Queen and Adam Lambert, “Live Around the World” (Hollywood)
Adam Lambert is not Freddie Mercury. Nor, to his credit, does he try to be. What he is, though, is the perfect successor to the iconic Queen vocalist, seemingly predestined to revive the supergroup with his own impossible vocals and over-the-top showmanship.
“Live Around the World,” culled from every tour they’ve done over the last six years, shows the “American Idol” runner-up breathing new life into some of the greatest rock songs ever written, and putting them across just as boldly and fabulously as Mercury did.
But Lambert is no human photocopier; on song after song, he brings his own sensibility and finely-calibrated vocals, unlocking possibilities that had lain hidden for decades. “Don’t Stop Me Now,” which was a minor hit for Queen in the ’70s but has exponentially grown in popularity since then, helped by its use in TV commercials, finds Lambert teasing the audience by comedically stretching out a note as the audience is ready to charge ahead. But it all comes with a wink and a nod; on “Fat Bottomed Girls,” performed in Texas with the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders dancing onstage, Lambert follows the line “Ain’t no beauty queens in this locality” with the ad-libbed, “Not true!”
Campiness aside, Lambert may just have the best voice in rock music today, and yes, let’s just say it: There are times he hits notes Mercury dared not, at least not onstage, where Mercury often relied on drummer Roger Taylor as a stunt vocalist to hit the highest notes to help preserve his own voice for the grueling year-long tours the band did.
“Who Wants to Live Forever” is the vocal and dramatic high point of a Queen show these days, and the version here is particularly emotional, dedicated to victims of the Orlando gay club mass shooting the night before.
Taylor is exquisite in the David Bowie role on the “Under Pressure” duet, and guitarist Brian May provides the unmistakable Queen sound with every note and power chord.
They also do two Mercury solo tracks, “Love Kills” and “I Was Born to Love You,” adding a new element to the show and keeping Mr. Mercury front and center even in absentia.