Over the last few months, because they’re my favourite band of all time, I’ve started posting deep-dive reviews of Queen’s original studio albums, to celebrate their 50th anniversary (so far covering their debut album, Queen II & Sheer Heart Attack, with the rest to follow in the coming months). There’s such a huge legacy of amazing music that it’s a joy digging through it all yet again (as if I need an excuse), making lots of fun discoveries along the way.
However, it’s also important to acknowledge their current work, as original members Brian May and Roger Taylor are still keeping the Queen machine alive today, with Adam Lambert as their new frontman. The Queen + Adam Lambert (Q+AL) collaboration has been running for nearly 10 years, after they started performing shows in 2011.
Yet in all that time, they’ve never released any albums or DVDs (apart from a Japanese exclusive live release in 2016). So if, like me, you haven’t attended any of their gigs, then you’ve been limited to watching fan footage online or catching their TV appearances if you wanted to experience them in action.
But now, having been unable to tour for most of this year for obvious reasons, they’ve just released a compilation of live performances called Live Around The World, on CD, DVD, Blu-ray and Vinyl, with additional merchandise available too.
It stormed to number 1 in the UK album chart in its first week, making it Queen’s 10th album to hit the top spot, 25 years since the previous release that did so (Made In Heaven), and 45 years since their first number 1 album (A Night At The Opera). They’ve now jumped ahead of Bob Dylan to reach joint 6th place in the list of artists with the most number 1 albums, level with Michael Jackson, Rod Stewart and Eminem. It’s also Adam Lambert’s first number 1 in the UK, and it’s reached number 1 in Australia as well.
So I wanted to review it and give you my thoughts. And just to be clear, this isn’t sponsored or gifted – I bought this myself and all opinions are my own. So I hope you enjoy!
It goes without saying really, but nobody can come close to the majestic talent that was Freddie Mercury, everyone understands that. He was an incredible one-off. However, that doesn’t mean Queen’s songs can’t be performed well and with respect by others. I’ve seen some good tribute acts and plenty of entertaining cover versions, for example. And I was quite happy with the Queen + Paul Rodgers collaboration. Paul doesn’t have Freddie’s range and skill set, not by a long shot, but as an established rock star whom I was already a fan of, I felt he did the songs justice in his own style.
But, in common with a fair subset of Queen fans, I was very dismissive of Adam Lambert for a while. I didn’t have anything against him personally, and I had no problem with Brian and Roger continuing with the band, as it’s their prerogative to do as they wish. I knew they weren’t trying to replace Freddie, and I knew that Adam wasn’t trying to copy him either.
He just felt too different to me, perhaps too modern and too far removed from what I was used to. The fact that he was from American Idol didn’t help my perceptions either, as I’ve never been a fan of those kind of shows, which to me feel very manipulative and tend to create very disposable, similar-sounding, forgettable ‘stars’. Adam did extremely well in the competition though, from his audition singing Bohemian Rhapsody, right through to a performance of We Are The Champions in the final, where he performed with Brian and Roger for the very first time (joined by fellow contestant, and the eventual winner of that season, Kris Allen).
I even watched Q+AL’s televised concert Rock Big Ben Live on New Year’s Eve 2014, and that didn’t really tempt me into them either, again because it just didn’t feel right at the time.
So I let them pass me by after that, paying very little attention. I had plenty of material by the original band to enjoy, and I was happy that Brian, Roger and Adam were keeping Queen alive, introducing their work to a new generation and resurrecting the live experience for their loyal fans of old. Fair play to them. The negativity and abuse they get from some quarters on social media is completely unwarranted and utterly pointless. It’s perfectly ok not to be a fan of this new incarnation of the band, but that’s no reason to moan and be rude about it. Just listen to what you enjoy and let others do likewise, we’re all different.
During the past couple of years, however, thanks to persuasion from other Queen fans whom I’ve encountered online since I started blogging, I’ve found myself checking out Q+AL again. Unlike before, there’s now a proper abundance of footage from tours and interviews online, and through that I’ve gradually warmed to Adam much more. He’s still no Freddie by any means, and I wouldn’t want him to attempt it, nor will I make any attempt to try and compare them here. But I have found Adam to be engaging, honest and fun in interviews, and on stage he’s quite the powerhouse, capable of singing a broad range of Queen masterpieces well and entertaining huge crowds with ease.
