Queen Rules Mohegan Sun

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


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Photo credit: Diane Pontious

Last Friday night, Queen rocked Mohegan Sun for their second sold-out show this month. Featuring American Idol star Adam Lambert on vocals, the iconic group put on a fantastic show for those assembled - new fans as well as many veterans of Queen tours of the 70’s and 80’s.

Queen + Adam Lambert

Let’s get one thing out of the way. The late Freddie Mercury is simply a legend. He is widely considered one of the best performers in the history of Rock and Roll.  No one can or will replace his over-the-top theatrics and commanding stage presence.

Anyone who expects Queen in 2014 to sound like Queen in 1984 is fooling themselves. That said, Queen in 2014 is a colossal band, and they put on a far better show than most other classic rock acts still out there touring. And Adam Lambert is a big part of the reason why.

Adam Lambert

“What do you think of the new guy,” asked guitarist Brian May referring to Lambert. As the crowd signaled approval, May reminded the audience “And he’s not even English.”

Lambert is a dynamic performer, honoring Mercury by imitating him in subtle ways, and bringing enough of his own game to establish himself as a worthy front man.  A singer of a different generation, he brings a dash of R&B along with a share of Hip-Hop sensibility to the forefront.

Classics and Deep Cuts

Many of Queen’s songs seem to have been around forever; in sports anthems, TV and film, and high school marching band medleys. But the group actually struggled to find an audience in its early years. And while their hits were powerful, some of the more interesting tunes Friday night were lesser known album cuts.

“Stone Cold Crazy,” a moderate Glam-Rock success when released, was powerful, led by May’s driving guitar riffs. Two songs from the classic album, A Night at the Opera (1975), “Love of My Life,” and “39” were performed on May’s 12 string acoustic, and provided a nice change of pace mid-set. Lambert exited the stage for these songs, leaving the original members “Dr. Brian May” (PhD in astrophysics), and Drummer Roger Taylor in charge of the folk oriented acoustic set.

Bring on the Hits

Show highlights included a funky version of “Another One Bites the Dust” early in the set. “Somebody to Love” was exhilarating, another early show high point. The song winds up like an out of control freight train and then comes to a stop just before going over the edge. Later, another highlight of the evening saw drummer Roger Taylor joining Lambert on vocals for “Under Pressure,” the 1981 song originally recorded with David Bowie.

The concert had the feel of an 80’s rock show, complete with over the top guitar riffs, laser effects, and fist pumping sing-a-longs. The band’s energy level continued to rise throughout the show, with a forceful version of “Tie Your Mother Down,” followed by the popular “Radio Ga-Ga.” A gallop through “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” was next. Concertgoers detected a little Elvis swagger from Lambert, in front of Mays’s slide guitar histrionics.

Queen closed the set with the classic “Bohemian Rhapsody,” complete with Freddie Mercury taking a verse on the video screen. The images are fine –but Mercury’s vocals, synched to the live band, can be a little unsettling. It’s a neat effect, and a nice memorial no doubt, but at times one didn’t know if it was live or recorded. 

Encore and Legacy

The biggest sing-a-long of the night was reserved for the encore “We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions.” The Queen anthem sounded fantastic with May’s guitar leading the way. Fists were pumped high as images of Mercury rose behind the band - a fitting end to a great show.

Every few years, Queen songs seem to find a new audience, from Wayne’s World partying to “Bohemian Rhapsody” to the Glee cast powering their way through “Somebody to Love.” Lambert himself is responsible for some of this as he led the Idol cast in “We Are the Champions” several years ago. They’re a timeless band who’ve made their mark on music history and are clearly not done yet.

Ken Abrams reviews Roots, Rock and Blues for GoLocalProv. He can be reached at [email protected].


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