All of a sudden, there he was.

Queen's Brian May was sitting at the end of the catwalk at Dallas' American Airlines Center on Nov. 2, leading the audience in a singalong to the devastating acoustic ballad "Love of My Life." Cell phones lit up the venue, and the guitarist mused that if the audience waved them back and forth, magic might happen.

And then it did. Footage of the late Freddie Mercury from Wembley Stadium in 1986— hair cropped close, radiant in his Betty Boop tank top — played onscreen next to May, creating a haunting, decade- and cosmos-spanning duet. It was heartrending but not maudlin, as the smiling Mercury leavened the mood by waving and pointing his butt at the audience before disappearing into the ether again.

The specter of Mercury loomed over every aspect of Queen + Adam Lambert's ongoing Rhapsody Tour, from the cheeky pop-rock of "Don't Stop Me Now" to the thunderous, elegiac "The Show Must Go On." Much like Queen's discography as a whole, the two-hour-and-15-minute performance alternated between towering arena rock and Broadway-caliber camp and precision. When the band hit the sweet spot right in the middle, as on the euphoric "Somebody to Love" or the world-dominating "Bohemian Rhapsody," the results were transcendent, and the American Airlines Center was gripped with an almost religious fervor.

You can see the set list and exclusive photos from the performance below.

READ MORE: The Best Song From Every Queen Album

Mercury's presence was also felt among his ex-bandmates, May and Roger Taylor, who saluted him repeatedly throughout the night. And of course, he radiated through Lambert, who marveled that he's been performing with Queen for more than 10 years now. "I'm getting fucking old," he quipped. "But just know that every time I take the stage with these guys, I have Freddie Mercury in my heart."

The construction of Queen's current touring name is crucial. Lambert has never purported to be a replacement for Mercury, and he's the furthest possible thing from a tribute singer. He's a singular presence and once-in-a-generation talent, forged in the fires of touring stage productions and the American Idol finals, which now seem like a quaint footnote on his resume. Love or hate his interpretation of Queen classics, you cannot reasonably deny that he sings them with near-impeccable precision and effortless aplomb — all while strutting across the stage in platform heels.

The Rhapsody Tour is not intended to erase the past, but to embrace it. May and Taylor have earned that right as two co-architects of one of the most beloved bodies of work in rock history, and Lambert is a vessel to bring those songs to life. Everybody, from the stage to the rafters, is there to celebrate Mercury, and the sheer magnitude of his impact becomes overwhelmingly clear when 15,000 fans bellow his songs at once. It will never be enough, but it will have to make do. There's no trickery or pretense to the Rhapsody Tour, but quite often, there is a kind of magic.

Queen + Adam Lambert, 11/2/23, American Airlines Center, Dallas
1. "Machines (Or 'Back to Humans')" / "Radio Ga Ga"
2. "Hammer to Fall"
3. "Another One Bites the Dust"
4. "I'm in Love With My Car"
5. "Bicycle Race"
6. "Fat Bottomed Girls"
7. "I Want It All"
8. "A Kind of Magic"
9. "Killer Queen"
10. "Don't Stop Me Now"
11. "Somebody to Love"
12. "Love of My Life"
13. "'39"
14. Drum solo
15. "Under Pressure"
16. "Tie Your Mother Down"
17. "Crazy Little Thing Called Love"
18. "I Want to Break Free"
19. "Who Wants to Live Forever"
20. Guitar solo
21. "Is This the World We Created...?"
22. "The Show Must Go On"
23. "Bohemian Rhapsody"
24. "We Will Rock You"
25. "Radio Ga Ga" (Reprise)
26. "We Are the Champions"

Queen Live in Dallas on Nov. 2, 2023

The Rhapsody Tour dazzled at Dallas' American Airlines Center.

Gallery Credit: Bryan Rolli

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