He makes the songs his own, yet is faithful to the original material and respectful to Freddie and the other band members. Plus he has the vocal range, body language, costumes, stage presence and audience engagement to put on a great show. I also think he’s improved and evolved over his extensive period of time with the band, as is inevitable. It’s certainly now clear that he isn’t just one of those flash-in-the-pan reality TV stars. If anything, he was probably too good for American Idol in the first place, but going on there gave him the breakthrough and confidence he needed. And this new release ably demonstrates why his collaboration with Queen has been such a success.
The central recurring image throughout the set is a black and white photo of Adam, Roger and Brian glancing across at each other as they walk away from the camera. Part of me feels as if the main image should really have them facing us, and the image of them walking away would perhaps make more sense on the back. But they are walking towards the stage to perform, so it does make sense having it on the front in that respect. And it ultimately doesn’t really matter – it still looks very nice and is quite a memorable image.
I bought the CD, Blu-ray & T-shirt bundle for £47.99. Both discs and a photo booklet are enclosed in a fold-out 3-panel CD-sized case, so it’s nice and compact. The CD carries the same image as the album cover, unsurprisingly. Whereas the Blu-ray disc just has a black background, so it doesn’t look as interesting – but it makes up for that with the shiny, animated, very detailed Queen crest on the menu screen, which looks really cool, accompanied by crowd noise. The menu options enable you to play the film, select a song, or choose between LPCM Stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio. There aren’t any subtitles or extra features, and the film is rated 12 for “infrequent strong language”.
The photo booklet, meanwhile, contains a lot of nice images of the band performing. And at the back they pay tribute to their “magnificent on-the-road crew past and present, for getting us this far! Through thick and thin, near and far, hot and cold, dry and extremely wet, the show has never failed to go up and rock out. We salute you!!!” There’s a huge list of names credited, emphasising just how much work goes into their shows. And the set is dedicated to the memory of Peter Chant, the band’s accountant, who passed away on 10th July 2019 at the age of 76.
You can find out more about their touring crew in the Behind The Magic feature from the 2014/15 tour, and this year’s 3-part series Roadies In Lockdown. There’s also a Tour Life Time Lapse video that gives a high-speed glimpse into the setup of their concerts.
The t-shirt, meanwhile, features the Queen + Adam Lambert logo on the front, and the album cover photo on the back, which makes sense as the band have their backs to you. It fits well and feels comfortable.
Talking of their production credits, it’s also worth giving a quick nod to the other key musicians on stage, who really help to bring the shows to life. They all provide backing vocals as well as playing their respective instruments.
- Spike Edney (Keyboards) – Since the mid-80s he’s been a regular part of Queen’s live concerts, and has been involved with some of Brian and Roger’s solo work too, so he’s well known and respected by Queen fans. You can see and hear interviews with Spike from The Greatest Music Of All Time Podcast, The StageLeft Podcast & KORG.
- Neil Fairclough (Bass) – It is of course a great shame, though also perfectly understandable, that John Deacon is long retired. But Neil is a very accomplished bass player in his own right, and he’s performed bass solos at some Q+AL shows, although none have made it into this set. You can find out more about him via his interviews on the Official Queen Podcast and Hartke.
- Rufus Tiger Taylor (Percussion 2011-2016) – Roger’s brought his son up well, he’s a brilliant drummer, as shown in the Drum Battle on the Blu-ray. You can hear an interview with him on the Official Queen Podcast.
- Tyler Warren (Percussion 2017-2020) – Tyler is from the official tribute band Queen Extravaganza. You can also hear an interview with him on the Official Queen Podcast. As a quick aside, during lockdown this year he welcomed bassist Neil to his Youtube channel, where they covered 4 Queen songs, one by each member of the original band to celebrate their respective birthdays. The first 3 were from The Game, to mark the album’s 40th birthday, while the final track was from the Jazz album. The tracks were Sail Away Sweet Sister (by Brian), Rock It (Prime Jive) (by Roger), Need Your Loving Tonight (by John) & Let Me Entertain You (by Freddie). They’re worth a watch.
