Nearly a year ago, the remaining members of Queen plus Adam Lambert had a press conference to announce a tour of North America. Brian May made a point then that he would make multiple times in months to come – these concerts would be “live and dangerous.”
These days, concerts can be very “safe.” Everything is on a track, from the background to the vocals. They can be the equivalent of a dance, where they just play at being singers or musicians. I’m pretty sure this varies from act to act, some using more, some using less but all using some. Adam used a backing track during his Glam Nation Tour, for example, other than for his acoustic set and his encores. And even if we can’t hear it, most use a “click track” in their ear monitors, just to stay on beat. It’s much safer this way. You get to deliver a show that is basically the same each night, although there might be some room to play, and you reduce the chance of a mistake. Fans are paying to see a good show, after all, not one off-key and full of flubs.
Queen doesn’t play like that. The only beat comes from Roger Taylor’s precisely tuned drum set, it’s Brian’s guitar right here and now that floods the stadium, and Adam’s hall mark is vocal control. And all of them, plus the other members of the band, are consummate professionals who know how to handle the occasional mistake with grace. And all love to play with the material.
But the moment where it all crystallizes, at least for me, is when Adam sings “Save Me” in the third act. This is a new addition for the UK/European tour, and it’s very powerful, especially as a lead-in to “Who Wants to Live Forever.”
But what makes it that way is that Adam sings the first few lines a cappella. He stands on the top of a staircase that angles up from the stage to over the audience, all alone under a spot light. Just him, his voice and a microphone. There are no drums to keep him on beat; no instruments to keep him on key; no backing voices to hide any vocal mistakes. There’s nowhere to hide. He’s vulnerable, off balance. To quote the song, he is naked and he’s far from home.
The music does come on, he makes his way down to the stage where Brian sits with his guitar, but he also sings the final soaring notes alone with just his voice. Filling the stadium with just his voice. Flawlessly and effortlessly, something no one else does. And still vulnerable in all the love and glory with which we clothe him.
I don’t know if he’ll sing this song this way the whole tour – that’s the beauty of live and dangerous. Things can change. But I’m very glad he’s doing this song this way, demonstrating just how courageous they all are.