QueenOnLine On Tour: Following the North American Tour 2014 - Part 1
QueenOnLine On Tour: Following the North American Tour 2014 - Part 1
by Wilki Amieva
Nick asked me to do some tidbit pieces about the remaining Queen + Adam Lambert tour dates in North America. As Houston was my first gig on the run, after a 5,400 miles flight from Buenos Aires via Miami and 120 minutes of a nerve-wrecking World Cup semifinal, I decided to play it safe, and wait until I had seen a couple of shows before I write my first impressions. So here it is - a double Texan special, with a side of mac 'n' cheese.
OK, Houston first, but before that... a cultural-shock-type-of-thing... Floor seats!? I mean, FLOOR SEATS!? at the ARENA!? in a ROCK concert!? I wouldn't have worried... In both shows, right after the first seconds of kick drum from ‘Procession’, all the floor people stood up and remained that way pretty much the whole time. Kudos to them.
Back to the Houston Toyota Center... I didn't catch many of the first three songs, as I was 'on duty' taking photos, besides a lovely lady who had come all the way from New Orleans to review the show. Then, ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ and... ‘Houston, we've got a problem’, Brian's guitar for that song refused to do the blast-off. After some guitar changing and some re-tuning, everything was right on the orbit. ‘In The Lap Of The Gods …revisited’ followed, and I noticed how tight the backing vocals are - in the whole medley, in fact. During ‘Killer Queen’, the girl behind me grabbed my shoulder and shouted "This is too much, ain't it? Too much!" as Adam was doing his thing on the couch joined by Brian - she was really enjoying herself, so I took it as a good sign. Adam: "This is not me. I'm trying to connect with you guys". ‘Somebody To Love’ was superb, with the audience joining in for every bit. Brian got a standing ovation during his vocal part in ‘I Want It All’. The audience seemed more shy during ‘Love Of My Life’, perhaps they were overwhelmed by emotion. For ‘'39’ the whole band entered the B stage wearing NASA caps, courtesy of Brian's morning trip to the Space Center. He introduced Mr. Taylor "in the cockpit" told us all that Spike's portable keyboard was actually a time-machine! After ‘These Are The Days Of Our Lives’, magnificently sung by Rog, he dueted with Adam in ‘Under Pressure’ - standing ovation, again. But before that, Neil Armstrong, I mean Fairclough incorporated ‘Don't Try Suicide’, ‘Body Language’ and ‘Dragon Attack’ into his bass solo, followed by a frantic drum duet by Rufus and his dad. The re-vamped version of ‘Love Kills’ and ‘Who Wants To Live Forever’ brought the house down - Adam really nails them both. Between ‘Tie Your Mother Down’ and ‘Radio Ga Ga’, Adam did his vocal play with the audience. For some reason, Dr. May wasn't able to play the solo from the latter. A somewhat fast-paced ‘The Show Must Go On’ followed. ‘Bo Rhap’ left everyone waiting for more. For the encores, Brian wore a Houston Astros baseball shirt, with the name May and the number 14 on its back. (Edit: Brian said in his website that he thinks he was below the crowd's expectations in this show. Well, if you ask me, the Doc worries too much... :-)
Howdy, Dallas! After some Dealey square walk-around and some steak, I was in the AA Center, what a huge place! Good seats, near a Dutch couple (sorry, dudes!). Now I could properly enjoy the beginning of the show, and what can I say? THAT's the way to start it! Fans of the 'Sheer Heart Attack' album should be over the moon: 4 songs on the setlist of the current tour are from it, and then ‘Live At The Rainbow '74’ out in September. ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ not only was glitch-less this time, it was also perfect, with Brian improvising solo after solo. The medley was again brilliant - 'wowo lalala' sing-along included! That set the mood for ‘Somebody To Love’. Brian became quite emotional during ‘Love Of My Life’. Not a single dry eye! ‘'39’ got Rufus, Neil and Brian himself on cowboy hats for the rendition of this "country song", Brian asked for a "yeeeeow!" at the end - he surely got one. Neil added ‘Staying Power’ to his solo. Taylor junior and Taylor senior did a great job on their shared solo, prompting a proud dad to acknowledge: "Rufus Tiger Taylor on drums!" ‘Under Pressure’, the new ‘Love Kills’ and ‘Who Wants To Live Forever’ were followed by three resounding standing ovations in a row - the band was on fire. And it got better! Adam's vocal ad-libs between ‘Tie Your Mother Down’ and ‘Ga Ga’ developed into a full-band jam. Then ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ ended with both Brian and Adam lying on the stage floor, after an extended coda with a sparkling Spike. ‘Tie Your Mother Down’ had the Taylors on a tight pattern - Rog on timpani. In ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, I noticed how Freddie's image quality varied between the film-sourced and video-sourced material. The ending was powerful. By the way, I must say this was probably one of the finest live shows I've attended in my entire life.