Now we get into the meat of the set, with performances taken from 10 concerts spanning the period 2014-2020. Even though you can just listen to the album in many ways, whether it be on CD or online (including on Youtube), I strongly recommend getting the Blu-ray or DVD as well, because it’s just as much a visual spectacle as an audio one.
The picture and sound quality are excellent throughout as you’d expect (and there are plenty of flashing lights if you need to be aware of that). The cameras cover lots of different angles, not only giving you great close-ups of the band, but also various shots of the audiences eagerly joining in. So you always feel like you’re in the heart of the action, and while it can never fully convey the amazing atmosphere at the shows, you do get a good sense of what it’s like.
The tracks are as follows, each of which are reviewed below. Note that:
- Tracks marked with an asterisk (*) are on the Blu-ray only. These are Roger and Brian’s instrumental tracks.
- Tracks marked with 2 asterisks (**) are edited down slightly to fit on the CD, either by shortening guitar solos, cutting speech or trimming applause, as detailed in my reviews later.
- The film is significantly longer as a result of those omissions and edits, lasting 1:38:24, while the CD is maxed out at 1:19:48.
- Tear It Up – O2 Arena, London, 2 July 2018
- Now I’m Here ** – Summer Sonic, Tokyo, 17 August 2014
- Another One Bites The Dust – Summer Sonic, Tokyo, 17 August 2014
- Fat Bottomed Girls ** – American Airline Center, Dallas, 23 July 2019
- Don’t Stop Me Now ** – Rock In Rio, Lisbon, 20 May 2016
- I Want To Break Free – Rock In Rio, Lisbon, 20 May 2016
- Somebody To Love – Isle Of Wight Festival, Newport, 12 June 2016
- Love Kills – The Ballad – iHeartRadio Theater, Los Angeles, 16 June 2014
- I Was Born To Love You – Summer Sonic, Tokyo, 17 August 2014
- Drum Battle * – Allphones Arena, Sydney, 27 August 2014 (Video only)
- Under Pressure – Global Citizen Festival, New York, 28 September 2019
- Who Wants To Live Forever? – Isle Of Wight Festival, Newport, 12 June 2016
- Guitar Solo & Last Horizon * – O2 Arena, London, 2 July 2018 (Video only)
- The Show Must Go On – O2 Arena, London, 4 July 2018
- Love Of My Life ** – O2 Arena, London, 2 July 2018
- Bohemian Rhapsody – Fire Fight Australia, Sydney, 16 February 2020
- Radio Ga Ga – Fire Fight Australia, Sydney, 16 February 2020
- Ay-Ohs (Call & Response) – Fire Fight Australia, Sydney, 16 February 2020
- Hammer To Fall ** – Fire Fight Australia, Sydney, 16 February 2020
- Crazy Little Thing Called Love ** – Fire Fight Australia, Sydney, 16 February 2020
- We Will Rock You – Fire Fight Australia, Sydney, 16 February 2020
- We Are The Champions ** – Fire Fight Australia, Sydney, 16 February 2020
- Length = 1:52
The start of the video features slow-motion black and white footage of the band walking down a backstage corridor, with Adam pointing and gesturing at the camera (you can see the colour version of that segment in the teaser trailer). Then we see Roger, Brian and Adam all getting ready to go on stage, clearly looking forward to it. It’s not clear where this was filmed, as they’re wearing different outfits in this sequence to the first track that follows. But it works at building the anticipation very effectively.
We’re then transported to the O2 Arena in London for the build-up to the first song, where Frank The Robot (from the cover of the News Of The World album) punches his way through the Queen + Adam Lambert sign on stage. Frank was used because the album was celebrating its 40th anniversary on the 2017-18 tour, and it certainly makes for a striking entrance.
