It’s always fraught when a classic rock band tours without its original singer, particularly when that person is dead. Queen devotees definitely fall in the top 5 of divided fan bases since the powerful and imaginative British rock titans were gifted with one of the most legendary entertainers in rock history in Freddie Mercury, who passed away in 1991.
Those who believe guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor are desecrating his memory by touring with Adam Lambert, who first met and played with the duo when he was competing on “American Idol,” were likely not among the robust crowd at the Queen + Adam Lambert show at the TD Garden Tuesday.
Many in the audience looked young enough to have been robbed of the chance of actually seeing the band with Mercury — and retired original bassist John Deacon — and eagerly took the opportunity to see what May, Taylor, Lambert, and a trio of backing musicians had cooked up.
It was an intriguing, thoughtfully curated, 2-hour, 10-minute performance.
There were plenty of hits sung by Lambert, a fine singer in his own right who clearly shares a kinship to Mercury in terms of theatrical flair but who wisely avoided mimicry of the inimitable legend.
His best moments came during the songs that played up his range and stamina. The grand, gospel-tinged pleader “Somebody to Love,” the high drama “Who Wants to Live Forever,” and the sky-scraping wails of “Under Pressure” were particularly well suited to his vocal prowess and performance style.
Taylor and May also took the opportunity to step up to the microphone, in part to pay tribute to their old friend. May, nimble as ever on his elastic solos, was particularly moved at the reception to a joyfully celestial midset version of the Beatlesque “Love of My Life” that featured an audience sing-along and an appearance from Mercury on video. Taylor tackled the poignant “These Are the Days of Our Lives” as younger visions of the quartet floated by onscreen.
Mercury also got the final word during the still giddy and combustible “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Lambert cheekily returned for the encore of “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions” in a fabulous sparkly crown.
Sarah Rodman can be reached at email@example.com.