A Tale Of Two Cities – Rio and Porto Alegre

Continuing on with their rapid fire tour of South America, QAL played at the legendary Rock in Rio festival and then travelled south to Porto Alegre. It must have been an amazing experience for all of them, for different reasons.  For Brian and Roger, it was the return, 30 years after the first festival when together with John and Freddie, they blew the place away.  I’m sure they could never have imagined getting the chance to be there for a second time. For Adam, it was a debut at one of the biggest festivals in the world. No pressure then.

QAL south america

Pic credit: @linyoliveira

After a really solid performance at Sao Paulo, Rio was a considerable step up for everyone.  Not only was there the issue of that enormous crowd, but there were logistical challenges – which I think did have an effect on the overall show.  Of course for Porto Alegre they were back to their usual arrangements.  For this reason, rather than do a straight review, I think I’m going to make a few comparisons between the two gigs as there are some points of interest that I’ve seen talked about on Twitter.

OK, the most obvious difference is that for Rio, QAL were part of a much, much larger show and for Porto Alegre they were the reason for the show itself. But – the buzz on Twitter about Rio was that QAL were one of the most eagerly anticipated and talked about bands.  They have been huge on this continent for decades and the fans have never forgotten.  Of course, that sort of expectation adds its own stress to the situation.

rock in rio

Pic credit: therealrobv (Instagram)

As it was, Rio – although an amazing gig, wasn’t entirely trouble free.  First of all, the band were dealing with a rather different stage space.  This sounds an odd thing, but when you are used to working with a familiar stage set, it can be very off-putting dealing with a strange one.  Your journeys around the stage are different and this can be a vital factor; injuries from falls can be very unpleasant (remember what happened to Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters earlier this year?).  Sight lines to your fellow players are altered, lighting states will vary and some lighting cues may work differently (or not at all). And with Rio being a festival involving many other performers, rehearsal time is limited and detailed run throughs are generally not possible.  Therefore you have to get on stage and get on with it – and hope that you don’t get too distracted.  Even the most seasoned performers can slip up under these conditions.

There were definitely some technical issues; these included mic failures – this was particularly noticeable during Save Me when Adam had to be rescued by some very quick work from Rufus, as you can see in this clip:

(video from MegaEverton81’s YouTube uploads)

There were also a few bits of unfathomable lighting and I noticed one or two tuning problems for Brian – I’m guessing that this was down to the heat and humidity, as guitar strings don’t like being subjected to this sort of thing and I think the onstage temperature would have been in the high 90s, even at midnight. Adam also mixed up one or two vocal lines; a couple of bits of Don’t Stop Me Now were in the wrong order, but this time he absolutely nailed The Show Must Go On, which is one of the songs that he’s slipped up in before now.

(video from Queen + Adam Lambert Live (unofficial)’s YouTube uploads)

So, before I move on to Porto Alegre, this whole thing about performance errors.  It’s caused a few bits of furious debate on social media.  Of course, the Adam haters have picked up on his slips and don’t approve; in fact some of the QAL disapprovers have also hinted that other errors are a sign that the rest of the band ought to give up and draw their pensions. Reasonable criticisms? Not in my universe, I’m afraid, although anyone who disagrees is quite at liberty to create their own parallel universe and live happily in it.

At the other end of the scale, I’ve also noticed a few of Adam’s fans getting very upset at the implication that he could get lyrics wrong. Here’s a thing; if you perform live, things can and will go wrong – and this happens to absolutely everyone. I’ve never met a professional performer in my life who hasn’t made an error at some point. I’ve done some beauties, and I can honestly say that there is nothing compares with the utter terror of forgetting your words. Having your teeth out or doing a bungee jump just doesn’t compare; your brain turns to soup and everyone knows you’ve fucked up. That’s how it feels, but actually what happens is that your professional training takes over and you cover it up.  Most of the time your audience don’t realise a thing.

But – there are people who notice errors; I notice them, but that’s because I spent years at music college learning how to notice them…. and criticise them,,, and obsess about them.  And years later I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of the time, it can spoil your enjoyment of the music.  Errors happen because it’s live and dangerous – and that’s the way Queen have always done it.  They could take the easy way out with tapes and all sorts of other devices to relieve the stress of performance and make everything safer, but that’s not what they want.  They want that risk; they want to dive off Niagara Falls every time they perform and if there are little slips, who cares? Nobody dies and the music is still amazing.

porto alegre

Pic credit: @linyoliveira

Now I’ve had my little rant about that, let’s move on to Porto Alegre. This was different again from Sao Paulo and Rio. and the word on Twitter was that this was easily the best yet. As I have to try and earn a living by working during the day, I couldn’t stay up half of the UK night to watch this one, so had to catch up later with social media and the material on YouTube. it’s been more difficult to find clips with a high sound quality as the TV stream for Rio was excellent and there wasn’t anything comparable to watch.

The standout thing about Porto Alegre was the joy. I think in many ways, Rio was quite a tough gig; it would have been very emotional for all of them, for different reasons and sometimes that can get in the way.  But when you can stand there and perform for the love of it, we all get that love too. Don’t Stop Me Now shows this beautifully, although the sound on this clip is a bit patchy, I’m afraid.

