Queen Concert - 2014-06-19

Note: None of these pictures are mine. I was too busy rocking out!

Like most people who lived their childhood during the Wayne's World movie, I became a fan of Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. However, unlike most kids during that era, my passion continued unabated as I purchased album after album and became obsessed with everything Queen. Through my teen years, my appreciation grew to fanboy levels, and I saw Queen as the best group ever to exist. I bought every album, every book, and even those things that were just barely Queen-related. As my intensity grew, it became more and more difficult to cope with the fact that I would never see the group live, as Freddie died just before my interest began. I always had a bittersweet feeling whenever I read about the extravagance of their concerts, knowing that I would never see one live.

Fast-forward to the 2000s. I still viewed Queen as my all-time favorite group, but my fandom had mostly subsided and I could treat them with the same criticism as any other group. They weren't perfect, just amazing. I used to spend a fair amount of time on the official Queen web site, and was also part of their mailing list. However, most of their newsletter was nothing more that advertisements, so I didn't bother updating my address when I switched email providers. However, I kept an eye on the We Will Rock You musical which became a huge success. I knew that, while John Deacon had officially retired, Brian May and Roger Taylor had continued to do sporadic appearances in various locales the UK. When I heard that they had a US tour with Paul Rogers from Bad Company, and one of the stops included my home town, I was devastated because I didn't learn about the tour until after the tour was over. The pain I felt was palpable; with the age of Brian and Roger, I doubted that they would ever do a world tour again, which meant that I had literally missed out on a chance of a life time.

My mood changed in 2014 when my friend June emailed me a notice that Brian My and Roger Taylor would again be doing a world tour, this time with Adam Lambert performing vocals. I rushed to the ticket site as fast as possible and found that the Michigan date was scheduled for the same date that I would be in the Bahamas on my honeymoon! My initial thought was, well, I guess we need to reschedule our honeymoon, but upon looking at other dates, I discovered that they would also be playing in Chicago, only 5 hours drive away. As a birthday present, Emily bought me the tickets ($500 for a pair), and I waited intently as the date approached.

Rather than drive, we had booked an Amtrak train to Chicago. It takes longer, and costs a bit more, but you don't have to worrying about parking, gas, or having your car stolen. So, the morning of the trip we drive to the Amtrak station to find that the train had left an hour early. According to the person at the counter, they switched the departure time for an hour early. They had tried to contact me via email, but I obviously didn't get it. Not a very auspicious beginning! I got my money back, and we ended up driving ourselves to Chicago, which, in the end, I think I preferred. Parking wasn't too difficult, and it was nice not having to worry about bus schedules or over-priced taxis.

We spent the day shopping, walking, and eating before finally heading to the show. It was at this point that the excitement really kicked in, as well as the anxiousness. Would they accept my printed ticket? Would my wallet chain be a problem at the metal detectors? Would one of the band members get deathly ill and call off the concert? Thankfully, everything went as planned, and we were in our seats with enough time for me to pick up an over-priced T-shirt. I looked down at the stage from seats in anticipation. While I would have preferred front row, we were still close enough to see the faces of roadies checking the equipment people on stage. Although, most of the stage was obscured by a huge curtain with the Queen coat of arms.

Finally, the arena darkened, and we heard Procession being played. My heart was particularly jittery at this point. I could see the band enter from back stage, recognizing Brian May's poofy hair, and Roger Taylor's beard. The curtain was rapidly pulled away and Now I'm Here began to play with Adam Lambert performing vocals. The stage was really quite elaborate. There was a giant O of led lights with a huge screen in the center that contained projections of the band, and various changing graphics. With an illuminated catwalk, you could see that the O was actually a huge Q.

I was awestruck. I couldn't even cheer, I was too busy telling myself that I was finally watching Queen (or as close as you could get) live. Lambert's mic cut out on the second verse, but they got him a replacement just as he finished the song. They then sung Stone Cold Crazy, Another One Bites the Dust, and Fat Bottomed Girls. The lighting was really top-notch with strong LED lasers casting beams through the smoke, and lots of larger spot-lights of various colors illuminating the stage. Also, the band played earlier footage of the group as youngsters from when they visited Chicago back in the 1970s, which I probably would have appreciated more if I were from Chicago.

One of the things I reasons I don't much care for concerts is that the bands usually only perform their hits. I understand why they do this, when I see a band I'm only partially familiar with, I don't want to hear a bunch of stuff I've never heard before. However, when it's bands that I'm well-versed in, I would prefer to hear nothing but their most obscure songs which are often my favorites. Thankfully, the set list included a couple songs that only those more steeped in Queen will appreciate like the next two songs, In the Lap of Gods... Revisited and The Seven Seas of Rhye. They did make occasional appearances back in the 70s and 80s, but you rarely hear either on the radio any more. So, bonus points for Queen!

Those more obscure songs were followed up by some big hits, Killer Queen, Somebody to Love, and I Want It All. I noticed that Adam Lambert was making a few mistakes from time to time with the lyrics. It didn't ruin the songs, but he had big shoes to fill! Of course, Freddie made plenty of mistakes too, but he's Freddie Mercury, he's allowed. Lambert retreated backstage at this point and Brian May came down to the end of the catwalk and performed an acoustic rendition of Love of My Life. Unfortunately, he mixed up the first verse with the second and had to repeat it, but he more than made up for his mistake with an acoustic version of '39, with a full explanation for the song (which I already knew, of course).

After those two songs sung by Brian, Roger gave the audience a real treat with amazing lead vocals on These Are the Days of Our Lives. He then did a drum battle with a back-up drummer, which was quite fun. After that, Lambert came back on stage to sing Under Pressure, and another obscure song, Love Kills, done in a more sultry manner than Freddie's original solo version. I should point out that, although Adam Lambert's timbre is quite foreign sounding, he definitely has the vocal range to perform like Freddie. However, his stage performance was rather dull compared to Freddie's running, jumping, and sashaying everywhere. I don't remember which, but one of the songs featured a large disco ball descending from a hidden cache in the ceiling and being illuminated by high-powered lights. It was blinding, but wonderful to behold!

There was another serious number, Who Wants To Live Forever, and then Brian May performed a guitar solo, mostly of Last Horizon from his solo album, but it also contained portions of the Brighton Rock Solo. More obscure stuff that I thoroughly enjoyed! The last couple songs were epics, Tie Your Mother Down, Radio Ga Ga (which Emily loved and wouldn't stop singing for a couple days afterward), Crazy Little Thing Called Love, The Show Must Go On, and finally, Bohemian Rhapsody. Naturally, the crowed really picked up with Rhapsody, especially because it had a projection of Freddie performing parts of the song!

The band left the stage, but came back to perform an encore of We Will Rock You and We Are the Champions. At this point, air cannons shot tons of gold confetti into the air, making the entire arena look like glitter. They finally bowed to an instrumental of God Save the Queen, the usual closer.

I didn't take any pictures during the concert because I wanted to fully experience every second of it. In fact, I didn't even sit down throughout the entire show. Yes, I was -that guy-. Thankfully, in this modern era with cameras everywhere, I can relive the entire concert from various angles on YouTube. And this set list has handy links to each song.

In the end, I was totally blown away from the experience. It was just divine being able to see my favorite band play live. I don't like to use the word because it's so loaded with baggage, but I think anyone who knows me will understand what I mean when I say it was a "spiritual" experience for me. One more item to check off my bucket list!