The other notable thing about this intro is the backing music, which very keen fans will recognise as being edited extracts from the unlisted 13th track on the Made In Heaven album. Specifically, they seem to have used segments from roughly 2:09 and 20:20 in the track – which is interesting considering Adam first performed with Queen on American Idol in 2009, and it’s now of course 2020. Could it be a reference to their journey so far, incorporating a nod back to Freddie for whom that blissful track was composed, or just a happy coincidence? We’ll probably never know, but I like to think it’s deliberate.
- O2 Arena, London, 2 July 2018
- Video length = 2:57
- Album length = 3:05
The album edit of this track begins with Frank’s explosive punch in the intro mentioned above, then segues straight into the song – whereas the video continues the build-up in the intro chapter for a further 40 seconds after Frank’s entrance, at the end of which he lifts the screen to reveal the band, much to the audience’s ecstatic delight.
Adam and Brian stride towards the crowd with confidence, Adam looking very snazzy in his shades and the sleeveless red jacket that reveals his many tattoos, while Brian wears a jacket covered in guitars (the same design as on his face masks). Roger is directly behind them of course, giving support on backing vocals as well as percussion. And it’s a solid performance to launch the compilation, giving you a great sense of what you’re in for.
- Summer Sonic, QVC Marine Field, Chiba, Tokyo, 17 August 2014
- Video length = 5:34
- Album length = 5:06 (Brian’s guitar solo is shortened)
Here we get to see how they opened their shows a few years earlier. A large curtain with the Queen crest hides the band from view while Adam sings the opening lines, silhouettes appearing either side of the stage at the appropriate moments. Then the curtain is torn down as the song kicks in properly, revealing the band performing in front of a huge oval screen (the centre of a massive letter Q) that shows great close-ups of the band members.
I would say this is a stronger opener to a show than the first track. Adam sings it brilliantly, and I like the fact that he changes one of the lines to “Down in the front row it’s Freddie and me.” That’s a nice touch, as is the name-check for Tokyo a bit later on. And seeing him smile as he gazes at the crowd during the mid-song pause is wonderful too. You can see he’s having the time of his life as he spends a moment just soaking it all in, before going back into the song with some nice echo-induced harmonies.
Brian also has a great guitar jam in the middle, but the album version edits out a few short sections, including 7 seconds before Adam sings “Go, go, go little Queenie”, and other little trims throughout. However, unless you’re comparing the video and CD audio like I did, or you’re deliberately listening very closely for edit points, you probably won’t notice the jumps as a casual listener, they’re pretty seamless. But even so, trimming a Brian solo is no way to treat a guitar legend! Still, it was either that or remove another song to get everything on the CD, so at least they squeezed on what they could.
- Summer Sonic, QVC Marine Field, Chiba, Tokyo, 17 August 2014
- Video length = 3:24
- Album length = 3:23
There isn’t much to say about this one particularly, it’s nothing exceptional. But it’s still a catchy, enjoyable performance from the same show as the previous track. You can hear Roger and the audience joining in with Adam during the chorus. And there’s a nice shot of Adam singing next to bassist Neil at the start.
- American Airline Center, Dallas, 23 July 2019
- Video length = 6:25
- Album length = 5:27 (Brian’s guitar jam at the end is shortened, and the applause is trimmed, cutting out Adam’s shoutout to the cheerleaders)
One of the highlights of the set without a doubt, and I will freely admit a large part of that is down to the gyrating bodies of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, who don’t match the title of the song, that’s for sure! They’re great fun to watch here, I love their enthusiasm. On their website you can find interesting posts about the experience by Director Kelli Finglass and Choreographer Judy Trammell.
But the music itself is fantastic too, of course. In particular, Brian gets to rock out on the guitar a few times, including an extended intro, and a lengthy jam at the end whilst surrounded by the cheerleaders – the latter being trimmed on the CD version, sadly, but everything else before it is left intact. And Adam is singing as powerfully as ever, dressed in an incredible, shiny outfit that is literally dripping with chains. After taking centre stage for the first part of the song, he steps up on to the platform next to Roger when the cheerleaders arrive, as they fill the stage around Brian.
The cover notes that this video (unlike all the others) has been upscaled from 720p to 1080i for best quality. But it still looks great in any case.
