The day after the Birmingham gig was like crawling from the wreckage of sensory overload.
I actually needed to be sensible that day; one of my various jobs is sports broadcasting and I was doing a live match commentary. This involves setting up equipment, talking to the studio and delivering nearly two hours of coherent material for the audience, together with a co-commentator. With a head full of guitar riffs and glorious top notes this was nearly impossible.
I know the Queen experience is always intense, but this was something else. Maybe it was because it was the nearest thing I’d heard to the Hyde Park gig all those years ago. The music had been beyond my wildest dreams. It was tight, well-rehearsed and slick; everything had worked like clockwork. The lighting was beautiful and the sound was well-balanced; a typical “big arena” gig from a band at the top of their game. But there was more than this; it was wild, joyful and emotional. Adam had owned that music; he’d been camp, fierce, forlorn and triumphant. It was more than a gig; it had been a piece of immense theatre and my senses felt fried beyond repair.
I got through the afternoon and that night, it was time to turn to the wonderful world of the internet. One of the first things I discovered was that there are lovely people who provide online fans with naughty live streams of the concerts.
As there was an almost relentless stream of QAL concerts to tune in to over the next few weeks, I was taking every opportunity I could to hear how the guys were performing as they moved across Europe – the stream and videos of the Hamburg concert were particularly stunning. They seemed to get better with every performance – until they started to get sick at the beginning of February.
It struck Brian first and he managed to play his way through a couple of concerts with flu, which is no mean feat for someone in their 60s. Adam fell ill next, and this caused huge waves of anguish on social media.
Upper respiratory diseases other than plain and simple colds (so flu, bronchitis, laryngitis and the like) are really bad news for singers. You can sing past colds, simple sore throats, sinusitis and some other conditions, but the problems start if your vocal cords or your lungs are affected. This either stops you being able to produce the sound, or you can’t get the air through your lungs properly. If you continue to try to sing, you can cause temporary or even permanent damage. This was bad news for Adam and when I listened to the stream of the Frankfurt concert, he performed beautifully but his voice sounded slightly fragile and husky. Although husky can sound attractive to the listener’s ear, if it’s not a part of the sound you normally make, it means there is something wrong. I felt panicky for him; I’ve been there and had to perform whilst sick and it’s deeply worrying. You want to perform for the audience and can’t bear the thought of letting them down, but there comes a point where you have to admit defeat and rest.
Vanglam76’s video of Save Me shows very well the difficulties that Adam was having. Watch and listen carefully; he sings with the mic much closer to his mouth than usual to save voice, and the tone is lighter than usual – he is using far more head voice and falsetto, and far less “twang” as this is tiring when you’ve got vocal problems. Also, the usual glory note at the end is missed. It’s still a beautiful rendition of the song, but it’s been done as economically as possible to allow him to get through the rest of the set.
As we all know, the Brussels concert was cancelled and Adam was ordered not to sing. After a couple of days’ off (and, I suspect, some intensive treatment), he was able had to use his voice carefully at the Milan gig; quite a number of the glory notes were cut, and he was employing some well-rehearsed “singer” tricks to get him through. As with the Frankfurt gig, he sings carefully; again, the mic is much closer to his mouth and doesn’t pull it away as he goes for a high note. This is a technique to take pressure off the voice which you can use if you’re amplified. Also, the sound guys turn up the knobs and will adjust the balance of the other singers to make them louder than usual. This makes the harmony sound fuller but to be honest, the audience notice very little at all. He was also getting the audience to sing along with him; it was all very subtle – excellently done, and was barely noticeable unless you’d been following all the chat on social media. He made it through, borne by the prayers of Glamberts worldwide.
In the event, Adam made a fantastic recovery and by Prague he was absolutely as good as ever. The sound quality on Veronika Bazalova’s video is excellent and you can hear that there is no huskiness; the sharp sweetness of Adam’s voice is back.
I make no apologies for choosing two examples of Save Me – the combination of Q + AL in this song is just sublime!
Whilst I was flitting from concert to concert online, I also found that there was a huge volume of material on YouTube, which will probably take me months to get through. I’d already watched some of the AI material, but there was a bewildering array out there. Initially I stuck to footage of previous concerts and it convinced me that I really needed to go to one of the other UK shows at the end of February. I’d scanned a lot of news reports about the QAL collaboration and there didn’t seem to be anything that suggested it would go on beyond the end of this tour. I had the horrible feeling that I’d found out about it too late; this really might be my last chance. There were a few tickets left for Sheffield, so I had a “sod it” moment and bought two.