You have to commend the TRNSMT team for their efforts in arranging a festival in the middle of Glasgow. After the inaugural event last year, offering a line-up catering to most tastes and having Biffy Clyro close out proceedings to appease the rock crowd, this year they’ve doubled down on their efforts to give two weekends of music with there really being something for everyone – including a full-blown rock day.
Featuring some of the best names in rock music today like The Temperance Movement, The Darkness, Gun and erm…Texas, you need a mammoth headliner. Enter: Queen and Adam Lambert. Add in sunshine, your usual fairground attractions, the standard festival prices and other than the lack of camping, you quickly forget you’re actually in a busy city centre.
Opening main stage is The Temperance Movement and there’s no-one more appropriate to start the day than this lot. With their short set, they hammer through the songs you’d expect, namely off their self-titled debut and latest album, A Deeper Cut. As always, frontman Phil Campbell is loaded with energy and bouncing across the stage, even refusing to remain still whilst sitting at his keyboard. The entire band are as tight as ever and clearly enjoying the chance to play in the middle of the afternoon on a blistering hot day. It’s only fitting they close the set with “Backwater Zoo”, Campbell’s very own dedication to his native Glasgow, their all-too short set a taste of what comes later.
Having only graced a Glasgow stage a few short weeks ago, The Darkness are back once more – only fitting given the massive influence Queen is to their sound. Playing the same set as last time around, though there is a brief deviation into Jim Diamond, they cover all bases of their career. Always entertaining and giving everything they’ve got, the transition to a heavier sound from The Temperance Movement’s rootsy notes is well-received. As a love letter to the hard rock bands of the 70s, they’re well past the point of their “comeback” and should be welcomed as a live staple.
For the only visit over to the King Tut’s stage, it’s one which is completely worth it: Hunter & the Bear. Taking things back into a more folky direction, the well-warranted crowd are appreciative of their sound. Still heavy enough to justify their inclusion on a day like this, they could also comfortably have found themselves on a couple of the other days and fitted in. There’s definitely some crossover appeal looking at the array of different people who have shown up to see them and their short set proves why very quickly. Whilst the Paper Heart material was largely neglected, they focus more on their recent singles and show not so much an evolution but a progression of their sound but still unmistakably them.
Perhaps the tamest act on the bill, the pop polish of Texas goes down well. Opening with “I Don’t Want a Lover” and “Halo” is a surprising move but one which pay dividends as it gets the crowd on-side from the start. But once they get into the swing of songs like “Summer Son”, “Black Eyed Boy”, “Inner Smile” and “Say What You Want”, you quickly realise how many recognisable songs they’ve had over the years. Whilst Sharleen Spiteri pays homage to being back home and demanding the crowd to shout louder, it quickly reaches the point of over-doing it. Making full use of the stage and the catwalk that has been erected as part of the headliner’s stage, she does know how to work a crowd and her voice still sounds like it did on their early hits. With a closer of “Suspicious Minds”, they leave the crowd on a high, suitably warmed up for the spectacle that follows.
With an interesting stage set-up, one of the obvious features of Queen and Adam Lambert’s show is the use of a suspended curved screen which rises and falls and works with the screen at the back. As Frank from News of the World (the same one which scared Stewie Griffin to death in Family Guy) appears and raises the screen, Queen and Adam Lambert are revealed to roars. Kicking their set off with “Seven Seas of Rhye”, for the next two hours Brian May and Roger Taylor defy their age and aided with the youth of Lambert prove why they continue to be a massive draw.
With the exception of a couple of omissions, the set plays roughly how you would expect; all the hits are here and at no point is there a lull. It shows just how many great songs the band had and how they have endured. Naturally, the elephant in the room is addressed early in proceedings by Lambert himself: no Freddie. But he’s not trying to be Freddie Mercury. To do so would be a fool’s errand. Much like when I last saw them, Lambert adapts the songs to his own vocal style and having to follow two of rock’s most iconic frontmen is no easy task. However, he does it with his own sense of pomp and flamboyance. Songs like “Play the Game” and “Killer Queen” become more extravagant and operatic but Lambert can also handle the harder edged numbers like “Tie Your Mother Down” and “Don’t Stop Me Now”.