- Rock In Rio, Bela Vista Park, Lisbon, 20 May 2016
- Video length = 4:23
- Album length = 4:10 (The song is complete, but Adam’s spoken intro is omitted)
The crowd form a wonderful choir as they sing along with Adam here, and he happily lets them sing occasional lines and the outro themselves. The final panning shot across the audience, arms waving in unison, looks beautiful. A few people have their phone torchlights on as well, which looks nice, but they really come into significant use later on in the compilation.
- Rock In Rio, Bela Vista Park, Lisbon, 20 May 2016
- Video length = 3:34
- Album length = 3:34
Adam hasn’t copied Queen’s original video by wearing women’s clothing or bringing out a hoover, but he is wearing an eye-catching black feathered jacket here. And, just like the previous track from the same show, the crowd’s accompaniment is very clear, highlighting again how Queen gigs really are a communal experience that everyone contributes to.
- Isle of Wight Festival, Seaclose Park, Newport, 12 June 2016
- Video length = 5:58
- Album length = 5:59
With Adam wearing the same jacket as in the previous track, but at a different gig, this is from Queen’s first ever appearance at a UK music festival. I think the best live cover is still George Michael’s version from the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, and Adam doesn’t match either him or Freddie. But it’s still a very decent and satisfying performance. He nails the big notes effortlessly, and has a bit of fun with the audience when he hits the most significant one towards the end, after which the song takes a surprising and fun twist with a fast outro. And online the band have shared a cool little snippet of their vocal warm-up.
- iHeartRadio Theater, Los Angeles, 16 June 2014
- Video length = 4:17
- Album length = 4:17
This and the song that follows are particularly fascinating, as they’re both from Freddie’s solo career. In this case, his 1984 disco track Love Kills – from the soundtrack of the 1984 restoration of the silent film Metropolis – was remixed into a lovely ballad for the 2014 Queen Forever compilation, and this live rendition is based on that version.
In a Rolling Stone article, Adam explained that “they took out all the disco production and turned it into more of a traditional Queen arrangement. It’s an amazing song, very dramatic and powerful with a beautiful melody. We’ve been having a lot of fun playing it live.” And it is indeed a fabulous performance, starting small and building in intensity all the way through, it works really well in this form.
- Summer Sonic, QVC Marine Field, Chiba, Tokyo, 17 August 2014
- Video length = 4:05
- Album length = 4:05
A solo Freddie classic from his Mr Bad Guy album, this song eventually appeared on a Queen record after it was remixed for Made In Heaven. And they’re clearly having fun performing it here, it sounds great. Lights dance across the crowd thanks to the glitter ball overhead, and during Brian’s solo Adam leaps off the stage to run down an aisle amongst the audience.
In Ultimate Classic Rock, Brian explained: “I had an obsession with the song, and had the idea to make a new version, simulating how it would have sounded if we had been able to play it live with Freddie on stage. So the Queen version was put together as a ‘virtual’ live track, using Freddie’s spectacular vocal as the central thread. Roger, John and I played our parts live, to a rearranged template I’d put together – complete with some additions to the arrangement, taking some liberties with the vocal, and even borrowing some choice Freddie ad-libs, to add to the feeling that it was a live band recording. Little did we know that years later we’d have the opportunity with Adam to finally bring this arrangement to life on a real stage.”
In the same article both Brian and Adam recall how, despite the extreme heat, there was a great energy at the Summer Sonic concert, as the crowd were so passionate. And you certainly do get that impression from the film, the fans are loving it. So it’s great that the concert is well represented with 3 songs on this album.
- Allphones Arena, Sydney, 27 August 2014 (listed as the Qudos Bank Arena, but it was named the Allphones Arena at the time, and was originally the Sydney Super Dome)
- Video only, length = 2:34
This is a brief but fun percussion showcase for Roger and his son Rufus, alternating between the two of them before a final duet, and they’re both. You get a good view of the stage as well, dominated by a huge letter Q at the back. The centre of the Q contains the big screen, and Rufus sits centre stage just in front of it. The tail of the Q, meanwhile, snakes around to the very front of the stage, where Roger sits.
