Gig review: Queen and Adam Lambert at First Direct Arena, Leeds

Adam Lambert with Brian May of Queen.
Adam Lambert with Brian May of Queen.
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“I know what you’re all thinking,” Adam Lambert, resplendent in fuchsia pink suit and glittery quiff, addresses the sold-out crowd at Leeds’s First Direct Arena. ““He’s no Freddie!”” He cocks an eyebrow. “And you know what I think?” A pause, punctured by a dramatic shrug. “‘No s***!’”

For a frontman with no shortage of ego, the former American Idol finalist has never been possessed of an arrogance in his five years as de-facto vocalist of British rock heroes Queen; after half-a-decade in the saddle, his effusive wide-eyed wonderment at fronting this institution remains obviously palpable.

As surrogate singer for the late Freddie Mercury, Lambert has always shied clear of attempting to step into the former frontman’s shoes; more George Michael than Farrokh Bulsara. He unabashedly revels in the uber-camp theatrics, mounting a pink tricycle for Bicycle Race and producing animalistic grunts during a hot-and-heavy Get Down, Make Love.

For Killer Queen, arguably his signature song within the band, he sprawls across the top of a giant robotic head emerging from the floor, bathed in dry ice and five-inch heels. It is gloriously, utterly daft and wonderful.

Cameras rarely stray from him, or indeed the two remaining members of Queen, guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor. They remain impressive musicians, and both make vocal forays too throughout, the former unspooling a delicate Love of My Life as a virtual video-screen duet with Mercury and the latter gurning through a bombastic I’m In Love with My Car.

When Taylor and Lambert exchanged slickly-honed harmonies on a grooving Under Pressure, their apparent joint delight is infectious.

That’s what stops this touring iteration from feeling like an overblown cash cow flogging; all three seem genuinely touched and thrilled in equal measure to be playing these songs. Lambert accompanies a bouncy Fat Bottomed Girls with a heartfelt tribute to the elder statesman pair; May returns the favour by prefacing Somebody to Love with a dedication to the singer’s gymnastic vocal talents and limitless enthusiasm.

For Who Wants to Live Forever, under rainbow-coloured lasers, they deliver a grandiose, sweeping power ballad; in Bohemian Rhapsody, Lambert rises on a suspended stage, messianic in his melismatic delivery.

By the time he re-emerges with a crown and gold cape for We Will Rock You and We Are the Champions, his appropriation into this national treasure feels a just reward. Don’t stop him now, indeed.