Queen was one of the most successful rock bands of the 1970s and 1980s - both in the studio and on tour. The quartet of Freddy Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor, and John Deacon sold out arenas worldwide. Mercury passed away in 1991, and Deacon retired shortly afterward. But May and Taylor recruited Adam Lambert a decade ago and revived the band. This year's tour brought Queen to the United Center for two nights. I attended the first show on Tuesday evening.
For an hour before the Queen concert began, the stage was blocked by a screen containing a projection of a 3-D crest, like the ones that graced the band's famous "Night at the Opera" and "Day at the Races" albums. The crest was set against an animated clockwork. As the show began, the music grew in volume, and metallic beings started to climb through the clockwork mechanisms until the screen became translucent, then transparent, then elevated to reveal the band, which launched into a medley of "Radio Ga Ga" and "Machines (Or Back to Humans)."
It was a high-energy moment, and the band maintained this energy throughout the evening, performing for over two hours in front of a sold-out arena.
Freddy Mercury was a flamboyant character with an impressive vocal range and a larger-than-life personality. Mercury's death in 1991 effectively ended the band's initial run. When the band revived in 1991, they recruited vocalist Adam Lambert. Like Mercury, Lambert is a flamboyant character with an impressive vocal range and a larger-than-life personality. He does not channel Freddy as much as he draws inspiration from him.
One comes to expect impressive light shows at an arena concert, and this was no exception. The lighting and the video images morphed impressively with the music. But we also saw many practical effects and props. Brian May performed a guitar solo as he was elevated above the stage and as astronomical images swirled about him while spheres descended from the ceiling; Adam Lambert performed "Bicycle Race" while sitting on a chrome motorcycle; Leaves falling from the ceiling augmented a giant video of an autumn tree.
The show also presented some video images of the band: 72-year-old Roger Taylor's drum solo followed a video of him performing a timpani solo in his twenties; the music video of "Bohemian Rhapsody" accompanied the band's performance of their operatic composition; And videos of Freddy Mercury performing brought the crowd to a frenzy.
But it was the music that made the show.
The band performed some deep album cuts (my favourite was Brian May accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, while singing the sci-fi folk song "39"), but they dedicated most of the set list to their hits, including "Another One Bites the Dust," "Fat Bottomed Girls," "Killer Queen," and "Don't Stop Me Now."
They could have ended the concert with "Bohemian Rhapsody" rather than ending the first set with that song. Instead, they returned to the stage for three more songs, ending with "We Are the Champions" - an anthem that carried Queen during their heyday.
This version of Queen still has the power to electrify audiences.