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Ruminations on Queen and Adam Lambert in Amsterdam

November 14, 2017

Photo credit: Kim Balster

By all accounts, from newbies as well as multi-show veterans—not to mention the evidence of my own ears and eyes–the November 13th performance at Amsterdam’s Ziggo Dome was one of the very best of the current tour. The production is a visual and technical marvel. The campy robot theme, mixing the menacing ground-shaking approach of a colossus’s footsteps with the cartoon-friendly face of Frank the robot, is the perfect foil for Queen’s music, which pendulates (is that a word?) from the grinding thunder of hard rock to the iridescent froth of Killer Queen.

If you want a review, this is not it. There’s little more I can say about the show that hasn’t already been said. It is two plus hours of breathtaking musicianship and showmanship. Brian May and Roger Taylor were in fabulous form, playing with seasoned virtuosity, passion, and endurance that puts artists half their age to shame. Adam strutted and preened, scowled and pouted with hemp-fueled abandon. Vocally, there was no stopping him. The band and Adam have melded into a truly organic musical unit that utterly commands the formidable Queen songbook.

The one novelty thrown into the European leg of the 2017 tour was “Whataya Want from Me,” the Grammy-nominated hit that is Adam’s best-known song. It was generous on Queen’s part to include it in the playlist, but in my humble opinion it was not entirely a natural fit. The band gave it a rock veneer, especially with Brian May’s solo guitar riffs. The graphics of rotating 3D heads of Adam, Brian, and Roger, furnished a subtext to the song that wasn’t at all convincing. (The threesome’s relationship has been a love fest from day one, with no hard-fought interpersonal struggles that we can discern.) Why not “Shady” or “Fever”?

Instead of a review, I’d like to offer some observations and thoughts that Adam provokes and inspires–I am happy to say he remains very much my muse. And it is also about the fandom. I shared this adventure with Ellen, who had never been to Amsterdam or traveled solo to Europe. And we met up with Silke—yes that Silke from Germany, an integral and very active member of our AdamGroup1 Facebook group, whom we chat with multiple times a day but had never met in person–accompanied by her sister Susanne.

We already knew that Silke is very tall, nearly Adam’s height. She has met him and selfied with him, his peer in statuesqueness, not like us Munchkins that he has to bend over to see. Hailing from close to the Danish border, Silke boasts Viking bloodlines. Another warrior princess!

Our prime spot!

Those northern genes came in handy standing online from seven in the morning in the general admission line (with Ellen and I staking our positions in the early admission line) and holding our ground for the next eleven hours to ensure that most precious and elusive of prizes—a spot right against the barricades along the “thrust” of the stage. We had but one goal in mind, to snag some coveted Adam DNA as he high-fived his way through the forest of fans’ outstretched arms during “Radio Gaga.” No price was too high to pay for a chance at that momentary brushing of fingertips with our Idol. Certainly not eleven hours of shivering in the Dutch winter dampness, barely protected by sweaters, pashminas, jackets, blankets, and ibuprofen.

But enough about us and our suffering, which was forgotten as soon as we found ourselves inside the arena, pressed up against the metal barricade, midway down the thrust, right after the staircase where Adam would make his descent. Ninety minutes of waiting for the show to begin passed in a flash.

We chatted with Ruut, an arena security guard who was clearly there for the love of music. He had heard Queen in its heyday and seem skeptical about “the new singer.” Ellen told him he’d be converted within three songs. We kept a close eye on him through the entire show, as he sang along and peeked glimpses. Poor Ruut’s job was to keep an eye on us, the unruly and dangerous crowd, not to watch what was going on behind him. By “Tie Your Mother Down,” he was giving the thumbs up, and at “Who Wants to Live Forever,” his jaw was hanging to the floor. Ellen swears she saw him cry.

The show, as I’ve already mentioned, was spectacular. And as he always does, Adam had me asking all kinds of questions. Why the sunglasses for the first five or six numbers? Maybe he is conjuring the spirit of George Michael. With that sleeveless long frock coat, it’s a look to die for. Maybe he wants to cultivate a little mystery. Maybe it’s part of a strip tease, a calculated slow reveal of his superhuman charms. Maybe it’s a shield from the possibility of hostile gazes by die-hard Freddie fans. Maybe we just exhaust him.

And yet. We know Adam loves to make eye contact with the audience and feed off the crowd’s energy. Those sunglasses seem almost as though he’s handicapping himself, tamping down the magnetism and charisma that would have those Queen fans eating out of his hand, if he’d just let them be seen by him. Why? Oh why?

