Fresh from a stint in East Asia & Australia, Queen + Adam Lambert were due to finally bring the Rhapsody tour to the UK & Europe in summer 2020 – but coronavirus had something to say about that… With the dates postponed to 2021, there was a gaping hole left in the year – so Brian May, Roger Taylor & Adam Lambert have selected some of their favourite live performances from the 200+ shows they have done together to create a new live album & DVD/Blu-ray set.
Back in June they held a watch party that featured a handful of the tracks that eventually made it onto Live Around The World; that evening definitely whet the appetite, and the album itself was most certainly worth the wait.
The result of this mining of footage from 2014-2020 is what I will inadequately dub a ‘superconcert’. Obviously when you watch the DVD/Blu-ray it’s clear when tracks don’t stitch together, thanks to the range in set dressings, costumes, light displays, etc., but in terms of the audio experience it’s absolutely flawless. Performances flow seamlessly across the 80-100 minutes (there are a couple of video treats you can’t find on the CD), only missing the odd bit of chat and extra audience engagement you would likely find in a real concert. Vocals and instruments are as pristine & rocking as you would expect, plus they are exceptionally balanced in the mix with audience reactions; you clearly don’t want the crowd to overpower everything, but it’s vital that you can feel they’re there to get the full simulation of the live gig experience.
No Queen concert could ever be long enough to cover every song you’d go in wanting to hear (their back catalogue – including popular album tracks – is just too big), but this collection has done a pretty good job of covering most eras, with hits galore as well as some more rarely performed numbers. Highlights for me include an epic version of Somebody to Love from the 2016 Isle of Wight Festival (with a sped-up ending that works surprisingly well), Don’t Stop Me Now from Rock in Rio (Lisbon) that same year, Lambert & Taylor duetting on Under Pressure in New York (2019), and of course the sob-fest that is Love of My Life from London’s O2 Arena in 2018 – featuring a familiar face & voice in the final voice.
Roger and Rufus Tiger Taylor engaging in a drum battle from their 2014 appearance in Sydney obviously went down very well as far as I was concerned – such percussive skill & talent on display from the father & son pair, each giving as good as they got. May, too, has his own showstopping moment, performing his moving Last Horizon guitar solo to a rapt audience at the O2 in 2018. Including the entirety of their Fire Fight Australia set from earlier this year (a second chance for May & Taylor to perform their Live Aid song list) was another inspired choice, as that again truly captures a moment in time.
Some people will see Freddie Mercury as the spectre at the feast while May & Taylor carry on under the Queen banner, however for me it’s clear he’s the honoured guest at the party every time the band step out on stage with Lambert. His voice is incredibly well suited to follow the precedent set by Mercury’s own outstanding vocals – and you can’t deny that the flamboyant entertainment value he provides isn’t welcome at a Queen concert! If it’s good enough for Brian & Roger, it’s good enough for me.
And if you’re a Queen fan who’s desperately missing live music, I thoroughly recommend getting your hands on a copy of this CD-DVD/Blu-ray collection to see you through this period of continued uncertainty.
Live Around The World was released on 2 October 2020 (EMI) and is available to purchase or stream online.