It is 6:30pm on a Tuesday at the AO Arena Manchester.
Showtime isn’t for an hour and a half, but already there’s a steady stream of people taking their seats and trotting into the mosh pit.
The almost electric anticipation isn’t surprising given people here have held tight to their tickets for over two years.
It’s even less surprising since they are here to see Queen and Adam Lambert.
Thanks to the 2009 American idol runner-up turned frontman, Queen have enjoyed a new lease of life over the past decade, bolstered by the success of 2018 biopic Bohemian Rhapsody.
A two-year hiatus has not dented the enthusiasm of their diverse fanbase.
There are children who cling to parents’ arms, awestruck, bearing their Queen t-shirts.
There are teenage girls who scream and jump, and the band hasn’t yet made an appearance.
There are elderly couples, who sit silently, solemnly taking in the significance of the moment.
And what a moment.
The show begins with an audio clip of the riveting opening drum rolls from Inuendo, accompanied by projections that create a theatre stage with rich red curtains, before the man of the hour is revealed.
Adam Lambert is not Freddie Mercury, nor, as he is keen to point out, is he trying to replace the enigmatic frontman.
However, as he opens the show with the appropriately named, Now I’m Here, it’s easy to see why he’s been chosen by two of music’s biggest icons to complete their revamped ensemble.
Dressed in a sparkling black suit, top hat, and pearl necklace, Lambert displays the vocals, confidence- and campness, needed to pull off Queen’s hits.
“I’m a homosexual… so don’t stop me now!” he sings, too much laughter, his ease a testament to the inclusivity always demonstrated by the band and their audience.
Then there’s the music!
Instantly recognisable from his mop of curls, Brian May has lost none of his musical prowess as he takes centre-stage with his famous handmade red-special guitar for his solos in Killer Queen and In The Lap Of The Gods.
Dressed in a sleek grey shirt and skinny jeans, he displays a youthful energy everyone should aspire to maintain at 74.
Roger Taylor too, dressed in majestic black velvet, attacks his drums with the same enthusiasm.
His infamous I’m In Love With My Car- a homage to boy racers, is a guaranteed crowd pleaser and demonstrates his earthy, Rod Stewart like tones.
Bicycle Race is a highlight; astride a shining motorbike, Lambert rises from below the stage.
The witty back and forth between him, May and Taylor appears effortless.
Then the evening takes a mellow turn.
May’s bittersweet rendition of Love Of My Life, concluded by old footage of Mercury, brings a definite lump to the throat.
These Are the Days of Our Lives, written by Taylor when the band was dealing with Mercury’s illness, is performed as a poignant duet between May and Taylor, accompanied by footage of the band’s early years, before Lambert joins in, representative of their moving onwards.
No expense is spared on production.
There is a stunning guitar number from May, set where else but in space; the staging is truly out of this world as he ascends on a giant Asteroid!
Arguably, the best number is A Kind of Magic, accompanied by strobe lighting while May fires sparks from the head of his guitar.
After the pop-rock fun of I Want To Break Free, there are official Introductions and thanks from May to the musicians and behind the scenes crew.
Spike Edney who has accompanied the band for many years, stuns on keyboard.
On percussion, is the talented Tyler Warren and Manchester’s own Neil Fairclough wows on bass.
But the biggest thanks are reserved for Lambert, without whom the band would not be enjoying this fresh chapter.
Their genuine chemistry with the new frontman- his flamboyance and energy so reminiscent of Mercury’s, is clear.
“Is this what I gotta do when I meet the Queen?” he asks, curtseying.
“Don’t think I’d be allowed to wear a dress,” he quips, referring to the latest of many costume changes.
“He’s Adam Lambert, he can do what he likes!” May retorts.
After the gritty, I Want It All- a rock anthem which never fails to get the blood pumping, the set ends, of course, with Bohemian Rhapsody.
Mercury’s projection appears one last time to entertain the crowd with his famous Ay-oh’s, before the encore We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions.
It is apparent from their exhilarated faces that May and Taylor aren’t in it for money or publicity, but out of genuine love for what they do.
Their relief at being back in front of a crowd is palpable- May has been open about his recent health issues and disappointment at being unable to interact with fans as on previous tours since the band are following strict covid precautions.
Despite the setbacks, the message is clear; Queen is back, and she is stronger than ever!
The Rhapsody Tour, will span 12 countries and 18 cities.