To back up a moment, here’s another observation. While Adam doesn’t interact with the audience during those first moments, he is totally involved with Brian, looking at him, gesturing to him. We fans love seeing their genuine affection and partnership, and I found myself reflecting that Freddie was the exact opposite. He ignored his bandmates on stage, but threw himself body and soul into connecting with his audience. I yearned for Adam to connect too, but those damned shades got in the way.

I feel similarly ambivalent about the platform heels, which have grown several inches and sprouted red sparkles for “Killer Queen.” Yes, they are playful, over-the-top and ridiculous, and what else could he possibly pair with that embroidered magenta satin suit, but still. I enjoyed the chaise longue version in the 2014 tour, but the current Adam riding on the head of Frank—not so much, even if the prop sets him up perfectly for some naughty jokes.

The song is already the epitome of camp. It hardly needs more garnishes, and here’s the thing about camp. Camp is a cover, a gay harlequin’s costume that conceals the broken heart, the rejected and lonely soul within. “Killer Queen” is about a courtesan, a denizen of the floating world who employs chutzpah and artifice to keep a step ahead of life’s reckonings. Underneath its tinkling and bouncy melody there lies pathos. I would love to see Adam someday throw aside the crutch of theatricality and dig deeper into Killer Queen, with attitude but also compassion.

By Silke

Also, and I really hate to say this because I know Adam loves loves loves that fancy footwear, and he can sashay in those towering heels as few mortals can, but they are like those sunglasses, hobbling him from being his most free self. I think of Adam in “Born to Be Wild,” how he pranced and played with feline grace in sneakered feet, the apotheosis of rock god sexiness. We’ve rarely seen that side of him since. Well yes, there was the barefooted “Whole Lotta Love” era. That’s the exception that proves my point. Maybe he can’t resist showing off the fabulous Louboutins that he can now afford with his rock star salary…

But costumes can be the enemy of authenticity. Rock stars dress down to achieve the persona of the Everyman or Everywoman, to convey that they are just like you and me, except that they are possessed with talent and courage that propel them into the stratosphere of divinity. Their very ordinariness makes them that much more extraordinary. Adam is anything but ordinary. He is too beautiful, and he can rock that peacock plumage. We pine amongst ourselves for glimpses of Adam naked—literally and metaphorically—and are resigned to the possibility that he may never bare himself or allow himself to be that vulnerable. Perhaps this is his cross to bear.

That’s the thing about Adam. He is a vessel for our thoughts about art, mixed with our mama bear aspirations for him. That’s the fun of being an Adam fan, and I am thrilled beyond measure for the worldwide success he has attained, and the genuine joy he brings to Queen, even as we dream of Adam truly finding his voice as an artist—something that may be a life long journey that we are lucky enough to be on.

After the show, 17,000 people staggered out of Ziggo Dome in a moist mass, looking like they’d just had the best sex of their lives. We looked for our friend Ruut, but he had vanished. I had so wanted to have a little post petit mortem with him!

Postscript. During “Radio Gaga,” Adam came down from his pedestal to high-five us mortals. He brushed fingertips with Ellen, and locked eyes with our statuesque Viking! How could he not be drawn to the happiness radiating from her! As for me, it turned out my arms were too short, alas. Thankfully, I already have his DNA. : )

12 Comments leave one →
  1. November 14, 2017 6:53 pm

    Thanks for the ‘review’. Sadly, I have missed this tour, as I was in hospital just before the show I traveled to and had tickets for. I traveled clear across Canada, and was in a hospital just miles away, sadly. I’m just about to break down and watch video from the European leg.

    • November 14, 2017 8:02 pm

      So sorry to hear you had to miss the show…Hopefully they will come back to North American again!

  2. Sherry permalink
    November 15, 2017 5:10 am

    I’ve always felt that Adam hides behind his makeup & costumes. Somehow how he doesn’t believe that he could be that beautiful or talented without the facade of the theater. We will love him no matter what he comes up with but wish he had more people to tell him “no fucking flames” now…

  3. lauriellenw permalink
    November 15, 2017 4:58 pm

    Thank you for a lovely blog. You are great at putting into words, what I can’t.

    I’m not sure why Adam wears sunglasses for the first 3 songs. Maybe it’s because pro photographers get 3 songs to get their pics. Maybe it’s Adam saving his eyes for the paying customers. That said, he looks good enough in sunglasses to be a sunglasses model.

    As for KILLER QUEEN, I prefer him slithering around on the chaise because that is where I got a taste of his DNA. I got some water on my blouse but also a drop on my finger, which I licked. LOL But maybe he considers GET DOWN MAKE LOVE as his slithering song and he likes to change things up. I love Frank’s presence from busting through the wall at the beginning to waving goodbye at the end. There are many other songs he could perform with Frank’s head beneath his awesome ass.

