In an interview a decade ago, Brian May explained why he couldn't let go of Queen.

He had wrestled with the idea, and tried various solo projects, following the passing of Freddie Mercury and the subsequent retirement of bassist John Deacon.

He tried "running away" for a long time, but decided it was futile.

"Why should I fight the very thing I'd worked so hard to build up for all those years?" reasoned May. "Why can't I just be proud of it?"

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Why not, indeed.

Adam Lambert, Roger Taylor and Brian May. Photo / Getty Images.
Adam Lambert, Roger Taylor and Brian May. Photo / Getty Images.

After a spectacular performance on Friday night in Auckland, more than 40,000 fans would be nodding in agreement at May's sentiments.

Though some have mixed feelings about the post-Mercury era, Queen and Adam Lambert brought the magic to Mt Smart on a perfect summer night.

It was large, bombastic and fantastic. They rocked, they rolled and they reigned.

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Queen's Brian May: Don't stop me now

Adam Lambert, Brian May and Roger Taylor. Photo / Getty Images.
Adam Lambert, Brian May and Roger Taylor. Photo / Getty Images.

The vast majority of the audience wouldn't have seen the original lineup, who only toured New Zealand once, in 1985.

But if you closed your eyes for a moment on Friday, it wasn't that hard to imagine Queen in their pomp, at Knebworth Castle, Budapest, Wembley, or Rio.

May's signature riffs were as thrilling as ever, Roger Taylor has lost none of his power or touch and Lambert was doing a remarkable job of respecting Mercury's legacy while also showing his own mastery of Queen's extensive back catalogue.

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Mercury could never be replaced, with his unique stage presence and legendary vocal range, and Lambert made it clear early on he wasn't trying to.

Adam Lambert in full flight at Mt Smart Stadium. Photo / Getty Images.
Adam Lambert in full flight at Mt Smart Stadium. Photo / Getty Images.

"Let's address the pink elephant in the stadium," said Lambert, after a stirring rendition of Killer Queen. "I'm a fan just like you. There will only be one Freddie Mercury...the rock god."

He asked the crowd to "give him a chance", before launching into Don't Stop Me Now, one of the highlights as they expertly built to a crescendo.

Queen were always known for their strong production values, impeccable musicianship, sense of fun and theatrics. Those core values haven't changed, with brilliant use of visuals and lighting and a performance that was perfectly paced.

It was a powerful start, with May's silhouette high above the stage, as he hammered out an extended intro to Now I'm Here. Lambert then sprung into action, bouncing around the stage in his platform heels, while Taylor lashed into the drums. Queen were back, and what an entrance, in front of a spectacular baroque set.

Brian May unleashes another solo. photo / Getty Images.
Brian May unleashes another solo. photo / Getty Images.

That set the tone for a night of fantasy and fun, with May at the apex, capped off by one of the most remarkable solos you'll ever see.

Lambert showed his penchant for audience interaction during Somebody to Love, while the sequence of Bicycle Race/Fat Bottomed Girls, with the singer emerging from underneath the stage on a white Harley, was brilliant.

May got a little melancholy during Love of My Life - "I'm 11,000 miles from home and all these beautiful lights made me feel like I am home" as the audience sang and waved their phones in the air.

They were playing to several different generations, and mixed in a few b sides and cult favourites, along with the anthems.

Brian May and Adam Lambert tear it up at Mt Smart Stadium. Photo / Getty Images.
Brian May and Adam Lambert tear it up at Mt Smart Stadium. Photo / Getty Images.

There was also a rendition of Doing All Right - "You may have seen this in a movie" teased Taylor, while the drummer did David Bowie proud during Under Pressure.

Queen has a huge stable of hits, but managed to get through most, from Keep Yourself Alive, to The Show Must Go On.

After almost two and a half hours they took their final bow, after their trademark encore, with We Are The Champions are the finale.

Accompanied by the strains of God Save the Queen, Lambert clutched his crown, then stepped back quickly, allowing May and Taylor to soak in the rest of the applause.

As they exited, May, wearing a black New Zealand t-shirt with a koru design, stopped for one last wave, seemingly thrilled and exhausted at the same time.

"That was a hell of a show," said a beaming man in the next row. "That was the first concert I've brought my boys to. You've got to be happy with that."

As the crowd filtered out, humming their favourite tunes, no one was disagreeing.