I’m not really a music festival person.
I don’t mind the smaller ones, where you can arrive at a particular time to see an act you’re interested in, then leave. But those big ones where you’re supposed to stay there all day, at the mercy of the elements… Not really my thing.
Would I have wanted to be at Woodstock? Of course not! Rain, insufficient food, inadequate toilets, overcrowded, bad drugs everywhere… Plus, the inadequate sound system coupled with the overcrowding meant that most attendees couldn’t even see or hear the amazing performances.
Live Aid? Well it was certainly better organized, and they got great weather. All acts I loved, too. Still, that seems like a hell of long day to be standing there in the heat, watching one 20-minute performance on stage, one 20-minute performance “by satellite, from Philadelphia.”
But the beauty of a really big festival is you don’t have to suffer through that to see it. Woodstock became a movie. Live Aid was shown on TV.
And man, can that reach boost careers. Woodstock, the movie, made The Who superstars in the States. Everyone who performed at Live Aid subsequently sold more records. And for Queen, the incredible response to their stunning performance possibly saved the band from breakup; it most certainly re-energized their career.
But that’s all ancient history. I had no idea, really, whether current artists benefit in the same way from playing big festivals. Logically, some must have had an earth-shattering performance at Coachella or Glastonbury or South by Southwest that changed everything for them. I just can’t name a single one of them. I generally don’t watch festivals broadcasts anymore.
So why Rock in Rio? Because—you guessed it—the headiners were Queen + Adam Lambert. That the performance start time was just after 11:30 pm and that they played for over two hours was no deterrent. Pyjamas on, Internet feed sent to the big-ass TV connected to the surround-sound system, husband conveniently out of town and therefore not bothered by the noise—I was good to go.
Background on Rock in Rio: Queen more or less established this festival 30 years ago, with (yet another) iconic performance. The band had never played South America before, and were stunned that the ginormous crowd (something like 85,000 people) knew all the words. Even to less popular songs like “Love of my Life”.
This was Adam Lambert’s first time in South America, and only his second festival performance ever. At pre-performance press conference, he was typically humble and respectful of Queen’s legacy, but also confident he was up to the challenge. Brian May agreed that not only did Freddie and Adam both have extraordinary vocal abilities, they both have an inherent ability to really connect with an audience.
The confidence and praise were borne out. The show was so worth staying up for. While the fan-made YouTube videos of various Q + AL concerts are plentiful and often of surprisingly good quality, they just can’t match what professional camera operators with full stage access, plugged into the actual sound system, can provide. The audio and video quality were terrific. I had no streaming issues whatsoever (other than having to get off my butt every 15 minutes or so to move the mouse so the computer didn’t go to sleep. Hadn’t thought to change those settings ahead of time.)
Some highlights were, of course, the usual ones you get any of these Q + AL shows: the getting on your bikes and riding during “Fat Bottomed Girls”; the camping it up during “Killer Queen”; the welling up after Freddie’s appearance in “Love of My Life”; reveling in the father / son drum battle; floating on the beauty of “Who Wants to Live Forever”; fist pumping to “I Want It All”; clapping along with “Radio Gaga¨ (yes, even in my TV room); drooling over the five costume changes (super-tight pants a key feature of each outfit).
Adam camping it up during “Killer Queen”. This never gets old!
Other pleasures were specific to this show:
- The teasing handling of singalong at the start of “Don’t Stop Me Now”.
- The incredibly professional handling of the audio problems at the start of “Save Me”,
- Roger taking lead on “A Kind of Magic” instead of his usual “Those Were the Days”.
- The sheer size of the crowd clapping to “Radio Gaga”, and Adam jumping in amongst them anyway, security guys scrambling behind him.
And, and, most definitely, the performance of Adam’s single, “Ghost Town”.
That a song Adam co-wrote was included in the set and didn’t seem a poor cousin to the Queen classics, but truly was one of the highlights, is amazing. A good song is a good song. And I love this rock version of it.
And an interesting lesson in how modern artists do get a boost from festival appearances that are broadcast worldwide, even if the likes of me aren’t aware of it. The playing of “Ghost Town” seemed to be the major news items to come out of Q + AL’s appearance there. Adam’s followers on every social media have notably increased. And the original song–which has been out since April–has reached new highs on the charts not only in Brazil, but also in the US, Canada, and worldwide.
Bring on that Adam Lambert North American tour, baby.
(Umm, but with an emphasis on indoor performances, please! 🙂
Handy YouTube playlist of the whole concert, but broken up by song, so you can pick and choose: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLVB1hnGUslGuRyj9FT6AZ_WA2pztBwMPA
An article on “Ghost Town”’s chart boost from Rock in Rio: Adam Lambert enters Billboard’s Pop Songs Top 20