taylor) and all of Adam Lambert came to Leeds Arena on Tuesday 20th January and my daughters treated the family to tickets for the show as a Christmas present.  This seemed a fitting concert to attend after enjoying the groups’ appearance on the TV at New Year and also after We Will Rock You was the last musical I directed as a full time teacher (some pics in the collage here.)
More significantly we have been absorbed by documentaries about the group’s genesis, their writing methods, their ups and downs and the challenges caused by Freddie Mercury’s final illness.  As a story for a rock group the narrative contains all the ingredients you might make up if you were writing a stonking melodrama – the sarcasm and disdain of music critics, the amazing set at Live Aid, the technological, musical and presentational breakthroughs, the studio sessions and the pressures of the period in Munich, the undemonstrative John Deacon with his lucky beggar hit Another One Bites The Dust, and the inconceivably camp Freddie blasting his way through all expectations and conventions to become the lead singer of legend, a globally recognised and beloved figure, flawed and talented, ambitious and shy, wild and whirling.  Guaranteed to blow your mind.
Can you believe Freddie died over 20 years ago?  Can you believe his presence in the concert (both in speeches by Adam Lambert and Brian May and singing on a high-definition screen at well-chosen moments within songs) caused an outpouring of emotion at the Leeds Arena?  The glimpses of Freddie were very moving and spoke of rises and falls, the vanity of youth, the glory of talent, the excesses of extravagance, energy and death – but mostly they reminded you of Mercury’s blazing talent.  And so it was moving to remember his personality, his legacy and his voice.
And Freddie’s occasional presence also meant you could be independently amazed at the vigour, bounciness and vocal fireworks of Adam Lambert.  The show started with Brian May silhouetted behind a massive Night at the Opera logo and throbbed into One Vision, Stone Cold Crazy and Another One Bites the Dust.  These were followed by the joyous Fat Bottomed Girls and In the Lap of the Gods... Revisited.  Seven Seas of Rhye brought the opening run of songs to an end with Adam Lambert thoroughly warmed up and having revealed his extraordinary vocal range.

Lambert then came into his own with stunning versions of Killer Queen and I Want To Break Free, two songs which are indubitably “Freddie” but now became completely “Adam.”  The tough-to-sing-live Don’t Stop Me Now sent the audience (including us) wild – lots of memories of that song in our family history - and Somebody To Love brought the house down before a change of pace and one of the highlights with May singing Love of My Life acoustically.  “Years and years and years ago,” May eulogised, “some of you will remember and some of you were not even born yet—there was a man named Freddie Mercury.  And he was extraordinary.”  May, Taylor and the band gave Lambert a rest with ’39 and These Are The Days Of Our Lives (the latter very moving) and the Adam-free sequence ended with a Bass Solo and a Drum Battle with Roger Taylor’s son (Rufus Tiger) rivalling his dad in stamina and style.

Under Pressure was the song that brought Adam Lambert out again – and Save Me and Who Wants To Live Forever soared, the latter number with an insanely effective mirror ball dazzling the stadium.  Brian May’s Last Horizon was then followed by a Guitar Solo and the homeward stretch of classic concert numbers: Who Wants to Live Forever, Tie Your Mother Down, I Want It All, Radio Ga Ga, Crazy Little Thing Called Love and, of course, Bohemian Rhapsody, complete with some Freddie singing skilfully integrated.  The encore was We Will Rock You and We Are the Champions.

An exhausting but thoroughly enjoyable two and a quarter hours.  The set, lighting and special effects were massively impressive and, naturally, the sound was poundingly gleaming, clear and bright.  Brian May’s playing was at times astonishing.

How would Freddie have felt?  Adam Lambert’s showmanship is certainly as vivid as Freddie’s and it was a great touch that the Monarch’s Crown that Freddie used to parade in at the end of concerts was substituted by a diamond-encrusted Prince’s Coronet for Adam Lambert.  Prince not Monarch.  He wasn’t Freddie, but he was about as good as it could get, given time’s ravages.  Great experience and great memories.

Roger Taylor, (Prince) Adam Lambert and the incomparable Brian May