Still Rock In Hammersmith (Wardour-101)
HMV Hammersmith Apollo, London, England – July 14th 2012
Disc 1 (67:04): Intro., Flash Intro., Seven Seas Of Rhye, Keep Yourself Alive, We Will Rock You (Fast), Fat Bottomed Girls, Don’t Stop Me Now, Under Pressure, I Want It All, Somebody To Love, Who Wants To Live Forever, A Kind Of Magic, These Are The Days Of Our Lives, You’re My Best Friend, Love Of My Life, ’39
Disc 2 (70:28): Dragon Attack, Drum Battle, Guitar Solo, I Want To Break Free, Another One Bites The Dust, Radio Ga Ga, Band Introduction, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, The Show Must Go On, Bohemian Rhapsody, Tie Your Mother Down, We Will Rock You, We Are The Champions, God Save The Queen
Queen’s working with American Idol winner Adam Lambert took tentative steps at the VMA in November 2011. After announcing to the press they would work together in February 2012, they finally did with three shows at the HMV Hammersmith Apollo in London in the middle of July. Still Rock In Hammersmith documents the final of the three with an excellent stereo audience recording.
The reviews were quite positive, pointing out this pairing was much better than Paul Rodgers seven years ago. Caroline Sullivan in The Guardian wrote that: “Queen and their temporary new singer Adam Lambert – a pairing that makes a good deal more sense than the earlier incarnation of Queen and blues-rock belter Paul Rodgers – were scheduled to make their British debut at the Sonisphere festival, but when that was cancelled they hastily booked three nights in Hammersmith. Thus, what was conceived as an outdoor show was brought indoors with all the trimmings intact, including fireworks, pyrotechnics and a lightshow designed to be seen for miles. The result? A spectacle of such overblown majesty that, somewhere, Freddie Mercury must have been chuckling approvingly.”
Neil McCormick of The Telegraph opined: “Hand-picked by guitarist Brian May, Lambert can certainly handle the vocal range of Queen’s songs although he sings in a softer, more soulful, modern pop style, without Mercury’s rock grit or operatic bombast. But it is to his credit that he is a talent in his own right and not just an impersonator. …
“The fans loved it but it left me feeling slightly queasy, watching another great band turn into a pastiche of themselves. You can’t begrudge old musicians wanting to play their own hits. With his white ringlets and a wizardy cloak, May looks increasingly like a rock Gandalf. He remains a phenomenal guitarist, though, and a solo spot in which he plays off his own echoing rhythm makes you wonder why he thinks he needs a band at all.
“Roger Taylor impresses too with an extended solo, drumming up a storm in a family duel with son Rufus on percussion. But individual set pieces couldn’t quite cohere into something unified or transcendent. The other session musicians hug the edge of the stage as if trying to make themselves invisible. They deliver the hits with crowd pleasing gusto but it never really feels like a band. It’s a Queen show. But it’s not Queen.”
While nobody doubts Lambert’s talent and charisma, his vocals and style just do not sound right for Queen. The claim he’s a better fit for vocals is probably rooted in his sexuality. But Freddie never flaunted his sexuality, certainly not as much as Lambert. I feel the American Idol winner is too gay for Queen and adds a prissiness that just doesn’t fit.
The show does work well musically. During the performance they make musical references to many of the songs in the back catalog. May plays a brief reference to “White Man” as a introduction to “Fat Bottomed Girls” and “Dragon Attack” has references to “Get Down, Make Love” and “Liar.” And Taylor does a tremendous job singing “These Are The Days Of Our Life.”
Nobody can duplicate Freddie Mercury’s unique combination of power and vulnerability. But Lambert’s voice is just too weak to sound convincing. Maybe I’m missing something and the music really is very good, but it’s not to my taste. Nevertheless, Still Rock In Hammersmith is a great document in this new chapter of Queen’s history and is worth having.