Queen, Hammersmith Apollo, London
Kimya Dawson, The Haunt, Brighton
Brian May thinks Adam Lambert's 'a keeper', and the audience agrees
Sunday 15 July 2012
It's a bad day for badgers, which means it's a bad day for Queen. On the day when, much to Brian's dis-May, the legal bid to block the culling of the monochrome mustelids failed in the High Court, they take the stage with a black-haired, white-striped singer who must now be looking over his shoulder nervously.
All things considered, with the exception of Sacha Baron Cohen, already lined up to play the late Freddie Mercury in the biopic, Adam Lambert – American Idol runner-up and the first openly gay artist to have a Billboard No 1 album – is the perfect fit as Mercury's replacement, much better suited than the previous stand-in Paul Rodgers, who brought too much historical baggage of his own.
Queen, in my day and in my town, were always the squares' band, the favourite of chemistry students, rugby lads and homophobes. And yet they had the most outrageously camp frontman on the planet.
With his spiked diamante epaulettes, high heels and tight leather trousers which eventually split under his exertions, Lambert looks the part, hits the notes with ease, and if he doesn't quite have Freddie's voracious, imperious strut, you at least believe he means it when, before "Fat Bottomed Girls", he demands to "see some ass".
The set list relies too heavily on saccharine Eighties gloop – "Who Wants to Live Forever", "A Kind of Magic" and "These are the Days of Our Lives" is a particularly trying sequence – and an utterly pointless drum battle between Roger Taylor and his son Rufus, and guitar exhibition from May, have you looking at your watch.
But there's no arguing with hard-rocking early numbers such as "Seven Seas of Rhye", "Tie Your Mother Down" and "We Will Rock You", a song so good they play it twice. Nor with the grin-inducing "Flash" intro, Shaun of the Dead classic "Don't Stop Me Now", the Chic-inspired "Another One Bites the Dust", or the ersatz rockabilly of "Crazy Little Thing Called Love", which prompts a deafening "Ready, Freddie!" from the crowd.
Mercury is a Banquo-like presence, frequently appearing on nostalgic footage, singing "Love of My Life" from beyond the grave, and, in a pyrotechnics-packed "Bohemian Rhapsody", effectively duetting with Adam Lambert.
Of the novice, before the "We Are The Champions" finale, May says "I think he's a keeper, don't you?" Lambert has a busy schedule of his own, but on this evidence, Queen will be badgering him all the way.
Juno, the Jason Reitman film from 2007 about teenage pregnancy, divided opinion. Some inferred a conservative pro-Life agenda, others a liberal, feminist message. One thing on which everyone seemed agreed, however, was that the soundtrack was great, and in particular, the songs of Kimya Dawson.
The anti-folkster, formerly co-leader of The Moldy Peaches, is a delicate, retiring creature. I've never walked into a more library-like gig, glared at for a squeak of my shoe. It's as if we're all Attenboroughs, awaiting the annual emergence of some rare hibernating lemur, hushed lest we send it scurrying back into its burrow.
With her wild, tinted afro, Dawson is indeed an exotic creature, and to the untrained eye and ear she deals in the cute and the twee. It's a charge that certainly sticks to such songs as "Sunbeams and Some Beans". But it's conscious faux-naïvety. A woman of 39 who's smart enough to invoke Schrodinger, Dawson cleverly laces the childish stylings with unexpected darkness and depth.
There's poignancy ("I'm pretty sure you have a new girlfriend"), there's poetry ("my soul is just a whisper trapped inside a tornado") and, in a fantastic rap about indie preciousness, there's provocation. Most powerful, though, is the autobiographical "Walk Like Thunder", dedicated to various deceased friends, whose first verse contains the lines: "I woke up in the hospital with skin clammy and cold/And tubes in my urethra, down my throat, and up my nose." If you think that's cutesy or twee, you just aren't paying attention.
This year's Secret Garden Party brings a line-up including Alabama Shakes, Jim Jones Revue, Tim Minchin, Lianne La Havas, Little Dragon, Jacques Lu Cont, Niki & The Dove, Utah Saints and Beth Jeans Houghton & The Hooves of Destiny to Abbots Ripton, nr Huntingdon, Cambs (Fri, Sat, Sun 22 Jul). Meanwhile in Scotland, Scissor Sisters and Texas headline the Wickerman Festival near Dundrennan (Sat, Sun 22 Jul).
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