Paul Rodgers, who toured with Queen for four years in the last decade, said he might not have taken the gig if it had been preceded by the media attention surrounding Adam Lambert’s similar feature spot in 2012.
Of course, both men are stepping into the enormous shoes left by the late Queen singer Freddie Mercury — one of rock’s most dynamic frontmen. Mercury died in November 1991 from complications related to AIDS. Since then, Queen has appeared with George Michael of Wham (1992), Rodgers (2005-09) and, at the Prince’s Trust Rock Gala in 2010, with Tom Chaplin of the band Keane. Queen released the 2008 studio effort The Cosmos Rocks with Rodgers, as well as three live albums.
The band has now announced a series of dates for Lambert, who has earlier appeared with remaining members Brian May and Roger Taylor in the American Idol finale and at the EVMAs. Queen will play a total of four summer 2012 shows, beginning June 30 in Moscow and continuing through a pair of dates at London’s Hammersmith Apollo in early July.
[SOMETHING ELSE! FEATURED ARTIST: We dig into Queen favorites like “Under Pressure,” “Spread Your Wings” and “Stone Cold Crazy,” then return for spins of “You’re My Best Friend,” “Ogre Battle” and “Flash”.]
“If Brian May had called me and asked if I wanted to be their singer, I would have been reluctant,” Rodger told Spinner, laughing. “But, we had played together for a broadcast celebrating (Island Records founder and record producer) Chris Blackwell. Chris had asked me if I’d close the show with ‘All Right Now.’ Queen was appearing on the same show, and Brain said Queen would back me up if I’d sing ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘We are the Champions.’ Those songs are right up my street, so I agreed. A couple of days later, Brian called me up and asked if I’d fancy doing some dates in Europe, just for fun. All of a sudden, it just expanded into four years.”
Rodgers had previously been a co-founding member of both Free and Bad Company, which recently announced its own reunion tour featuring six European concerts in June. That prepared Rodgers for the intense glare surrounding the high-profile Queen gig, giving him a level of experience that Rodgers says Lambert perhaps lacks: “It’s probably a dream come true for Adam, but I wonder if he has the groundwork to see him through a big tour with those guys.”
As for his departure from Queen, Rodgers says he departed as friends with May and Taylor: “I wish them every success. We’ll do a couple of gigs in the future. That’s where we left it,” he says. “Being in a band is all-consuming and I like to have a life. After leaving Queen, I decided to stop doing those mega-four-month tours. I go out for a month and my dog recognizes me when I come home.”
Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Queen. Click through the titles for complete reviews …
SHOULD QUEEN CONTINUE WITHOUT FREDDIE MERCURY AND JOHN DEACON? ADAM LAMBERT SAYS: ‘IT’S THEIR PREROGATIVE': The news that Queen will appear with yet another lead singer has some fans returning to what’s becoming an age-old conundrum: Is it Queen without Freddie Mercury? Heck, is it Queen without John Deacon? Don’t ask Adam Lambert, the American Idol finalist who’ll front Queen at this year’s Sonisphere Festival. “That’s really up to (Queen co-founders) Brian (May) and Roger (Taylor); it’s their band,” Lambert said. “I think that at this point the feel what they’re doing is appropriate and it’s their prerogative. If someone feels like their legacy should be left alone then they’re missing out on a great concert. That’s the bottom line.”
ONE TRACK MIND: QUEEN + PAUL RODGERS, “SAY IT’S NOT TRUE” (2007): “Say It’s Not True” originally appeared on the group’s 2005 live album, Return of the Champions, in a more stripped-down acoustic form sung by Roger Taylor. This version, however, is a much more embellished studio recording with Brian May and Paul Rodgers contributing significantly. Otherwise, it’s a very typical charity song: The lyrics were a bit trite and obvious; the melody was also a bit simplistic. It felt like something we’d heard a million times before. Yet, while there were no real surprises in store, it managed to invoke some of the magic of Queen: It builds at just the right moment into a glorious power ballad.
QUEEN – DAYS OF OUR LIVES DVD (2012): As this sprawling new documentary makes clear, Queen knew — and from the very beginning — that they were on to something. That it took everyone else so long to notice only seemed to spark them to greater heights of genre-jumping, expectation-confounding genius. Because of the way that they had built their own legacy, Queen didn’t have a working template to get trapped in. “They were very opened minded, Queen audiences,” May adds. “We never felt constrained.”
ONE TRACK MIND: TANGERINE DREAM WITH BRIAN MAY, “STAR SOUNDS” (2011): You suspected, just from listening to his wildly inventive work with Queen, that there was little guitarist Brian May couldn’t do. This live collaboration with space-music pioneer Edgar Froese’s Tangerine Dream confirms it. Sure, May has a well-known interest in the cosmos and its exploration, having earned a doctorate degree in astrophysics. But, for all of the many styles that May has excelled at over the years, for all of the times he’s played completely in service of the song — showing such great flamboyance, then such sharp-edged restraint — I still didn’t know what to expect once that famously bushy mane was dropped in amidst this kind of long-form, open-ended improvisational music. We will, we will … space you?