From Freddie to Adam — We Will Live Forever
Queen and Adam Lambert, North American Tour, Los Angeles Forum, July 3, 2014
By lynelle paulick
Well, well. My husband and I made the long trip from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles last week. Yes, it really has been a long trip. Five years, I suppose — or perhaps lifetimes, but I digress.
Five years and a month or two back in 2009 was the moment the world saw Adam Lambert and the two remaining members of the classic rock band Queen, Brian May and Roger Taylor, perform together. In that year when the fellows first personally and publicly met, they sang “We Are the Champions”; and Lambert enthusiasts, at least, have been pining since then for the threesome to show us that strange magic again.
Me? Oh, I’ve been feverish lately. YouTube videos from the other venues (since June 19, when their 2014 North American tour finally kicked off in Chicago at the United Center, at 7:30 p.m.) have gone viral because of days spent helplessly drooling over one, then another, then another, and another, and back again.
At the LA Forum, at (or by) our seats on the floor, right in the middle with a perfect surround-sound view, I was stunned by the whole display, stripped of all thought processes and bombarded with deafening sounds, cell-binding vibrations and multidirectional lasers. Not until right after the dazzling encore of “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions,” as we sprinted out of the arena in our failed attempt to escape the impending traffic jam of thousands of cars going nowhere at the same time, did my personal senses begin to return. And with a vengeance did they! Thoughts and observations came crashing into my mind. There was a slight confusion, which didn’t feel particularly good, so I dug into it best as I could in an altered state. First up was that I noticed three things happening at once, an apparent dissonance that immediately smacked of a typical reviewer’s pronouncement of “incohesive.” In other words, was there something wrong with the picture? What is this feeling: I felt a rabid and most intense inquisitiveness over whether we had just seen a Queen concert or an Adam Lambert concert, and this left that unexpected and uncertain feeling of confusion.
My partner said it was an Adam Lambert concert with a backup band that just happened to include Brian May and Roger Taylor. But I felt that was short-sighted, so I sat in the car while we waited in the dead-stop traffic inside the L.A. Forum’s massive blacktop forest, looking at this hazy conundrum. Before Iong, the third element appeared as a question: “Or was it…a Freddie Mercury memoriam?” Now things were interesting: three open universes remained hovering around in my vibrating body.
As we made our way out of the stage area, I grabbed just as much as possible of the gold foil confetti falling from the air and onto the floor, pocketing it all. It was very clear that leaving this hallowed place and moment was like being ripped away by the currents, and picking up those gold pieces was a last, desperate attempt to keep time standing still even while we knew it had to move on. Time, the bane of human existence…and this “moment in time” was shortly to be a part of the infinite past.
The pain of separation, that global and millennia-old habit of our seeing life as lawlessly discrete pieces of broken glass — partial and jagged shards — is perhaps at the root of the feeling of grief that many still feel when the visuals of Freddie Mercury appear inside the great circle that serves as Queen’s main Jumbotron. Freddie Mercury the human rock god is gone. He is not alive and among us, here for “us” now. But the sadness in people’s general inability to understand or deal with death was palpable each and every time his face and his voice and his eyes appeared on the two-dimensional screen.
So there was the memoriam. Easy enough, I suppose. And it appears to me that Brian and Roger have been sitting “in the lap of the gods” since the moment they met Freddie Mercury. When he died, the Queen died for these fine and loyal English subjects, these British gentlemen with hearts of gold. Through those open, separated universes, there came an emptiness after that, despite many attempts to revive the life. By my reckoning, it was only when they encountered Adam Lambert that the circle reformed. Freddie and Adam are both the “gods” who gave, and are giving again now, to Brian and Roger a life to be lived like no other. Finally, again, they are back home where they belong, back from a long, painful exploration of the outer cosmos, lost among unknown planets and longing to find their way back to ground.
Adam made this small and telling statement, toward the beginning after his outrageous and unique rendition of “Killer Queen”: …guys, this is not the real me up there; it’s not, I…I swear. But every once in awhile, don’t you find yourself kinda burying yourself in shiny, pretty things and champagne and trying to be fabulous? You know what I mean — because maybe, maybe, some…thing’s kind of empty inside…anybody ever feel that way? Yeah?…my name is Adam…and I have an emptiness. (Note: I could swear he said, “I am that emptiness,” but that’s pretty out there and sounds like the observer projecting…)
So then he walked away and sang “Somebody to Love.” Perfect segue. Anyway, that was the moment everything became clear, in hindsight and only seen later. This very real longing is what lies behind the strange-looking, bizarre and so-called inappropriately acted-out passions of the enthusiasts, the lovers, all the angels, the “Glamberts” and the “Queenberts,” which has been gaining momentum over the past few years. Why? Because they can see behind what Adam is doing, exactly what he says above.
“Now I’m Here” is the very first song that rips out of his vocal chords as the curtain lifts. Ever heard of the notion “music of the spheres”? One particularly lovely picture was when, during “Who Wants to Live Forever,” the giant silver shimmering disco ball began to descend in the center of the stage area, sending down streams of white light to Adam’s feet. He is at that moment inviting anyone who wishes, to “touch my tears with your lips, touch my world with your fingertips” — extending his hand to a particular stream of the blazing white light and touching it with his fingertips — it was just a stunning moment of recognition, of reconciliation. I found that absolutely brilliant, no pun intended.
It’s all such a strange dream. It sounds oh-so-Los-Angeles, sure, but it ain’t. It just ain’t. It’s everywhere and everybody, from everywhere. All the same. And Freddie Mercury wrote either all or part of every one of these songs Adam sang — I personally see these songs as largely being about Adam’s own life, too, and it’s some kind of magic to hear him sing those lyrics as his own. Yes, sure, it does look distorted, weird, even being stamped as “dysfunctional displacement behavior” that is displayed by the foot-stomping devotees of both Queen the band with Mercury, and Adam Lambert the solitary yet flamboyant performance artist. The masses, the millions of angels for lack of a better word (it’s okay because we were in the City of Angels on July 3), through their persistent crying out, beckoning the circle to be closed, met their wish tonight.
Adam Lambert’s humble yet aggressively thrusting interpretations of the lyrics dreamed into existence by Freddie, Brian, Roger, and John Deacon were and are, in my view, the perfect catalyst for a great realization: that the circle is closed and in fact was never actually ajar. It is all a timebound misunderstanding. Lambert’s byline has always been “be yourself, accept yourself as you are.” Is he also saying, though I don’t believe he ever used the exact words — “You are already whole”?
And though this be madness, yet there is a method in this Shakespearean performance: Brian and Roger see the truth now: There was never a loss, the Queen never died. It is here, reflected in the very opening lines, “Now I’m here…,” delivered behind a deep and transparent blue gauzelike curtain, ever-so-slowly waving from left to right. The silent breath of anticipation in the Forum must have moved it — it was invisible yet so palpable as to give this one shivers. Then he continues, “And I’m there…”
Through Adam’s interpretive voice, what I personally heard was “I am here, as Adam…and I am there, as Freddie Mercury…. But I am always here.” The Queen is here.
And it Will Live Forever.