Over for now!
After a long detour to visit the Niagara Falls and eat some Buffalo wings, I was finally in Detroit... Now, I've been told that Detroit is a 'rock city', so I was really looking forward for this concert. We met some locals and had lunch, I decided to go 'healthy' (for once) and had a great Michigan cherry chicken salad (thanks Andrea!). The Palace of Auburn Hills is a big building surrounded by a massive parking lot. Since mid-afternoon this lot was getting full of people sitting outside their cars, under the sun, a refreshing can or glass of beer in hand, talking about music in general and rock in particular... A real American tailgate party! Really nice (but definitely NOT 'healthy' :-). The concert itself was wonderful. ‘Lap Of The Gods’ filled up the place with smoke so dense you couldn't see the band - it was a very '70s sight! After ‘Killer Queen’, Adam took a long sip from the champagne bottle, and spat over a lady on the first row, then mischievously said “Sorry, Ma'am... Did I get you wet?” (that line was a keeper). '39 saw Brian May introducing 'Commander' Roger Taylor, 'a younger' Mr. Taylor, 'Navigator' Neil Fairclough and Spike as the handler of the 'flux capacitor'. ‘Days Of Our Lives’ was really appreciated by the audience, and both Freddie and John Deacon were cheered. Neil added a full bass adaptation of ‘Nevermore’, played in his Fender Precision, to his bass solo, then continued on the upright bass - no ‘Staying Power’ this time. ‘Nevermore’ was really, really beautiful, albeit not so many people noticed this hidden gem from ‘Queen II’ got played! During ‘Love Kills’ the audience was speechless. Brian's solo was beautiful, but not as long as Dallas'. As soon as the intro from ‘The Show Must Go On’ started, the crowd approved with a big noise. This time, Brian came out to do ‘We Will Rock You’/’We Are The Champions’ in a 'Made In Detroit' t-shirt.
I arrived in the beautiful city of Toronto (in which I had spent some time in my youth) just in time to meet with some friends from Argentina and England in a sports bar to watch the World Cup Final. It was more like a very long chess game than a football match, and both teams had little chances to score. Anyway, I enjoyed the final a lot, despite the outcome. I must say Germany was an outstanding team and deserved the championship ...but we felt so depressed! Molson beer helped a little - knowing we were heading to the Air Canada Centre (after a quick visit to the nearby CN Tower) to enjoy a Queen + Adam Lambert concert helped a lot. The show itself was tight, and it had a lot of experimentation on it. I decided not to review it song by song, because I was 'on duty' taking pictures, I was tired, and after three shows it would get repetitive and hence boring. Sorry Toronto, perhaps next show. But I do remember a few things... The solos were fairly long, and Adam's vocal interaction with the public was extended. They used the confetti cannon this time, and the venue was literally filled with golden sparks. By the way, there are a LOT of golden ‘things’ in this show, but I'll leave that for another time…
I briefly saw Roger and Brian after the show in Montréal, they both smiled at me and said they were sorry about the WC Final. I also met big boss Jim Beach, and he kindly let me see the concert from the front-of-house sound desk, and take pictures of the production. I felt so humbled - what could I say? But I digress... The stage design, the lighting, the screens, the special effects... they make such a BIG impression in this show - no photos could do it justice. From the starter ‘Now I'm Here’ it was clear that we weren't dealing with an ordinary crowd. You're LOUD people, Montréal! I saw soundman extraordinaire Rob had to slide the master fader a couple of notches higher during the show. ‘Lap Of The Gods’ was sung so beautifully by both the band AND the audience, that it brought tears to my eyes. Freddie would have been so proud that one of his 'non-hit' songs is still rocking 40 years on! After ‘Killer Queen’, Adam took his customary long sip of Champagne, spat it and said “Champagne sucks!!!”, which was met with hysteric laughter from the crowd. It seemed everybody was on fire tonight. Bri, before ‘Love Of My Life’: “Bonjour... bonsoir! I'll be speaking in a très, très bad... mélange of Anglais and Français […] Do you remember the old times? For those who do not remember them – like me...” Haha! The love song by “Monsieur Freddie Mercury” was sung by everyone at the Bell Centre, and I mean EVERYONE - even the local security staff. Rog's solo was also superb! Adam's vocal ad-libs after ‘Tie Your Mother Down’ were great: “Give me all your Montréal love!”. Another song that got strong crowd reaction was ‘The Show Must Go On’, again. For the encores, Brian appeared on stage wearing a Canadiens de Montréal ice hockey jersey, and both songs were, well, LOUD!!! And this time the confetti was yellow!
