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Adam Lambert and Brian May of Queen at Madison Square Garden 8/7/2019

“I’m gonna call out the pink elephant in the room,” Adam Lambert told the sold-0ut audience at the second of Queen’s two nights at New York’s Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night (August 7). “I’m not Freddie.”

But, after marveling that he’s been performing with Queen for nine years he said, “I’m just like you: I’m a fan. He’s irreplaceable.” And yet, there he was, an incredible combination of insane vocal power and control and absolute rock star charisma. He has the sense of pomp and kitch and swagger as well as the vocal chops to fill in for Freddie Mercury, one of the greatest frontmen of all time (some might argue that he was the greatest).

But from the moment the band took the stage, Lambert owned it; like Mercury, he’s able to front the band through hard rock jams like “Now I’m Here,” “The Show Must Go On,” “I Want It All” and “Tie Your Mother Down,” while also commanding the ballads like “Who Wants To Live Forever” and “Somebody To Love.” But humor was such an important part of Freddie Mercury, and Lambert gets it: when he sings “Bicycle Race” while reclining on a rotating motorcycle, when he fans himself while singing “Killer Queen” or dons a crown for “We Will Rock You” and “We Are The Champions,” you realize that he’s having as much fun with the gig as Freddie did. And it’s really difficult to imagine anyone else fronting the band at this point.

Meanwhile, Brian May remains one of the most underrated guitarists in rock; his playing is as diverse as Mercury’s singing was (or Lambert’s singing is). And Roger Taylor is even more underrated among drummers; his powerful style is even more remarkable when you consider that he’s often singing backup, or even lead, vocals. And yes, he did “I’m In Love With My Car,” the subject of a funny scene in Bohemian Rhaposdy.

Even though Queen + Adam Lambert (their official name) has been touring together for nearly a decade, there are still Queen fans who are hesitant to see the band with anyone other than Freddie Mercury. (They did an album and toured with former Free/Bad Company/Firm singer Paul Rodgers before Lambert joined). But there’s no better way to pay tribute to the man’s memory than to hear his songs, played by the guys he created them with. Freddie once sang, “Let Me Entertain You,” and Queen + Adam Lambert do an amazing job of continuing that noble mission.