Taken from Nashville Scene (July 27, 2017)
A Die-Hard Queen Fan Considers Queen + Adam Lambert
Ahead of the groupâ€™s stop at Bridgestone, a look at what it means to carry on the legacy of a rock icon
by Abby White
As a lifelong Queen megafan and a charter member of Nashvilleâ€™s Queen Breakfast Club (which is just what it sounds like), when I first heard that the legendary rock act was touring with former American Idol contestant Adam Lambert, my initial reaction was, Why?
Queen, as a band, has been dead since 1991, the year that frontman Farrokh Bulsara, better known as Freddie Mercury, died. The star-studded Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness in 1992 featured the reunion of his three bandmates â€” guitarist Brian May, bassist John Deacon and drummer Roger Taylor â€” plus killer performances from George Michael, Annie Lennox and David Bowie, Elton John and Axl Rose, among others. Itâ€™s also probably the only time Liza Minnelli shared a stage with Spinal Tap. That would have been a fitting end to the glorious 20-year reign of a band as regal as its name.
But it wasnâ€™t. In 2004, May and Taylor launched a collaboration with Bad Companyâ€™s Paul Rodgers, an act that toured as Queen + Paul Rodgers and recorded the album The Cosmos Rocks. Deacon, who penned some of Queenâ€™s biggest hits â€” including â€śAnother One Bites the Dust,â€ť â€śUnder Pressureâ€ť and â€śYouâ€™re My Best Friendâ€ť â€” had not appeared with the band since a one-off performance in 1997, and continues to choose to remain out of the picture. The bar was set quite low by the 2002 musical We Will Rock You (Brian Logan of The Guardian wasnâ€™t exaggerating when he called the play â€śtraumatisingâ€ť and â€śruthlessly manufacturedâ€ť), but while the act Queen + Paul Rodgers wasnâ€™t exactly dynamite and laser beams, it wasnâ€™t bad.
Naturally, when I heard about May and Taylor working with Lambert, I was suspicious. Mercury took the idea of being a frontman to an otherworldly level from the very beginning. He paced the stage like a lion surveying his domain, brandishing his microphone like a weapon, and heâ€™d rile up the crowd by toasting them with Champagne or riding around on Darth Vaderâ€™s shoulders. His sartorial choices through the years â€” the Zandra Rhodes-designed white cape of early Queen performances, that harlequin jumpsuit he donned in the late â€™70s, the white tank/tight jeans combo he wore for Queenâ€™s magnificent comeback performance at Live Aid in 1985 â€” remain the stuff of legend.
Lambert, who has a second-place finish on the eighth season of American Idol, a Grammy nomination and two chart-topping albums under his belt, has made it clear that he isnâ€™t trying to emulate Mercury. While he shares Mercuryâ€™s undeniable vocal prowess and his love for adventurous clothing, nail polish and eyeliner, he commands the stage in his own way. I found myself drawn to his voice in the way youâ€™re drawn to a piece of modern art that you donâ€™t quite understand, which might have been part of how Mercury appealed to his first audiences back in the early â€™70s. But Lambert is no second coming of Freddie Mercury.
Is that what weâ€™re really waiting for, though? As any Queen die-hard knows, there can be only one.
It appears that what the world has been waiting for is Queen + Adam Lambert. Their first world tour, which spanned 2014 to 2015, grossed more than $68 million and, according to Pollstar, ranked in the top 50 worldwide tours both of those years. Their current U.S. tour, which hits Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday, has been received positively by critics â€” after their Minneapolis show, the Star Tribune called Lambert â€śthe best thing to happen to Queen since the 1992 film Wayneâ€™s World.â€ť Itâ€™s hard to argue with that.
A cynic might say Taylor and May are doing this tour as a cash-grab. Iâ€™m not so sure that May, who wrote â€śWe Will Rock Youâ€ť â€” which is probably being played at dozens of sporting events around the world at this very moment â€” needs the cash. Whatâ€™s more, May is also an astrophysicist and works with NASA. Seriously. He has an asteroid named after him, which might be the most rock-star thing ever.
Iâ€™m more inclined to buy the argument that May and Taylor are touring out of a sense of nostalgia. Whatâ€™s wrong with a little nostalgia? If the audience can be temporarily transported through a sonic wrinkle in time to recapture some of the feelings they had when they first heard â€śBohemian Rhapsody,â€ť I imagine the band can, too. Itâ€™s OK for music to be fun, and maybe the question of why theyâ€™re touring doesnâ€™t really matter. Maybe nothing really matters. And according to recent press, anyone can see theyâ€™re having a good time on this tour â€” theyâ€™re having a ball. I wouldnâ€™t dream of stopping them, now.
And as for Freddie, Iâ€™d like to think that if heâ€™s watching, heâ€™d raise a glass of Champagne to Lambert in approval. Because, as he once told the world himself, the show must go on.