Concert Review 2 – Queen + Adam Lambert Izod Center 7/23/14

Yesterday, someone (hi, @JazzRock3!) asked if I was going to do a review of my second Queen + Adam show. I told her I wasn’t sure if I’d see anything new. She said I would. She was right, and here’s the post to prove it.

This was the first time I’d attended two concerts in close proximity. While I did go to two Glam Nation Tour shows, one was in June (the first NYC concert) and one was in September (the Staten Island show.) This time, I went to two shows in less than a week. So my Garden memories were very clear and, yes, it meant I learned things.

There were a quite a few differences just from my personal experience. I attended MSG alone, taking a subway there, and a taxi back. (I wrote up my personal experiences here.) This time, I made arrangements to see it with other people. The original plan was to go with my husband, but he’s recovering from pneumonia and couldn’t go. I also drove there AND made sure I had real food to eat.

But the most significant change, other than just being with people (thank you, @inglamwetrust and @suslala, for joining me for this experience) was where I sat. At MSG, I sat on the side on the second tier. At Izod, I sat on the first tier, only a few rows up from the floor and faced the stage. We got the full effect of the light show, plus a clear view of the giant Q. And a straight-on shot of the couch.

This changed everything. I felt almost as though I was at a different show. I’ve never had such good tickets before. It also helped that the energy of the people around me was so different. Not just the ladies on one side of me, but also the Queen fan on the other side, who sang along with every song. Plus they STOOD and they danced and they shouted. I’m still hoarse. Which makes me very happy.

I’m not going to be satisfied with just any tickets anymore, and I will make an effort to attend with people from now on.

One other thing, though, which did put a slight damper on things. We entered our section on top, which is pretty normal, with steps leading down to our row. Problem was, I have really bad balance and there were no banisters. I was terrified, and taking each step one by one. Fortunately, a staff person saw this and offered to help. I took the remainder of the the trip hold on to her arm. It was easier on the way up, because I could grabs seat backs. There’s no reason why there couldn’t be banisters on the end seats. These existed at MSG and made all the difference. With something to put my hand on, I’m perfectly fine.

I gave the play by play last time. The setlist was almost identical, of course. The only real difference is that they skipped “The Show Must Go On.” Given that Adam sang full out, filling that arena and sounding glorious, it wasn’t for vocal issues. But the show did start late – 8:30 instead 8:15 – and one more song would have put them on the wrong side of 11PM. And that runs into union rules, and a lot of money.

There were other changes – the banter changed. Adam did his shout out to Freddie earlier, and instead he made a big deal of DOCTOR Brian May. He changed the shtick on the couch a little, and his banter afterwards, where he expressed his gratitude that “we” allowed him to sing with Queen. There are only three more concerts in this leg, so I suppose he’s feeling it.

He also had a minor change in costume. For MSG, he came out for the final act in the zebra top under the leather vest, but ended with the leopard top to finish “Bohemian Rhapsody.” For Izod, he reversed it. Really minor. Although I do love that he managed to fit in another costume change.

Otherwise, there were a couple of things I noticed. One was the timing of the Freddie videos. Freddie had a palpable presence throughout the show, of course, beginning with Adam changing the lyric in the first song from “Hoople and me” to “Freddie and me,” and other mentions and shout-outs, but his first “appearance” was at the end of Brian’s “Love of My Life.” He then appears again during a home-movie type background during Roger’s “These are the Days of Our Lives.” It was so much more powerful seeing these videos full on, by the way.

It makes sense to show these videos at this point in the show, while Adam is off-stage. This is a gift to the Queen fans, telling them that while they are embracing “the new guy”, and while he is a member of the band in all but name, they have not forgotten their past – neither Freddie nor John Deacon. LOML is now a love song to Freddie from someone who misses him every single day, and TADOL says that the memory of the past is very sweet and eternal, even as they move forward – with Rufus playing the drums to make that clear. Adam is the present and possibly the future, as is Roger’s son, but they don’t don’t erase what was.

The only time Adam interacts with video Freddie, the only time he’s on stage at the same time, is at the end of the main show, during Bohemian Rhapsody. Now I wonder if it’s on purpose – to keep the images of their two frontmen separate, to let Adam shine without reference to the past even as he invokes it. Not because Adam loses by comparison – he doesn’t on so many counts, but because he is the present and possibly the future. But they always do BR using video, so it makes sense here – and even here, the only time they interact is the final lines, when both are being tender.

