A giant wraparound crown was slowly hoisted from the stage as a regal orchestral fanfare played, revealing the unmistakable rock royalty silhouette of Queen’s Brian May, with his bouffant hair and signature self-designed Red Special guitar. Was it a coincidence that all of this was happening at the same time as Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee? Yes and no.
A long-awaited UK tour by one of Britain’s biggest ever bands, together with their guest frontman of now 11 years Adam Lambert, had originally been scheduled for summer 2020 before being twice pushed back by the pandemic. With Queen and Lambert set to perform at Buckingham Palace this weekend in the monarch’s honour – apparently she is a long-time fan – this must have seemed like as good a time as any to get back on the road.
Pageantry of a different sort was in plentiful supply here, because that’s just how the never knowingly understated Lambert rolls – whether parading around in a ridiculously oversized top hat and spangly suit, crooning Killer Queen from atop a grand piano, or dispatching the camp diptych of Bicycle Race and Fat Bottomed Girls from the saddle of a jewel-encrusted Harley Davidson. While he can’t hold a candle to the late great Freddie Mercury as a frontman – who could? – Lambert brings plenty of his own undoubted vocal prowess and entertaining personality to the role, sufficient to keep the flame alive in Mercury’s memory.
Lost friends were remembered touchingly throughout, be it May duetting with the ghost of Mercury on acoustic ballad Love Of My Life by an impressive twist of audio-visual trickery, or drummer Roger Taylor – who took lead vocals on a number of songs – dedicating Under Pressure to Taylor Hawkins (Queen were the late Foo Fighters drummer’s favourite band).
We could have lived without May’s tedious solo guitar set-piece performed atop a speeding comet, but Lambert rescued the mood by reappearing bedecked in full queenly regalia, even doing the royal wave, before Bohemian Rhapsody, We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions crowned the show.