The ardent weather watching started 48 hours out from kick off in the venue affectionately known to Queenslanders as The Cauldron. Kick off at this place would usually entail beefy tattooed men, a round shape piece of pigskin and the odd war cry in the absence of a Mexican wave. This kick off, IMHO, was far superior. Instead of a ball being launched high into the air to signal the start of a rugby game, it was Brian May launching one of his legendary guitar riffs, signalling the start to the long awaited Brisbane performance of Queen with Adam Lambert filling Freddie’s platform shoes.
Brisbane law dictates that if you’re an international megastar, usually with a resume spanning several decades with fans who include the offspring of your older fans, you are credentialed enough to play at Suncorp Stadium. Or Lang Park, as some of us continue to insist, if only to piss Suncorp off.
Queen perfectly meets this criteria and Suncorp trumped over the tired, distant and frankly hideous Boondall venue. That joint has far too much of Bjelke-Petersen’s ongoing influence aimed to make it as hard as possible for regular Brisbane punters to see a decent show and have a bit of fun. Hello, Special Branch? 2020 is calling.
Firstly it is set in a forest, meaning neighbours too stingy to fork out for a ticket are denied the advantage of settling in on their verandah with a bottle of Pinot to listen for free. Nearby residents of Suncorp will avidly recount their joy of hearing the vocals of Paul McCartney or Chris Martin singing clear as a bell across Brisbane’s inner city suburbs, especially on a still night.
No one has bothered to update the restaurants in Boondall since 1986, nor have they bothered to update the menu. Whilst the standard fare of deep fried anything and cheap wine in plastic cups is aplenty, so too is coronation chicken and bombe Alaska if you can be bothered to sit at one of their limited restaurants.
It’s usually easier to order Uber Eats to be delivered to your car while queuing along the Gateway Motorway for 15 hours to get to the car park. Or you can get the train, and walk approximately three kilometres through Ivan Milat inspired bush tracks (think poor lighting, dark pockets and debris to cover the body). Not so much fun on your way to the concert; even less fun on your way back from the concert.
When the show is over, and everyone is on a high, and happy punters are pouring out of the two or three doors they deign to have open to discharge patrons, there’s absolutely bloody nothing to do. Nothing. In that mood, you want to keep dancing to whoever was playing that night, you want another drink, and you probably want a kebab. In that order. Instead you get to walk around in a daze for half an hour looking for your car, before you join what resembles The Human Caterpillar but for cars and inch your way out. All going well you should be home by 2am.
So I guess you can tell I don’t like Boondall.
Finding out Queen had opted for Suncorp Stadium was fabulous news. I’ve been to a few gigs there over the years, starting with Bowie’s Serious Moonlight tour circa 1983 when it was still Lang Park, and you could smoke and drink to your heart's content while bopping around on the grass, and nobody gave a shit. Robbie Williams, Coldplay, U2 - but I’m sorry to say I didn’t make it to Paul McCartney. Wish I had.
It’s easy to get to, and if you’re partial to a bit of a pub crawl, there’s a track sensibly laid out taking you right to the front door. I’m sure this was put in place by town planners who had people’s best interests at heart.
Last night, it was raining. And not spitting, not drizzling - it was pouring. Bucketing down, relentlessly, with no regard to the fact that half the country was in flames last month and we all felt it was somewhat inconsiderate that it didn’t show up then.
Suddenly the third-row-from-the-front seats, which cost a month’s rent, and I had endlessly boasted about to people I know and people I’d just met, seemed secondary to those who held nose-bleed seats under cover.
Nevertheless, we fortified ourselves with a half dozen whiskeys (for battle courage) and hiked up there. If you wanted to sneak in alcohol or drugs, in clear defiance of stadium policy, last night would have been the night. The geniuses who set up the bag checks and body scans at the entrances forgot to look out the window and notice the rain. Meaning they didn't provide wet weather coverage for the casual staff who scored a work gig for the night. Those poor workers, they were so pissed off by the lack of cover they barely glanced in your bag before ushering you through.
I’d brought a hand towel to thoughtfully wipe our seats dry before sitting on them, but that was about as helpful as using your hands to scoop water out of the Titanic.
Mercifully there was no warm up band, so I was spared the intolerable cruelty that has so often beset me where I sit hunched in my seat while some wannabe has its moment of fame. I realise the wannabe can at times go on to eventually headline, just look at Keith Urban and John Farnham, but I pay to see the main act not the fluffer.
Almost bang on 8pm we could hear Brian May playing around on his guitar, and then time stopped, even if the rain didn’t. But to be honest I barely noticed it. I’d never got to see Freddie perform live but I reckon if anyone was going to take his place, it was Adam Lambert.
Adam Lambert made no apology for his flamboyance, vocal range or gold sparkly eyeshadow. He didn’t cower in Freddie’s shadow or beg us to not compare. He respected everything that is so uniquely Freddie Mercury and then he set about adding his own ingredients so what we got was energy, ownership and a performer who gave the drenched audience exactly what they wanted - a good time.
As someone who saw the movie Bohemian Rhapsody 41 times (I was aiming for 40 but I was pleasantly surprised to find it playing on a cruise) I would watch the Live Aid performance and long to be in the crowd punching the air to Radio Ga Ga. Last night was just as good. Forty thousand people arms aloft. I’d found my tribe.
And the pub crawl works just as well in reverse.