Rock Concert Review: Queen + Adam Lambert at TD Garden — A Few Curveballs

By Adam Ellsworth

The show was proof that Queen + Adam Lambert are quite capable of mixing things up, even as they give everybody exactly what they’ve come to hear.

Queen’s Brian May + Adam Lambert at TD Garden. Photo: Paul Robicheau

There are certain songs Queen + Adam Lambert have to play. “Bohemian Rhapsody” of course tops that list, with “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions” following close behind. “Another One Bites the Dust,” “Somebody to Love,” “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” and “Under Pressure” are a tier below, but still mandatory, and while they could maybe skip “Killer Queen,” “Don’t Stop Me Now,” “Bicycle Race,” and “Fat Bottomed Girls,” people would notice.

Unsurprisingly, all of these tunes found their way into Queen + Adam Lambert’s Sunday night show at TD Garden, the group’s first of two concerts at the arena. While these standards were expected, they were certainly not boring, and they were supplemented by enough curveballs from the rock icons and their hired guns to keep even obsessive fans on their toes.

Queen’s Brian May at TD Garden. Photo: Paul Robicheau

Of the must-plays, “Somebody to Love” and “Under Pressure” were the highlights. Lambert’s voice is custom-made for “Somebody to Love’s” white gospel, and the tune allowed Brian May to let rip one of his many signature guitar solos. “Under Pressure,” originally a duet between late greats Freddie Mercury and David Bowie, has become a standout spot for drummer Roger Taylor to trade lines with the younger Lambert, in the process turning the song into a cross-generational plea for the old-fashioned idea that people treat each other with basic dignity and respect.

Typically, “Under Pressure” is the closest the remaining members of Queen get to a political statement in their music (they’re much more outspoken in their offstage lives), but there were some subtle hints Sunday night that May and Taylor might like to use their catalogue to speak to the current moment. “Is This the World We Created…?,” by far the biggest surprise in the tour’s set list, was originally a well-intended, if somewhat vague, song from 1984’s The Works about famine in Africa. In 2023, Queen + Adam Lambert have pretty clearly turned it into a song about climate change, with video screens showing a dying tree, and paper petals floating down from the rafters onto the crowd. The night even opened with a surprising mash-up of “Machines (or ‘Back to Humans’)” and “Radio Ga Ga,” which with the right pair of ears can be heard as a comment on the ever increasing role of AI in our lives and the danger it poses to humans. Just check the lyrics if this seems like a stretch: “Living in a new world/How you gonna last?/It’s a machine world.”

And then there was the rocking “Hammer to Fall” coming right out of “Machines”/“Radio Ga Ga,” a song its author Brian May has always insisted is not political, but about how death comes to us all. Perhaps, but that hammer always seemed like it had an implied sickle paired with it. Any countries in the news lately that have a history with that sort of thing?

All of this is conjecture, of course, and it might not even be correct. Maybe I’m taking down-the-middle fastballs and insisting that they curve. I’m on safer footing when I point out the unexpected new arrangement of “Tie Your Mother Down,” which now starts with an almost country groove before May finally uncorks his all-time greatest riff for the remainder of the song. This reimagining was far more successful than the bass-heavy revamp of “Stone Cold Crazy,” which turned the proto-thrash tune into a sludgy crawl. At least it was an attempt at something different.

Queen + Adam Lambert at TD Garden. Photo: Paul Robicheau

Most of the above-mentioned songs were less known to a crowd that seemed more familiar with the hits. You can always tell the make-up of a Q + AL audience based on how strongly it joins in on “Love of My Life,” and Sunday night that singalong was a little weak. The assembled did much better with the main set closing “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and had the “stomp-stomp-clap” perfectly synchronized to implore the musicians back for an encore starting with “We Will Rock You.”

“We Are the Champions” would naturally follow, but not immediately. First, “Radio Ga Ga,” the song that started the night, returned for one last verse and chorus, sandwiched between the two jock jam classics.

A song between “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions” might not seem like a big deal, but it’s actually quite rare. To the best of my knowledge, Queen hasn’t done it since their last tour with Freddie back in ‘86, and it was startling when they tried it then too. Even the radio doesn’t separate the songs, always playing one after the other.

Anyway, most of the crowd probably didn’t notice or care. It was one last curveball though, something for the diehards to mull over. It was also proof that Queen + Adam Lambert are quite capable of mixing things up, even as they give everybody exactly what they’ve come to hear.

