Tuesday night at Talking Stick Resort Arena, Queen + Adam Lambert made their first appearance on a Valley stage since “Bohemian Rhapsody” conquered the multiplex on its way to becoming the most successful biopic of all time.

And their sold-out concert felt at least a little like a victory lap for Queen, whose popularity has not only endured but transcended the comforting glow of nostalgia.

No 20th century record has pulled in more streams in the digital age than “Bohemian Rhapsody.” And at ranker.com, they’re rated just behind Led Zeppelin as the second-greatest rock band of all time. But only when you break the voting down to just millennials. That’s some cross-generational impact there.

And you could see that in the number of young faces in the house. I haven’t seen that many teenagers singing along at a classic-rock concert since before most of those kids were even born.

So yes, they are the champions, my friends.

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Of course, only two members who played on the actual records their reputation ultimately rests on were onstage Tuesday night – guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor.

Freddie Mercury died in 1991. And bassist John Deacon hasn’t played with Queen since 1997, joining his bandmates on stage one final time at a show paying tribute to Mercury in Paris.

Lambert is the second singer May and Taylor have recruited since Mercury’s passing.

And he’s definitely risen to the challenge in a way that suits the music and the memory of Mercury much better than their previous attempt to fill the void — Paul Rodgers of Free and Bad Company fame.

That’s not a slag on Rodgers, a perfectly wonderful singer whose voice brought a bluesier edge to the proceedings without the flamboyance of Mercury.

With Lambert, you get the flamboyance and an awe-inspiring vocal range that makes it feel like he was born to sing these songs. That much was clear to May and Taylor from the moment they first shared a stage in 2009 on “American Idol,” backing Lambert and that season’s eventual winner Kris Allen on “We Are the Champions.”

Three years later, they played their first concert together in Kiev. This was followed by their first of several tours as Queen + Adam Lambert.

That was seven years ago, and they’re still out there selling out arenas. 

It’s not that anyone’s replacing Freddie Mercury. That can’t be done. 

And no one knows that more than Lambert, who did a masterful job of addressing that reality after one of Tuesday’s most compelling arguments that he’s the perfect singer for the task at hand and that, in fact, his talents would be wasted on most other artists’ music – “Killer Queen” performed on top of a piano while fanning himself. 

It was brilliant.

“Can you believe that we’ve been working together for about eight years now?” he asked. “And still, to this day, every time I take the stage, I’m so honored and I feel so lucky to have this incredible opportunity. Seriously. Because I’m actually a fan, just like all of you guys. And just like all of you, I miss Freddie. You know what I mean? Do you love him?”

The audience naturally cheered in response to his question. Then, Lambert continued with, “And I know I’m not him, but I’m gonna do my best tonight to sing these songs and to honor this rock god’s memory, his legacy. So can you do me a favor and can we celebrate Freddie and Queen together?” 

And with that, he led the May, Taylor and three sideman in “Don’t Stop Me Now,” a joyous rendition that certainly felt like a celebration of Freddie and Queen, complete with a breathtaking solo from May, whose tone and keen melodic sensibilities have made him one of rock’s most instantly identifiable guitar gods.

It wasn’t the last of the tributes to Mercury. 

Introducing an unplugged performance of “Love of My Life” at the end of the runway, May said, “I used to do this with my dear friend Freddie when he used to stand right there.”

May’s vocal provided a tender, emotional highlight of the concert — even before he was joined at the end of the song by video of Mercury singing. 

Taylor also had his moments in the vocal spotlight, from “I’m In Love With My Car” to the opening verse of an unplugged performance of “Doing All Right” and the David Bowie parts on a soaring “Under Pressure.” 

And Mercury made two more guest appearances on video — joining Deacon, May and Taylor on the bridge of “Bohemian Rhapsody” to close the proper set and kicking off the encore by leading the crowd in a call and response from the stage of Wembley Stadium in 1986. 

It was just enough Mercury, really, to effectively salute his memory while still allowing ample room for Lambert to command the stage. It was a task the 37-year-old singer had no trouble pulling off, from the time he made his entrance, singing “Now I’m Here” in a slick gold-and-black brocade suit and a black ruffled shirt wearing fingerless gloves and looking every bit the proper rock god as he prowled a lavish stage that came complete with opera boxes.

He’s a charismatic presence with all the bravado and swagger required. You could even see an actual twinkle in his eye on the video monitors during “Somebody to Love,” which featured some of Lambert’s most impressive vocals of the night. And to be clear, a vocal standing out as something special in the context of the other vocals he turned in at Tuesday’s concert had to be astonishingly brilliant, which this was.

The singer made his way through several costume changes and after ceding the spotlight to Taylor for “I’m in Love with My Car” made his second big entrance, rising from beneath the runway on a motorcycle while rocking a black leather jacket and shades for a crowd-pleasing version of “Bicycle Race,” which was followed by “Fat Bottomed Girls.”

By the time the encore ended in a hail of confetti for “We Are the Champions,” they’d dusted off 11 of the 14 tracks on the U.S. edition of “Greatest Hits,” from a suitably funky “Another One Bites the Bust” to the rockabilly swing of “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” to the triumphant glam-rock bravado of their debut single, “Keep Yourself Alive.”

And that still left plenty of time in a 30-song set for a beyond-impressive overview of their career — two album tracks and “Keep Yourself Alive” from their debut to “The Show Must Go On” from the final Queen album released during Mercury’s lifetime, “Innuendo.”

“The Show Must Go On,” of course, is now as much a mission statement as a song. And it’s a mission well worth stating.

If May and Taylor want to celebrate their legacy while they’ve still got the chops to thrill an audience the way they did when the Rhapsody Tour hit Talking Stick Resort Arena and they’ve found a singer with the voice and personality to do their legend proud?

Don’t stop them now. 

Queen setlist

“Now I’m Here”

“Seven Seas of Rhye”

“Keep Yourself Alive”

“Hammer to Fall”

“Killer Queen”

“Don’t Stop Me Now”

“In the Lap of the Gods… Revisited”

“Somebody to Love”

“The Show Must Go On”

“I’m in Love With My Car”

“Bicycle Race”

“Fat Bottomed Girls”

“Machines (Or ‘Back to Humans’)”

“I Want It All”

“Love of My Life” (Freddie on screen at end)


“Doing All Right”

“Crazy Little Thing Called Love”

“Under Pressure”

“I Want to Break Free”

“You Take My Breath Away” (recording)

“Who Wants to Live Forever”

“Last Horizon”

Guitar Solo (“Brighton Rock”)

“Tie Your Mother Down”

“Dragon Attack”

“Another One Bites the Dust”

“Radio Ga Ga”

“Bohemian Rhapsody”


“Ay-Oh” (Freddie appears on screen from live recording at Wembley 1986)

“We Will Rock You”

“We Are the Champions”

Reach the reporter at [email protected] or 602-444-4495. Follow him on Twitter @EdMasley.

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