QUEEN must be one of the only bands where being overblown, over-wrought and over the top are not criticisms, but the bare minimum of requirements when taking the stage.
And when you have to step into the shoes of arch prancer and showman Freddie Mercury, the pressure is most certainly pushing down on you.
That particular pressure has fallen upon Adam Lambert and I’m happy to report he’s no shrinking violet or pale imitation.
The American Idol runner-up has turned a thankless task into an impressive showcase of a voice that, if not matching Mr Mercury’s, certainly to gives it a run for its money.
There was always the fear that emulating Mercury would turn this show, the first of a nationwide tour, into a soulless X Factor karaoke night.
Had Lambert flounced onto the stage in a leotard sporting a big black moustache and wielding a Union Jack cape, the game would be up.
As it was, the lead singer, while camping it up in a Freddie-esque style, had his own image … most of it gleaned from the all studs and leather cast offs from the Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome costume wardrobe. Image-wise he appeared to be channelling George Michael during his Faith period.
Lambert has said he was there not to replace Mercury, but to remind people how amazing he was. A packed arena didn’t need reminding.
Nor did they need reminding of the talents of Brian May and Roger Taylor.
May ran the show from start to finish, and was as comfortable rocking out Fat Bottomed Girls and Crazy Little Thing Called Love as he was endearing himself to the crowd with an acoustic version of Fog on the Tyne or wringing out the emotion on Who Wants To Live Forever.
His guitar work was as note perfect as Lambert’s voice was pitch perfect, as they rattled through hit after hit from decade to decade: Another One Bites the Dust, I Want it All, Killer Queen, A Kind of Magic, I Want To Break Free, every one a winner.
A drum battle between Roger Taylor and his son Rufus and a soaring guitar solo from May mixed things up for the audience and there were some stand-out performances to be had.
Freddie Mercury joining in (via video footage on the big screen) during an acoustic version of Love of My Life brought huge cheers, and his reappearance for the classic Bohemian Rhapsody had the arena rocking, and for some, the tears flowing.
Lambert returned the stage in a leopard print suit with a glittering crown for encores We Will Rock You and We Are the Champions before milking the applause at the end as the national anthem played and gold glitter fluttered from the rooftops. A great night and a great show.
The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen.