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Review: Queen + Adam Lambert at AAC in Dallas

Posted 12:05pm on Friday, Jul. 11, 2014

Turns out, “Fat-bottomed Girls” really do make the rockin’ world go ’round.

When Queen + Adam Lambert hit the soaring acappella harmonies of that classic and, yes, cheeky song, it jumpstarted a show that began sluggishly (and nearly an hour late) Thursday night at American Airlines Center. And when Lambert, decked out in black leather and biker studs, sunglasses and a killer pompadour, told all us “fat b****es to get on our bikes and ride,” we knew we were in for an irreverent, edgy journey into rock’s past.

Lambert, the 32-year-old former American Idol runner-up, has the unenviable task of stepping into the platform shoes of Queen’s legendary lead singer Freddie Mercury, who died in 1991 but still looms large as the defining voice of the Hall of Fame band. (Video of Mercury performing was used throughout the two-hour show.) Some purists are offended at the notion that Lambert would even try to put himself in the same sentence with Mercury, but actually it was Lambert who was the brightest star onstage Thursday in Dallas.

With an elastic and powerful voice, he could hang with Mercury in the octave Olympics. And he has buckets of charisma and showmanship to spare. When he sprawled out on a purple fainting couch and sipped champagne during Killer Queen, he had the crowd eating out of his gloved hand. On Somebody to Love, Lambert’s vocals ascended into the stratosphere and he sent a clear signal that, while he worships at the altar of Queen and original members Brian May and Roger Taylor, he doesn’t necessarily have to play fill-in frontman. He just wants to.

In fact, it was May and Taylor who nearly derailed the whole nostalgic affair with a pair of self-indulgent solos.

Taylor’s dueling drum act with his son, the talented Rufus Taylor, was a decent diversion that allowed Lambert time offstage for one of four costume changes. But May’s stupefying, nearly 10-minute guitar expedition brought the concert’s momentum to a grinding halt.

May is still a virtuoso — and an endearing figure, with his silver, pillowy mane and crooked grin. Early in the show, when he walked gingerly down the runway and sat center stage to perform Love of My Life, and asked for the crowd’s help on the high notes, it was a genuinely tender moment. “Freddie used to help me with this one,” he said.

Taylor and several band members, all wearing cowboy hats to the delight of the Texas crowd, joined May next for an affecting acoustic version of (In the Year of) ’39.

But all that good will was squandered later in the show when May, who has a Ph.D. in astrophysics, went into an endless orbit with his guitar. Every time the crowd thought his marathon jam session was coming to an close, May would saunter to another corner of the stage and shred for another few minutes. He even tossed in a riff on Yellow Rose of Texas, just to see if we were still listening.

Most of us weren’t.

Poor Lambert was gone so long, he could have run down the street and played a set at the House of Blues.

In its heyday, Queen could never be accused of being subtle or minimalistic, so maybe May’s opus Thursday night made sense to some. But Queen + Adam Lambert never really recovered from it.

Lambert had fun clapping along with Radio Gaga and ripping into the Elvis-y Crazy Little Thing Called Love, but Bohemian Rhapsody was botched, too. Lambert and the rest of the band left the stage at points so we could watch the famed music video of Mercury “Scaramouche-ing” with his buddies. Perhaps it was an admission that nobody could sing the multi-octave masterpiece the way Freddie did, but the result was the nearly sold-out crowd at the AAC was robbed of any real or memorable climax.

We Will Rock You and We Are the Champions closed the show with an anthemic one-two punch. And Lambert in his leopard-print suit, sparkly crown and gold high-heeled boots, almost made us forget the lurching nature of a concert that kept pumping up the crowd with classics and then sending its gifted lead singer backstage.

As a longtime fan of Queen, I never thought I’d leave this show feeling sorry for Adam Lambert. But it was clear as he took his bows with May and Taylor, he was simply a loyal subject in the Queen’s court.

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