(video from vanglam76’s YouTube uploads)

By all accounts, Porto Alegre sounded incredible. I’m hoping that when some of the other guys I know get back home, I’ll be able to get some reviews from them to post on here. With a bit of luck, more clips will be uploaded on to YouTube to give us a better idea of how good it all sounded. The important thing is that the guys were obviously able to really relax into this performance and it just demonstrated how well they work together.

Today there have been some more encouraging sounds about more QAL in 2016.  When interviewed about his feature-length 3D film project, Dr Brian was also asked about the possibility of more music being on the agenda.  The article from Billboard is here:

http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/rock/6707893/brian-may-diableries-film-queen

And in any case, if they are enjoying themselves so much performing, Don’t Stop Them Now?

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10 thoughts on “A Tale Of Two Cities – Rio and Porto Alegre

  1. You are so right Kym–“stuff”happens whe3n you play live and dangerous. Even Freddie sometimes forgot the lyrics to the songs HE WROTE, and was notorious for making up lyrics on the fly. I’ve seen clips of him singing utter gibberish during some of those lapses 🙂

    At any rate, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It sure beats lip-syncing and auto tune. Give me “live and dangerous” any old time!!

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  2. Another excellent review! I can’t believe that a few flubbed lyrics caused so many complaints. Who cares! That’s what a live performance involves. If they want perfection, they can stay home and listen to their recordings instead.

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  3. Love your insightful comments. I agree. I would far rather hear/see a live performance and I really don’t care if Adam gets the lyrics wrong sometimes. His overall performance is always professional, polished & extraordinary. Just listened to Buenas Aires concert and will be interested in reading your comments. I loved it!!

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  4. Pingback: Adam Lambert Update – Sept. 19-26, 2015 |

  5. I was there and Queen’s concert in Rock in Rio is considered THE BEST of the festival. Nobody noticed these “errors” and the audience get overwhelmed the whole time, so I think this kind of comments are irrelevant. Everybody in Brazil LOVES Queen and Adam ❤ Rock in Rio's concert was by far the best of my life and I think they were GREAT.

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  6. I watched some of the South America performances and it seems to me Adam has been less animated through some of the songs near the end of the show. One example is CLTCL. Adam could be so animated during that song, but he just seemed to mostly stand and sing with a few moments of animation. He is a lot more animated during the first songs before he changes his clothes. The more animated he is, the more I enjoy it. He was a lot more animated when he sang DSMN. I think an animated singer energizes the audience. That certainly worked for Freddie. It is hard to see how animated the audience was in the shows.

    In Rio, it appeared that there were a lot of young people in the audience. I noticed that the audience seemed to be very familiar with some songs and not very familiar with others. I wondered if these young audience members were children of parents who attended the 1985 show and now their children were going to see the group they heard so much about from their parents.

    There was a lot of hype before RIR but not a lot of press afterward. I have not been able to find any real reviews of the show. Most of what was written was about Ghost Town. Before I saw RIR with Adam, I watched the 1985 show with Freddie. That got me thinking about the different circumstances between then and now that are independent of Freddie and Adam.

    In 1985, with no internet and no Youtube and no filming of concerts, when an artist or a group came to town to perform, you had no idea of what the show you would see would be like. All you knew was that the artist(s) were going to perform. 30 years later, the entire show is on the internet at least from 67 different cities. Real fans of Adam and/or Queen would have likely seen the show before at least once. No one knew if Queen and Adam would have come to South America. So, I would say most of the audience already knew what they were going to see. How different does that make the audience compared to the 1985 audience? Also, in 1985, no one in the audience was filming the show with their phone. The entire audience was reactive to the singer. Now, a lot of the audience, especially people in the front, are standing stock still with no facial reaction to the singer. That has to have some affect on the singer, compared to an audience where everyone was available to have a facial and bodily reaction to the singer. I know that my experience at any kind of show is better when the audience is instantly reactive to what is going on. In 1985, music wasn’t as readily available as it is now. You could record off the radio, but people were still listening to LPs and cassettes. Seeing a live performance by a band was more rare. In 1985, Queen was at or close to its peak. Queen music was being played on the radio. There was new music every so often. Queen’s music was more well known. In 2015, Queen’s music is not played on the radio that much. Since the tour with Adam, I have heard more Queen music on tv than on the radio. A few songs are played in stadiums. So, how do these differences factor into how the QAL concert was received by the audience at the show and and online? Is the expectation for Adam greater than it was for Freddie?

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  7. The expectation from Adam is much greater in my opinion. There are numerous die hard and vocal Queen fans who refuse to open up their minds and hearts. They are missing so much cause this guy is exceptional , according to them Freddie is irreplaceable and its sacrilegious for them to even try. Queen music lives in a live setting once again, brilliantly I might add and we as fans should feel extremely blessed and grateful. I saw Queen in 84 and it was my favourite concert ever but QAL in concert last year was for me equally as good because of Adam he’s breathing new life into this amazing catalogue. How friggin’ lucky are we!!!

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    • It’s so true. Too many of these vocal, close-minded critics who think of themselves as the only true Queen fans, have put Freddie so high up on a pedestal that they can’t see the talent right in front of them. And Adam does play a big role in keeping the music alive, and the proof is in the sales numbers following the Rio concert: several of Queen’s songs charted on iTunes in Brazil, including their greatest hits album, which I think hit #1 as well as “Love of My Life”. This wouldn’t have happened if not for a LIVE performances of their catalog…by a gifted singer and performer named Adam Lambert.

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