Whilst Lambert may be handling the lion’s share of vocals, Roger Taylor steps up to the plate for “I’m in Love With My Car”, not missing a beat as he continues to drum, showing as much finesse behind the kit as he did over thirty years ago. Brian May has the crowd joining in for a round of “Loch Lomond” before one of the most touching moments of the night. As he and the crowd sing as one, the curved screen drops and Freddie appears from their Wembley ’86 gig (yeah, that gig) to lead its final moments whilst Brian reaches out his hand as if to touch his departed friend.
Continuing the reverence, “Somebody to Love” may not have the spine-tingling gravitas of George Michael’s rendition at its finalé but it sounds as grandiose as Queen’s original version did. Lightening the mood comes in the form of a drum battle between Taylor and Tyler Warren, it’s perhaps not as entertaining as Taylor’s with his son, Rufus but it’s kept to a short minimum because let’s face it, nothing in music will ever be as boring as a drum solo. However, the younger Taylor does make an appearance for “Under Pressure” as Lambert shares vocals with the Taylors.
Elsewhere, Brian May is raised from his solo efforts for a trippy space rock instrumental (complete with space imagery on the screens) before he indulges in the complexities of “Brighton Rock”. With much of the evening relying solely on the songs, other than the numerous costume changes and a couple of questionable moments as Lambert straddled Frank’s head for “Killer Queen” and rode a tricycle during “Bicycle Race”, nights like this prove that if the songs are good enough, you don’t need theatrics. There’s the usual reliance of pre-recorded opera moment for “Bohemian Rhapsody” and rather than choose to recreate one of the most iconic scenes in film history, the crowd chooses to bounce, not headbang. But to use the greatest song of all time to close a thrilling show is a wonderful weapon to have in your arsenal.
Freddie from that gig re-appears to perform a shortened version of his call and response and it speaks volumes that 32 years later and even as a piece of footage, he can command a crowd of thousands. Naturally, the encore consists of “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions” before the band take their bows to their rendition of “God Save the Queen”.
It’s a strange concept to think that Mercury has now been gone longer than he performed with Queen but his legacy lives on. Love and attention are given to some of rock’s most iconic songs, Lambert gives both May and Taylor their due credit from start to finish and whilst he can never take the place of Freddie, he never attempts to. It’s a fact the audience are mindful of too, showing up to celebrate a truly legendary band, knowing it will never be the same as it once was but accepting it with open arms regardless.
A sweaty, bouncy after-party at King Tut’s follows with The Temperance Movement giving a fleshed-out set and they’re having fun, obviously relishing in the chance to play in a tiny venue. They’re all soaked with sweat within minutes and work as consummate professionals to side-step Nick Fyffe’s initial bass troubles. As Phil Campbell calls this “the real gig”, it’s a comfortable end to bring the night to a close in intimate confines. The band use the opportunity to dig out some deep cuts as they know they’re playing to some of their most hardcore fans. There may not be much room for Campbell to bounce like usual but he makes the best of the situation.
The entire band look more at ease and it looks like they used this afternoon as more of a warm-up session, saving the goods for those lucky enough to snag a ticket. There’s an incredible energy in the room, much like the past two Barrowlands gigs but this tiny gig certainly marks an “I was there moment” in the band’s career. Whilst those who saw Queen and Adam Lambert as their final band can say they ended it on a high, The Temperance Movement ensured that high continued.
With their first “proper” rock day in the books and a high number of people attending and offering a broad sampling of the rock spectrum, giving newer acts the chance to rub shoulders with the established ones and the legends, another day like this for TRNSMT 2019 would go down very well.