Adam Ellsworth is a writer, journalist, and amateur professional rock and roll historian. His writing on rock music has appeared on the websites YNE Magazine,, Online Music Reviews, and Metronome Review. His non-rock writing has appeared in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, on Wakefield Patch, and elsewhere. Adam has an MS in journalism from Boston University and a BA in literature from American University. He grew up in Western Massachusetts, and currently lives with his wife in a suburb of Boston. You can follow Adam on Twitter @adamlz24.

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  1. Di on October 18, 2023 at 3:38 pm

    Your comments reminded me of the grumbling of the two old men on the balcony in “the muppet show” … i didn’t get your point.

    • Debbie Gonzalez on October 18, 2023 at 11:47 pm

      Hahaha, love the comparison to the 2 old men from the Muppets. Perfect. I don’t know what show he (Adam Ellsworth) was attempting to review on, but I think he definitely was over thinking this concert.

      I saw them in Baltimore and have been a Queen fan since I was a kid in the 70’s as well as the awesome front Man of Adam Lambert. His flair for campy fun with the songs as well as his awesome vocals made for an excellent concert. The pyrotechnics and special effects added to the level of creativity that kept everyone totally engaged and in awe of every song that was done.

      I think this reviewer was doing a report for a journalism 101 class and tried to impart a bunch of cynical or deep thinking concepts to sound impressive. When in reality, he should have just sat back and enjoyed classic music played at the same if not better level than originally created. Which was, by the way, not to shabby considering that the 2 original members are in their mid 70’s playing pretty much non stop for over 2 hours.

      • Trixie on October 20, 2023 at 2:23 pm

        Completely agree with you and I was at the concert the night he was.

  2. Trixie on October 20, 2023 at 2:21 pm

    I was at the concert at the Garden in Boston on Sunday, 10/15. Apparently the journalist who reviewed the show must have been having a bad night. I was on my feet the entire concert singing every song and dancing. Sang every word to “Love of my Life” “Under Pressure” was amazing. It’s so beautiful to see Roger, Brian and Spike remaining creative geniuses. And of course Adam, sexy as ever with his incredible voice did not disappoint.I could not wait to see Queen with Adam Lambert and it was phenomenal including the lighting and special effects.

    • Meatloaf604 on October 21, 2023 at 7:09 pm

      I went see Adam Lambert and Queen’s is best concert! I’m glad they picked Adam Lambert!

  3. Beryl Scaggs on October 20, 2023 at 7:12 pm

    I was at Madison Square Garden Oct -3 for Queen and Adam Lambert with my grandsons, 13 and 10 who love the Music of QUEEN. We thoroughly enjoyed every moment of the spectacular show. My grandsons were smiling and singing along to every song as was I. I wouldn’t even attempt to pick a part the show. It was an amazing experience watching Brian May and Roger Taylor both in their 70s perform as they did. Adam Lambert is perfect For his role as the Queen front man . I was very blessed. and fortunate to be able to share this wonderful experience with my grandsons. I will never forget it as long as I live on this earth and I hope they don’t either.

  4. Mollie Badilla on October 21, 2023 at 10:26 pm

    I Love Queen to no end …To me they are My Kings..mentally I see myself in their early years I lived their …that how close I feel to Queen …All of Them 💋 Along with Our Freddie Mercury and John Deacon.. cannot say how deep my feeling go…I am their age 76yrs. Old October 26, 1947… So yeah I feel a attachment…God Bless Queen…good job.

  5. Andrea on October 22, 2023 at 8:08 am

    I am a long-term Queen fan from Germany. I saw my 1st Queen concert in 1982 and have now been to the US for 4 shows, twice MSG and twice TD Garden. It is a never ending life experience to see this band. Finding Adam Lambert is the best thing that could happen to May and Taylor. He is phenomenal, exceptional in his performance with a voice that is second to none. I hope this combination is on stage for a long time to come. Wherever it is, I will be there.

  6. Alison on October 22, 2023 at 6:37 pm

    To me a curve ball would be if they they threw Flash in there…I absolutely LOVE that song…and the movie….me and one of my besties go around during the summer to all sorts of Queen Tributes and FINALLY one of them did Flash and I was pretty much the only person up and acting a fool.

    That being said I saw Queen and Adam in 2018. By far one of my favorite concerts. And Brian was wearing a Flash shirt. So I suppose in some way I got my wish 😂😂😂

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