And the last image, of course, is Adam in that leopard suit and crown, being very much himself.

I do want to address something here while I’m at it. Many reviews talk about Adam’s voice being too much in control to really “do” Freddie. Well, of course, he’s NOT doing Freddie, but also, they have a point. Unlike the vast majority of rock and pop singers, Adam has had extensive vocal training, since he intended to have a stage career. And control is vital for stage work, whether it’s opera or Broadway. This is why so very few Broadway singers succeed in pop or rock careers, if they even try – their training gets in the way of a musical form that depends on anarchy.

Adam gets around this by using his control to roughen his voice, to produce rock wails and to let the guitar work (at least when produced by a wizard like Brian) guide him to where he wants to go. He acts like he’s letting go, but he doesn’t. While this produces an amazing rock voice, I can absolutely see why some think it’s too polished and pristine to really rock the way Freddie (untrained) could do. Adam doesn’t let loose. He’s glorious and wonderful and definitely does rock, but there is an element that makes it closer to control than chaos. And for those who prefer that, it’s a valid criticism. Me? I love both.

This leads me to a final rumination – the solos and the sing-a-long. There’s a long section in the middle where everyone but Adam (and Spike, who just accompanies) a moment to shine – solos by both Brian and Roger, plus a band song led by Brian, a solo by Nick on the bass and a drum duel by Roger and Rufus. This shows them as a band, this introduces Freddie, and John, on video, this puts some quiet songs on the setlist, this allows Adam to sip some tea between taxing sets – all those things. But it, plus Brian’s long guitar solo later on, also allows them to play.

The sing-a-long after “Tie Your Mother Down” is Adam’s chance to play with his voice, as well as the audience. He plays around during Killer Queen and Crazy Little Thing Called Love, he performs some amazing acrobatics during “Somebody to Love”, and gets in some riffs at the end of “We Are the Champions,” but the sing-a-long is pure fun for him, as he jokes around with the audience about “advanced class” and gets us to try to follow him. It’s the one place he can do whatever he wants to do, and it’s something he needs, I think. It’s also silly and funny, and fun for the audience, but that’s part of it.

Because even with perfect control, such that his voice does what he wants to do, he has something of that chaos in him, the chaos that IS rock and roll. He’s not a theater kid acting the part of a rock star on a competition show anymore. He IS a rock star now and it’s as much part of him as playing Fiyero ever was.

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About mamadeb

I'm a devoted fan of Adam Lambert, but also of cooking, knitting, science fiction and pretty anything pop culture. I'm @_mamadeb on Twitter.
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6 Responses to Concert Review 2 – Queen + Adam Lambert Izod Center 7/23/14

  1. buffy522 says:

    nice review. thanks for the time. I saw two back to backs in Houston and Dallas and sitting very close to the stage (row 2 and 3). Yes, I paid a lot for those seats and didn’t see the production (I was essentially IN it). But I wanted to see Adam close up. Really close. It pays to know what you want ahead of time and get the seats that best suit you. The lack of railing is ridiculous and so dangerous.

  2. Barbara kleinschmidt says:

    Thanks again for your review! I was at the boston show and my one regret was watching so many prior shows!! I picked up every little nuance that was different! Not a good thing. He didn’t sing the show must go there either!!! I love him singing that. But I see why he didn’t!! Lot of pressure on that beautiful voice!! Also no confetti! Perhaps that’s a venue thing. And as you mention the banter with the audience was different….BUT wonderful!! I enjoyed every minute of it BUT it was over way too fast. Next thing I knew I was outside with 13,000 other people wondering where it all went!!! Wouldn’t have missed a minute of it!! Can I do it again tomorrow???????

  3. Pingback: LIVE: Queen + Adam Lambert (East Rutherford, NJ) 7/23/14 | adamlambertlive

  4. Linda Clark-Glambert says:

    Yes, every word about the “MSG” concert was spot on and a clear honest assessment of what actually happened. Jon Pareles of the NY Times review was so off base and did not truthfully depict the magic and wonder of this concert.

  5. Chris L says:

    What a GREAT review – well written, insightful, and thoughtful. Thank you for those last two sentences! You’re right: Adam IS a star!!

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