02. Hammer to Fall
07. Two Fux
09. Bicycle Race
10. I’m in Love with My Car
11. Get Down, Make Love
16. Drum Battle
19. Take My Breath Away / WWTLF
20. Guitar Solo
AUBURN HILLS — Adam Lambert would be the first to admit that there will never be another Freddie Mercury — and, in fact, he did just that on Thursday night, July 20, at The Palace.
But the 2009 “American Idol” runner-up, performing with Queen co-founders Brian May and Roger Taylor, proved again that he’s the next-best-thing. And then some.
Making their second appearance at The Palace, Queen + Adam Lambert put on a glorious two-hour rock ‘n’ roll spectacle whose only flaws were one bad song choice (the ponderous “Get Down, Make Love”) and a trying 45-minute wait past the show’s advertised 8 p.m. start time (fans got bored enough to start doing The Wave at one point). But once on stage the trio and its three support players dazzled with the kind of musical and visual magic that insured Queen’s enduring, regal legacy.
Credit Lambert for that success. Granted credibility by May and Taylor’s open embrace, even including his new single, “Two Fux,” in Thursday’s setlist, the Indiana-born singer displayed a firm grasp of the two key elements that made the late Mercury so iconic — a winking, grinning sense of campy theatricality and formidable pipes. The latter were evident on every song Lambert sang, but particularly on soaring renditions of “Don’t Stop Me Now,” “I Want It All,” “I Want To Break Free” and “Somebody To Love,” threading the needle between aping Mercury and adding his own style to the mix.
Lambert gave the nearly full Palace plenty to see, too, with his hair dyed bright red and seven intensive outfit changes — even sporting a bona fide crown for the encore — and visual stunts such as singing “Killer Queen” while seated atop a giant replica of the robot from the cover of Queen’s 1977 album “News Of The World” and riding a flower-festooned tricycle around the stage during “Bicycle Race.” Lambert spent much of the 22-song set prowling a ramp that stretched towards the center of the Palace floor, even venturing into the pit surrounding it to press some flesh during “Radio Ga Ga.”
The spirit of Mercury was more than channeled, too, as Queen’s original main man got his due via video with cameos for the last verse of the May-sung “Love Of My Life” and at the end of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” virtually trading lines with the in-the-flesh Lambert.
May and Taylor — who also changed outfits several times each during the show — were hardly eclipsed by their younger frontman. The former, who celebrated his 70th birthday on Wednesday, July 19, laced searing, extended guitar breaks into songs such as “Stone Cold Crazy,” “Fat Bottomed Girls,” “I Want It All” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and played an atmospheric, laser-lit solo spot, with portions of his own “Last Horizon” and Queen’s “Brighton Rock,” atop an elevated platform.
Taylor’s “drum battle” with Tyler Warren, meanwhile, was a quick diversion, and he successfully took on the late David Bowie’s parts in a galvanizing rendition of “Under Pressure.”
The night ended the only way it could — with the tape-assisted “Bohemian Rhapsody” ending the main set and an encore of “We Will Rock You” and “We Are The Champions,” with glittery confetti showering the arena. The heavyweight, i.e. Mercury, may be gone, but on Thursday Queen + Adam Lambert could still lay claim to the championship belt — or, if you prefer, the crown.
Got to spend more time with Adam Lambert than I ever thought I would. I’ve got to give him props. He did a hell of a job fronting Queen and he was way more normal than I thought he’d be. I would even say he was, polite, humble and down to earth.