How was this going to turn out? This was Queen’s third tour with Adam Lambert (let’s face it after the tours with Paul Rodgers anything had to be an improvement. All fine players but if ever there was a mismatch. Who can remember the album they made together? The Cosmos Rocks 2008)
While Queen obviously had the songs to cover all bases, could they still cut it? From one point of view there was a lot stacked against them. The two remaining original members of the band are now closing in on 70 years old. Then there is the selected lead vocalist, who although half the age of the other two name grabbers in the line-up had after all only come second in the 2009 American Idol show. And backing those three up were two fine but journeymen musicians, plus the drummer’s son on percussion.
The Bangkok weather and traffic did not exactly help either. A tropical storm blowing over the Impact Arena two hours before the show resulted in gridlock outside and caused the concert to be delayed by nearly an hour. On the plus side it allowed many latecomers to buy last minute seats and eventually sell out the venue to its full 11,000 capacity.
Any lingering doubts about this concert were dispelled as soon the curtain dropped and Queen, in all their glory, rampaged onto the stage with twice the energy of many younger bands. They belted out the group’s first hit from 1973, “Seven Seas of Rye” at twice the speed that it was originally recorded and from that point on the audience was left spellbound by a cascade of hit songs for two and a quarter hours.
There were three giant screens surrounding the band, so wherever you were sitting in the auditorium you could catch the action or watch the videos accompanying the songs. The largest screen, positioned behind the band, was the most effective and wove clips of Freddie Mercury into the show, sharing verses with Adam Lambert or Brian May to tumultuous applause.
Mention must also be made of the dexterous work of bass player Neil Fairclough (replacing reclusive original band member John Deacon) and keyboardist Spikey Edney, who has been associated with Queen since 1984.
When Brian May picked up an acoustic guitar and took over lead duties to sing “Love of My Life”, a song from the album A Night at the Opera from 1975, the audience sang along with every word. (According to our source at Metal Works and Record Collector magazine, Mark Taylor, the Thai audience knew the words better and sang louder than their London counterparts. Not a bad feat considering English is not their first language, and shows what a knowledgeable rock’n’roll audience we have here in the kingdom.)
The Taylor’s then took center stage, Roger singing the tune he penned “It’s a Kind of Magic” from his drum kit set up at the end of a walk way usually reserved for Lambert and May, and then we had the family drum battle with son Rufus on the big kit on stage, while dad was out front on the little one. I don’t as a rule like drum battles, but this one certainly kept your attention.
“Under Pressure” had the audience singing and swaying again, with an appearance by the recently departed David Bowie on the big screen alongside Freddie. More hits followed until it was time for Brian May’s Guitar Extravaganza. Hoisted up onto a platform twenty feet above the stage and transformed into another galaxy, May showed he has lost nothing in his guitar armory, in fact he’s added to it and he treated us to a large section of “Starmus Sonic Universe” from the album he recorded with Tangerine Dream in 2011 (the only non-Queen music to be played all night.)
But once May’s guitar had taken us around the universe he was gently lowered back to earth and not so gently ripped into Queen’s salute to punk rock “Tie Your Mother Down”, with Rufus Tiger Taylor being allowed to thrash along on the main drum stool (no wonder the boys from the Darkness have snapped him up as their full time percussionist – when he is not out on tour with dad that is.)
From this point on the band had won all the battles. “Bohemian Rhapsody” was sensational, with all the screen, mirror, laser and light magic put to full use. “Radio Gag Ga” finished off the show proper, but there was still more to come. Encores included a heavy hard rockin’ version of “We Will Rock You”, followed by band and audience singing us into the night with “We Are the Champions” during which the audience was showered with gold confetti, giving the whole Impact Arena a very surreal feel.
After the crowd filtered out into the maze of food kiosks and taxi stands outside the arena, there were still groups of fans singing Queen anthems well into the night.
Queen and Adam Lambert were a sensation. Without doubt the best show by a foreign band in Thailand in the last thirty years. This was Queen’s last gig of a very lengthy world tour. There are no future tours booked, but let’s hope it’s not their last.
NB: Photos courtesy of Joe Kicherer, Lars Faeste and Tony Phadang.
Seven seas of Rye
Hammer to Fall
Stone Cold Crazy
Fat Bottomed Girls
Don’t Stop Me Now
Somebody to Love
A Kind of Magic
Crazy little Thing Called Love
Another One Bites the Dust
I want It All
Who Wants to live forever
The Show Must go on
Brian Mays Guitar Extravaganza
Tie Your Mother Down
I Want To Beak free
Radio Gag Ga
We Will Rock You
We Are the Champions