    Regarding the costumes and footwear, I LOVE it. If it’s just his voice you want to hear, you could listen to a recording and imagine he’s in jeans and a tee. Since his very first show (Glam Nation Tour) he’s used the opportunity to show us his love for the theater and clothing. He has a concern for how his show sounds AND looks. Thank God cameras don’t use film anymore. I can’t resist making sure I have my own photo in every change of clothes. And then save hundreds of those from fans that had betterer seats.

    I agree about WWFM. I know it’s the song he’s most known for, but of all the single releases, it is the least like Adam. Remember FOR YOUR ENTERTAINMENT was supposed to be the first single. I loved 2 FUX. It was Freddie inspired and I loved his little speech about it.

  4. Lam-My permalink
    November 15, 2017 9:26 pm

    Heloo Juneau! Very interesting piece of your Amsterdam concert experience using a broad brush.
    With regard the dark glasses, yes, you do have a point as in the hindering of eye contact. From an art point of reference, the few art courses I attended many moons ago, it could be the dark glasses balance off the full black he was attired in, wholesome rather than a bit disconnected; just an observation. As for the heels, they help him wobble on the extension walk, like a model…love that! Also, he could be paid cash or kind to model them.
    So you stood in line for many hours, but missed grabbing his hand; the Adam DNA you got, I suppose would be from the wind or swet as he brushed past you? lwl!

  5. Rachel permalink
    November 16, 2017 8:08 am

    I disagree with the viewpoint that Adam appears to hide behind his costumes; costumes can help set the mood for the singer as well as the audience- plus he looks just so damn good in his outfits. And let’s not forget his Isle of Wight performance of WWTLF: a bomber jacket with torn jeans and simple boots that we could see anyone wearing out and about. It was certainly a dressed down approach, but frankly, as magnificent as this particular rendering of WWTLF was, I believe it would have been enhanced by an outfit better than that “casual Friday” look. I for one would not want to see Adam follow suit with the typical lead singer from a rock band look: boring jeans with a stretched-out black or white T-shirt and sneakers…please! It doesn’t say “I’m confident in my talent, so pay no attention to what I’m wearing”. It says, “I’m too lazy to create a style of my own.”

  6. Lam-My permalink
    November 16, 2017 7:55 pm

    Oki dok…Anyone interested in seeing a King in short pants, flat shoes, wearing a shimmering crown? Watch for zenith note at the end.
    Wah! So much live energy…right in my backyard!
    Love the wide-angle recording panning all the buildings and oh this is Rufus’ swan song goodbye at the Padang.

    Queen+Adam Lambert Encore! Live in Singapore GP 17 Sept 2016

    Wing Hung Li
    Published Sept 20, 2016

  7. Lam-My permalink
    November 18, 2017 9:27 pm

    Helloo Sauli!
    Rendezvousing with your Viking in Helsinki
    He’s going to sing:
    I’ve fallen in love…I’ve fallen in love for the first time
    And this time I know it’s for reeeaal…I’ve fallen in love…
    Hope to get a glimpse of you in the audience
    You light up his stage with radiance
    Strike while the iron is hot
    You never know what will drop
    Onto your lap…how about a pot
    Of kisses hanging in the Baltic borealis
    He is shivering in the icy cold
    As he reins in his powerful turbo
    Helloo Adam!
    Knock! Knock!
    Who is there… It’s me Sauli
    And so it comes to pass
    Aquarius dawn breaks their fast

    Lam-My

  8. Lam-My permalink
    November 19, 2017 7:14 pm

    Find me somebody…somebody…somebody… close rapport with Finns.

    Queen + Adam Lambert – Somebody To Love live @ Helsinki Hartwall Arena 19.11.2017

    Ninja666
    Published Nov 19, 2017

  9. Lam-My permalink
    November 19, 2017 8:49 pm

    Whoa! The best performance of Who Wants To Live Forever, I’ve heard. I bet Sauli must be close to tears, in the audience.

    Queen+Adam Lambert Who wants to live forever Helsinki 19.11.2017

    Turresto
    Published Nov 19, 2017

  10. Lam-My permalink
    November 19, 2017 9:10 pm

    This is my favourite Queen song, I want to break free, but it has a fierce contender now, Who wants to live forever, above video, something special there!

    Queen + Adam Lambert – I want to break free – LIVE Helsinki Hartwall Areena 19.11.2017

    Amh313
    Published Nov 19, 2017

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