- Global Citizen Festival, Central Park, New York, 28 September 2019
- Video length = 3:45
- Album length = 3:45
Roger plays a prominent role in this track too, by duetting with Adam and singing some lines by himself. And it’s very effective, their voices gel really nicely together. Bassist Neil can be seen early on in the video too, unsurprisingly given the key riff that he plays.
- Isle of Wight Festival, Seaclose Park, Newport, 12 June 2016
- Video length = 4:37
- Album length = 4:41
“This song is dedicated to those that lost their life last night in Orlando, Florida, and anybody that has been victim of senseless violence or hatred.” says Adam at the start in reference to the tragic nightclub attack, adding an extra layer of emotion and meaning to the track. He sings it superbly, and the crowd form a lovely backing choir for the chorus. And visually it’s simple yet stunning, with many laser lights beaming out into the night sky, and a large glitter ball later on that reflects the spotlights in all directions. So it’s a really striking and powerful performance, another important highlight in the set.
Guitar Solo & Last Horizon
- O2 Arena, London, 2 July 2018
- Video only, length = 10:11
Frank The Robot returns, lifting Brian up high on his giant hand, then ducking his head down so the cosmic guitarist can perform among the stars, with planets, satellites and asteroids drifting behind him. Then halfway through Brian is brought down to earth, so he can stride towards the middle of the arena for people to get a closer view. There’s so much variety in this glorious sequence, ranging from slow and light to fast and heavy, including Brian’s trademark echo harmonies and his gorgeous instrumental Last Horizon. And it’s topped off by the magical visual effects created by the lighting and back screen animations, adding an even bigger dimension to it.
- O2 Arena, London, 4 July 2018
- Video length = 4:15
- Album length = 4:18
There isn’t anything significant to remark upon here really, suffice to say that it’s another great and very powerful performance by Adam, it seems to suit his style really well. How he finds the energy to do this night after night is incredible.
- O2 Arena, London, 2 July 2018
- Video length = 4:54
- Album length = 4:13 (The intro, instrumental bridge and final applause are shortened)
Of course this had to be here. A Queen concert wouldn’t be complete without this beautifully moving singalong, an intimate acoustic duet between Brian and the audience, who are all in fine voice. Once again Brian is performing amongst the stars as he sits in the centre of the arena, but this time the specks of light are generated by the torches on people’s smartphones, It looks really pretty and there are some magnificent wide and overhead shots to capture it.
Even though I know it’s coming, the appearance of Freddie from Wembley on 12 July 1986 at the end still gives me goosebumps every time. It perfectly illustrates just how much he’s still deeply loved and greatly missed, with the roof-lifting cheer that goes up, the shot of the girl with her hands clasped as she gazes up at him adoringly whilst singing along, the interaction between current Brian and former Freddie on the back screen as Freddie bows and they effectively shake hands, and Brian’s fist-pumping of the air as the crowd’s ovation continues. It’s a very special moment indeed.
For the CD, the track has been edited in a couple of places to squeeze it in. The intro is cut to half its length, shaving off 12 seconds, so the bar where Brian says to the crowd “I wanna hear you” is immediately followed by the one where he asks “Are you ready?”. And the instrumental bridge in the middle of the song has a cut of 17 seconds after Brian says “Let’s make a universe, okay?”, when he’s encouraging people to switch on the torches on their phones, so it chops out his other remarks in relation to that. The applause at the very end is also trimmed by 10 seconds compared to the video. None of which is a dealbreaker, it still sounds perfectly beautiful in its shortened form. But having the Blu-ray or DVD will give you the complete audio and visual experience that this song deserves.
Fire Fight Australia – Complete Live Aid Set
- Anz Stadium, Sydney, 16 February 2020
- Video length = 24:19
- Album length = 23:51 (Brian’s final solo in Now I’m Here is shortened, while some applause is trimmed on that and the subsequent song)
It seems such a long time ago given everything that’s happened since, but before the pandemic had taken its full grip on the world and locked us all down, Australia were battling ferocious bushfires. And the 10-hour Fire Fight Australia concert, attended by 75,000 people, helped to raise over $9.5 million for relief funds.
