Skip to main content

3rd June 2022

Live Review: Queen + Adam Lambert at AO Arena

Theatre Editor Jay Darcy reviews Queen + Adam Lambert’s The Rhapsody Tour at AO Arena
Live Review: Queen + Adam Lambert at AO Arena
Photo: Jay Darcy @ The Mancunion.

I can’t quite believe I’m writing this. I’m still processing what just happened. I saw Queen + Adam Lambert! If this is a dream, don’t pinch me; I never want to wake up.

Now, I usually begin my live reviews talking about the opening act. I won’t be doing that for this one, because Queen never have an opening act; their concerts are too long for that – it started at 8PM, and they were onstage until after 10! On top of that – as much as I love an opening act, how could anybody possibly get you ready for Queen?!

If you read my theatre reviews, you know I’m a sucker for production value. The Rhapsody Tour’s use of technology (lighting, projection, pyrotechnics, etc.) is incredible.

The show opened as big and loud as one would expect, made even mightier with  projections that created a regal theatre stage, complete with rich red curtains. Dressed in a top hat and sparkling suit, Adam Lambert looked the part. What I love about him is he honours Freddie Mercury without mimicking him. He is just himself – his own fabulous self – and he sings Queen songs as himself, but he does not turn them into Adam Lambert covers. He really is the perfect frontman (if you will) – and given the scores of people who have been flocking to see Queen + Adam Lambert over the past decade, I’m clearly not alone in thinking that.

All the big hits were performed, with some added bonuses – including Queen’s third single and first hit (third time lucky), ‘Seven Seas of Rhye’ – which they performed, yes, third.

‘Bicycle Race’ was a highlight. I was not familiar with the song, but the performance was mesmerising. Sat on a motorbike, Adam rose from under the stage – at the end of the walkway. He looked like a Sex God from Hell!

Brian May CBE performed a couple of lesser known songs by himself, before Roger Taylor joined him for ‘Those Are the Days of Our Lives’ – a particularly poignant moment. Lambert joined them for the end of the song – which seemed to represent May and Taylor moving on, embracing the future – though never forgetting the past.

‘A Kind of Magic’ was arguably the best performance of the night. The lighting and projections were, well, magical. The overzealous, old man next to me told me to record May when he got to the end of the walkway – and I am so glad he did, for he fired two pyrotechnics out of the head of his guitar! Granddad then told me to record Adam. Adam held up some glittery tube – perhaps it was a fleshlight, but on second thoughts, it was probably a fleshjack – as fireworks shot out of it. The performance ended with several pyrotechnics at the end of the stage. It was magical.

By Queen standards, ‘Who Wants to Live Forever’ is a little bland, but it was made entertaining with the use of technology. Multicoloured lights created laser beams, and cloud imagery was projected upon them. It felt like paradise – or, better yet, a psychedelic trip…

The main set ended with Queen’s most popular song – and the third best-selling single in the UK – ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Mercury considered the song a “mock opera”, which parodies elements of opera. It is also a combination of three songs he had written. The middle part of the song is, of course, the most operatic. Instead of attempting to recreate that – a futile endeavour – footage from the video was played in the background, creating a majestic nostalgia.

May’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ guitar solo was epic – even better than his long guitar solo at the end of the previous act. He descended from the stage as smoke engulfed him, before dispersing as a light shone on him – and, oh, did he shine! It was like a rocker was rising from the dead. Truly mesmerising.

The encore was made up of double A-side singles ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘We Are the Champions’. The songs were not only issued together, but radio stations often played the consecutively, without interruption. It was fitting, then, for Queen to do so onstage – better yet, as the encore!

Before Queen + Adam Lambert sang ‘We Will Rock You’, footage of Mercury played – him warming up the crowd. It was a genius idea – Mercury came back to get the crowd going for one of his band’s most notable songs.

Seeing Queen + Adam Lambert is one thing, but there were no expenses spared with this production, which made for one of the most majestic music experiences I have ever been blessed with.

Queen + Adam Lambert’s The Rhapsody Tour plays around the UK until June, with a 6-night residency at the O2 Arena, London, from 14th until 21st June. It then spends a month in continental Europe, from 24th June until 25th July.

Jay Darcy

Jay Darcy

Theatre Editor. Instagram & Twitter: @jaydarcy7. Email: [email protected].

More Coverage

Khruangbin’s LP, A LA SALA: Slight shifts make all the difference

Texan three-piece instrumentalists Khruangbin return with their newest LP, A LA SALA, demonstrating that a band can grow with the most subtle of changes

Declan McKenna live in Manchester: Seamlessly mixing old and new

Touring his third album ‘What Happened to the Beach?’, Declan McKenna created a cohesive and compelling live show out of his new material and impressive back catalogue

Thundercat live in Manchester: Bassist of all time?

The man that changed how hip-hop sounds forever brings improvisational, progressive jazz to roaring crowds in Manchester

Everything Everything live in Manchester: I’m a Mountainhead too

Everything Everything bring their Mountainhead tour to New Century Hall for a triumphant hometown outing