- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The world’s greatest Queen tribute band stopped by the Verizon Center earlier this week to remember a legendary lead singer and give enthusiastic fans a two-hour saturation of its classic rock anthems.

Much like Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend’s touring keeps the Who’s music alive, original members and rock legends, drummer Roger Taylor and guitarist Brian May, have kept Queen on the radar for decades with energetic shows that in part act as memorials to their original, dynamic singer, Freddie Mercury.

Mercury died in 1991 from AIDs-related complications, but his spirit was still present and musically maintained all evening with great help from the band’s current crooner for the past six years, successful pop star Adam Lambert.

It’s still very hard to imagine Queen without Mercury orchestrating the proceedings as the band began a 22-song set by launching into “We Will Rock You” and quickly into Mr. May’s crunching power chords on “Hammer to Fall.”

The overtly flamboyant Mr. Lambert made it clear early on that he would never attempt to fill Mercury’s shoes, even explaining that he was just a lucky fan, and there will be “only one Freddie Mercury.”

Keeping the music alive was Mr. Lambert’s goal, and he offered throughout the concert a potent vocal range and style with a clear passion for the source material.

Mr. Lambert had many brilliant moments during the evening between the constant costume changes loaded with leather and color (feeling a bit like a Vegas show anchored by Cher).

His lead on “Fat Bottomed Girls,” with legendary harmonies from Mr. Taylor and Mr. May, sounded straight from the 1978 album “Jazz”; “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” carried the joyous spirit of the 1979 original; and “Who Wants to Live Forever” displayed the emotional power of his range.

I know this is not about a competition, but Mr. Lambert still has some vocal growl growing to do for the rock genre.

He sounded a bit too Broadway at times especially in his version of “Killer Queen” while sitting atop the robot head mascot (featured on the 1977 album art for “News of the World”) — and wearing a pink suit and in platform shoes no less.

He is certainly able to carry the notes, but Mercury’s comparative, meatier delivery on a tune such as “Somebody to Love” would often cause an outbreak of goosebumps.

Now, let’s not forget the current anchors of Queen, Mr. May, 70, and Mr. Taylor, 68. Both legends may be edging into retirement years, but they clearly still enjoy playing the songs and engaging with audiences.

Mr. May continues to deliver the chops and distinct sound that has made him a rock-guitar god. He presented that signature fat and melodic sound showcased in songs such as “Stone Cold Crazy,” “I Want It All,” “Bohemian Rhapsody” and a Jimmy Page inspired “Get Down, Make Love” with a calm demonstrating his Zen-like demeanor.

Mr. Taylor, singing lead on the rarity ” I’m in Love With My Car,” harmonizes on almost all songs, and his drum pounding was equally strong.

Moving up to the stage runway (shaped like a guitar neck) on smaller kit mid show, he offered a powerful version of “Under Pressure” carrying David Bowie’s part and engaged in a fairly lengthy drum solo.

That turned into a battle with percussionist Tyler Warren sitting at the legend’s regular kit upstage. It’s interesting to note that Mr. Warren also drums for a Queen tribute band.

If great music was not enough for an audience loaded with families and millennials, the visual presentation was outstanding in nearly every song.

A massive mirrored disco ball rotated light beams for “I Want to Break Free”; confetti cannons exploded for “We Are The Champions”; waves of multicolored lasers layered the arena for “You Take My Breath Away” and “Who Wants to Live Forever”; all of the original, younger members’ video presence appeared in “Bohemian Rhapsody; and a massive projection of the robot mascot clapped along to “Radio Ga Ga.”

The pinnacle of effects was Mr. May’s slightly indulgent solo. The maestro mixed those orchestrated layering of chords and notes as he seemingly floated in the cosmos, perched high above the audience.

The multimedia accompanying him was an impressive mix of a star-filled and planet-rotating diorama display with even a robot hand guiding him to the heavens.

However, despite the theatrics, the most poignant moment all night was also the simplest and belonged to May.

It had the musician with an acoustic guitar sitting on a stool near the edge of the stage runway and singing, as well as beckoning the audience to sing along, with a composition from his “very good friend” Mercury, “Love of My Life.”

Having the deceased lead singer show up in a large projection screen and handle the last refrain with the guitarist’s accompaniment was a near heartbreaking sense of loss. It was impossible to not shed a tear.

Ultimately, that really was what an evening of live Queen classics delivered for this fan. Memories of why music lovers still miss the magic of Freddie Mercury.


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