Keen to do their bit to help, Queen reprised their entire Live Aid set from 1985, the first time they’ve ever done so since then. So it’s fantastic that such an iconic medley of Queen hits is included in full in this set. It’s a superb performance and the perfect way to wrap it up.
The set consists of:
- Bohemian Rhapsody (Video = 2:20, Album = 2:21)
As at Live Aid, they stop just before the operatic section would otherwise kick in, segueing into the next song instead. Which in a way is a shame, as it would be great to hear them do the full song, but it is in keeping with the original 1985 performance, so it makes sense.
- Radio Ga Ga (Video = 4:21, Album = 4:21)
The backdrop shows images from the Metropolis film that was used in Queen’s original music video (and which I also mentioned earlier for Love Kills). It’s just a shame there are hardly any properly lit shots of the crowd clapping along in the chorus, as that’s always an amazing visual accompaniment.
- Ay-Ohs (Video = 1:06, Album = 1:06)
Freddie appears on the 3 big screens, from Wembley Stadium on Saturday 12 July 1986, to lead the crowd in a call and response section. It’s not the whole thing, in that the Wembley footage has been cut down by about 45 seconds – you can see where they fade him out to do the jumps – but it’s still fun, and it’s great that Freddie was given a small role to play at such an important event.
- Hammer To Fall (Video = 5:08, Album = 4:54)
This performance was included on the Artists Unite For Fire Fight album from the concert, and Queen have posted a fun little clip of their vocal warm-up. Adam sings this brilliantly of course, but it’s Brian who gets to take centre stage for most of this with more great guitar solos. His final epic solo towards the end (from 3:21) is trimmed slightly on the CD to fit it in though. Immediately after Adam sings the title refrain leading into it, there’s a 6 second cut, then after just 4 seconds of guitar there’s another 6 second jump. But there are no other edits to the solo after that. And as I said earlier, casual listeners won’t notice. There are also tiny trims to the applause at the beginning and end on the CD too.
- Crazy Little Thing Called Love (Video = 4:11, Album = 4:03)
The applause at the end of this track is trimmed on the CD, but the actual song is left intact, thankfully. Instead of using an acoustic guitar like Freddie did for this at Live Aid and other concerts, Brian does it all on the electric guitar here. So it has a slightly different sound in that respect, but it’s still as catchy and fun as it’s meant to be.
This classic combo was always going to finish their set and this album, and it’s a suitably triumphant conclusion, with the whole audience eagerly joining in. Frank The Robot oversees We Will Rock You from the back screen, bringing the visual nature of this compilation nicely full circle since his appearance in the first track. And during Champions this changes to a huge 3D image of a rotating ornate golden crown, while there’s another sea of starlights as many people in the crowd have their phone torches switched on. The applause is trimmed at the end of Champions on the CD but the song is complete.
- Length = 1:15
The original recording of God Save The Queen from A Night At The Opera is played over the credits, as is traditional for the end of a Queen show. It really is amazing how many people are involved. And it’s all worth the effort!
There aren’t any extras on the DVD/Blu-ray, which is a shame as there are a few things they could have included. But there are various bits and pieces online that are well worth highlighting.
Adam, Brian and Roger took part in a very interesting Live Q&A on Youtube on 1 October. It starts at 6:22 if you want to skip the wait screen and album trailer, and lasts about 45 minutes. It’s good to see that they’re doing alright, particularly Brian after the tough year he’s had with ill health, and there are thoughtful points from all of them about living through the pandemic and what the future might hold.
There’s a great variety of questions (even including one from Boy George ) about the various songs from Queen’s catalogue that they’ve played or would like to tackle next, how they chose the songs for this album, their feelings about performing live, their favourite touring locations and dream places to visit, the chemistry and interactions they have together, other insights into life on the road, their thoughts on the Bohemian Rhapsody movie, and much more. It’s all very relaxed and informal, with good humour and lots of interesting titbits. And it’s clear just how much Adam respects Freddie and the band’s legacy too.