Now, after five shows in six days, having slept only about 16 hours in total (most of them NOT in a bed), I'm really looking forward for a free day of rest and a little of sightseeing.
I took the overnight bus from Montréal via New York, met my friends (who have rented a van) in the streets of Philadelphia, grabbed a wonderful Philly cheesesteak and on to the Wells Fargo Center. I was 'on duty' taking pictures this night, so I decided I wouldn't be taking notes of the show. I did have a quick chat with front-of-house sound engineer Rob. Being a part-time sound engineer myself I was curious about some technical aspects of the production. He told me the PA sound is mixed from 'about 72 channels'. I did notice there was a Pro Tools multichannel system recording all of the concerts - archive purposes, I'm guessing. I recall that after ‘’39’, Brian introduced Spike as a bass player, Roger noticed and, after a funny moment, Brian said: “well, he IS a bass player, he’s just a better keyboard player”. General laughter followed. Adam and the band did well, in front of a packed venue. Of course, I could say that of every concert. Half of this leg of the tour has passed, and the show is VERY tight nowadays. And the Philadelphians weren't shy at all!
New York, New York. Big Apple. If they can make it there, they'll make it anywhere! This was a big show in a big city. The venue was nothing less than the historic Madison Square Garden, and as soon as I entered the building I could feel the crowd’s anticipation. ‘Track 13’ from ‘Made In Heaven’ started (it preceded all of the shows) and everybody stood up. After 25 minutes they were greeted with one of the most electrifying versions of ‘Now I’m Here’ I could remember. The whole start of the show was filled with energy. Adam in ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’: “All that fat bottomed bitches out there, get on your bikes, AND RIDE!” During ‘Somebody To Love’, Adam sustained the word ‘Lord’ that ends the line ‘Someday I’m gonna be free’ and I think that prompted the audience to sing along every bit. After a killer version of ‘I Want It All’, Brian approached the B stage to sing ‘Love Of My Life’, visibly touched. Brian thanked the audience for “letting us come here after all these years and be rock gods again.” During the actual song, which the people dutifully sang, there were lots of “I love you Freddie!” shouts. In ‘’39’ the whole stadium seemed to tremble - everybody was clapping their hands and stomping their feet. It seems Roger got to everyone in ‘Days Of Our Lives’ as the silence was overwhelming. ‘Under Pressure’ again ensured a strong reaction from the audience. Brian: “Madison Square Garden, I only have one question: What do you think of the new guy?” - that could only mean a standing ovation for Adam. The classic ‘Who Wants To Life Forever’ from the film Highlander (the fact that the movie starts in the Garden did cross my mind) saw the crowd using their mobile phones to add to the mood. The guitar solo started very small, with the same chord progression of the coda of the previous song, and then expanded into 20 minutes of extravaganza; at one instance, Brian was tapping the guitar body to obtain some strange sounds. Then ‘Tie Your Mother Down’, and people danced to it! In the following jam, the audience missed Adam’s cue and he said: “I’m supposed to work my way to there”; he proposed the ad-lib vocalizations as a competition between the left and the right side of the venue and that worked out really well. The sight of thousands of synchronised claps during ‘Ga Ga’ was just beautiful. ‘The Show Must Go On’ was loud and intense. Then, ‘Bo Rhap’ and the encores wrapped up an excellent concert, a big party. After the show, I met Adam, Neil and Spike and chatted a bit with all of them. Spike and her lovely wife Kyle remembered me from the SAS Band/The Cross 20th Anniversary Reunion Concert last year in Guildford. I wonder why? Anyway, they are such a wonderful team. I left the building really ‘up’ and wondering what to expect from the next seven shows…
Part 2 next week… Cheers!