Queen still ‘Killer’ with Adam Lambert in Chicago

Iconic rockers Queen returned to Chicago, performing as Queen + Adam Lambert, filling the United Center for an evening of classic rock that included their greatest hits. Hitting the stage a little after 8 p.m., most of the sold-out audience had found their seats before the lights dimmed, obviously privy to the fact that there would be no opening act. Though the production was not classic Queen, given that Freddie Mercury is irreplaceable, it was a modern reboot that offered even the most die-hard fans a worthy performance.

Adam Lambert filled the void with a strong stage presence that should have had the late rock icon smiling down upon him. Indeed, video snippets of Mercury on the high-def screen above the stage offered that exact vibe while adding heartfelt moments during key times throughout the show. It helped that Lambert did not try to emulate Mercury—either vocally or in spirit. Rather, Lambert was himself. Perhaps more flamboyant than Freddie but commanding the stage with aplomb and handling the songs with his ability to hit the requisite searing highs with his obvious vocal chops. Individually tailored props, like a pink tricycle filled with roses that magically appeared at the end of the thrust during “Bicycle Race,” brought his personality front and center.

Original members guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor also had their moments to shine (giving Lambert time to change into a good half-dozen different outfits during the course of the show) and showed absolutely no signs of slowing down after more than four decades in the game. Taylor’s voice was in top form on “I’m In Love With My Car,” and he was also relentless on the kit. May remains one of rock’s greatest guitarists. He delivered piercing solos, showed his psychedelic side during “Get Down Make Love,” and took over vocals on the solo-acoustic “Love of My Life” (while incorporating a touching tribute to Mercury, who finished the last verse on screen before fading into darkness as he walked away). May took a moment to recognize Chicago, giving his thanks to the fans as well as musical history. He said, “The roots of blues music from Chicago has been a force throughout the world. We are happy to bring some joy back to Chicago tonight."

Taylor joined May and Lambert at the end of the thrust, placing them close to dead-center of the arena for the playful, Elvis Presley-infused “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” That put him in prime position for a drum solo and battle with touring musician, Tyler Warren, before moving into “Under Pressure.” The latter served up the solemn reminder that we lost Davie Bowie recently while also reinforcing Taylor’s vocal abilities as he subbed in for the Thin White Duke.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” closed the set proper, flashing snippets of the classic video on the monitors and piping Mercury’s vocal tracks to again showcase the legendary singer in a tasteful duet with Lambert. It was the perfect touch to end the night, though an encore of “We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions” invoked a sing-along that nearly brought the roof down.

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