Brian also casually mentions at one point that they should do a second album to incorporate the songs that weren’t on this one, including other deep cuts from Queen’s catalogue they’ve played, and some of Adam’s songs that they’ve had a go at, which would be interesting to see. Perhaps the success of this one will persuade them to do a sequel.
Other promotional appearances have taken place on BBC1’s The One Show on 26 September and on BBC 6 Music radio with Shaun Keaveny on 8 October. They’re also well worth a look, as they talk about performing live, deciding what to put on the compilation, Brian’s recovery from his recent health scares, and what the future has in store. The One Show interview also includes a plug for Brian’s new book Cosmic Clouds 3-D, featuring stereoscopic images from space.
I’ve collated a Q+AL Interviews Playlist with these and other relevant chats on my channel, and will keep adding to it as I stumble across more. So do go and check that out too.
If you want to find out more about the Queen + Adam Lambert phenomenon, then I highly recommend the documentary The Show Must Go On, which is on Netflix. It’s a great shame it wasn’t included on the DVD and Blu-ray as an extra feature, as it’s the perfect companion piece, exploring how Adam got together with Brian and Roger, and the hugely successful tours they’ve had as a result.
I saw the documentary during lockdown earlier this year, and it was the first time I got to learn about Adam’s upbringing and his journey as an artist, so it really helped me to understand and more fully appreciate why his partnership with Queen makes sense. The interviews with Adam, Brian and Roger are very interesting, and there’s quite a bit of footage of them performing together. Freddie Mercury is also honoured extensively, with footage of him performing and being interviewed back in the band’s heyday, which is important and great to see. So I really liked the way it was put together.
At the very end of the Fire Fight Australia concert, Brian May returned to the stage to accompany John Farnham & Olivia Newton-John on a rendition of Farnham’s classic hit You’re The Voice. They were also joined by Mitch Tambo on vocals and Allan McKenzie on didgeridoo, plus bagpipers and firefighters. It’s a suitably epic song to finish an epic event, it’s amazing.
And during lockdown later in the year Brian, Roger and Adam put together a special version of We Are The Champions with slightly altered lyrics called You Are The Champions, recording their parts on their iPhones from their homes in London, Cornwall and Los Angeles. In addition to their performances, the music video also contains footage of locations around the world, plus clips of people wearing masks, applauding front line workers and holding up signs with the song’s title.
In the press release, Brian explained: “It seems to me we should dedicate this one to all the front-line soldiers fighting for Humanity against the insurgent coronavirus. Just like our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents who fought for us in two world wars, those brave warriors in the front line are our new CHAMPIONS. That means the doctors, nurses, cleaners, porters, drivers, tea-ladies and gentlemen, and all who are quietly risking their lives daily to save the lives of our kin. CHAMPIONS ALL!!!”
Likewise, Roger said: “As a father with a daughter in the front line, I am ultra-aware of the vital work they are doing daily to save us and our society. Their bravery and sacrifice must not be prejudiced by anything less than a one hundred per cent effort by our governments to protect them. They are precious to us all and they are truly our champions.”
His daughter Rory – a GP from West London who was interviewed with him by the Daily Mail in May – appears in the music video holding up cards to relay the message “All healthcare workers, we will keep on fighting Covid-19. Stay safe all. You are the champions.”
And Adam agreed: “It is with the deepest gratitude to all those on the frontline all over the world that we dedicate our performance. Thank you for keeping us safe, we are in awe of your bravery and strength.”
Check out my Q+AL Performances Playlist on Youtube for the album tracks and other performances that I’ve enjoyed so far, which I’ll be continually adding to as time goes on.
Adam will only ever be able to perform in Freddie’s shadow, but he shines through and does Queen proud, paying tribute to a legacy of hits in a highly engaging and entertaining way that very few people can pull off. He has the courage and ability to tackle a huge range of tracks that cover a wide variety of styles, and this album contains a really good selection.
So I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I hope you enjoyed my in-depth review. It’s certainly not the best Queen has ever been, but in Freddie’s and John’s absences this is the best we’re going to get, and it’s still really good to be fair.