At the risk of sounding sacrilegious, God did not save Queen. But Adam did.
That’s Adam Lambert, the “American Idol” runner-up from 2009. In 2012, he joined up with two remaining members of the British rock band Queen, which had pretty much disappeared after the 1991 death of singer Freddie Mercury, for some concerts. Now they have rebuilt the band to surprising heights, drawing more than 15,000 people to jam-packed Xcel Energy Center on Friday and filling arenas around the world.
In 2005, Queen tried a comeback with singer Paul Rodgers of Bad Company. His performances were workmanlike, the shows unexciting. The arrangement was short-lived.
Then along came Lambert, the best thing to happen to Queen since the 1992 film “Wayne’s World” featured the band’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” introducing its ambitious prog-rock to new generations.
On Friday, Queen + Adam Lambert, as the group is officially billed, was the right combination of bombast, camp and arena rock, with the kind of delicious excess to thrill Queen fans young and old.
To be honest, Lambert is not a great rock singer. He’s not a natural. But he is adept at acting like a rock star, singing with power but not consistent passion. He seldom got lost in his songs the way the great rock singers do. And the one new number, “Two Fux” from his upcoming solo album, was a misguided dud.
At times on Friday, Lambert didn’t quite know how to move (it could have been the platform shoes that hindered him) or to work the entire guitar-shaped stage, including the runway (which was the guitar’s neck). Plus, too often he was fiddling with his ear monitors and their control knobs in his back pocket.
But the hopelessly theatrical Lambert was campy and hammy enough to add the right kind of vibe to suggest Mercury. He wore seven different outfits, ranging from a fuchsia suit to black leather with red gloves, sunglasses and boots (channeling an edgier George Michael).
Early on, Lambert articulated the issue at hand: “Some of you are thinking: ‘He’s no Freddie Mercury.’ I know. The man is a god. And there will only be one Freddie. I’m a fan just like you guys. I’m lucky to be singing these songs.”
Not only was the specter of Mercury in the arena, but he appeared via videotape a few times, singing “Day Oh,” a little bit of “Bohemian Rhapsody” and at the end of “Love of My Life,” which Queen guitarist Brian May was singing. That number seemed to turn the show around halfway through.
Heretofore the pomp and over-the-topness of Queen had been missing. Suddenly Lambert summoned newfound passion on “Somebody to Love” and camped it up Elvis-like on “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” The singer found his shining moment on “Who Wants to Live Forever,” the kind of power ballad that made him such a sensation on “American Idol.”
Drummer Roger Taylor, 67, and guitarist May, who turns 70 next week, also had their moments in the spotlight on instrumentals. May, who earned a Ph.D. in astrophysics in his spare time, even bought into the kitsch of Queen by donning a silver cape. His mountain of silver curls provided quite a contrast to Lambert’s flaming red hair.
Queen + Adam Lambert had opened the evening by promising “We Will Rock You.” They did, for the most part, ending deservedly with “We Are the Champions,” with Lambert prancing around in a silver outfit with a cheesy crown amid shiny gold confetti.