Saturday, 24 January 2015

God Save Queen

It's been a real mix of factors that prompted my post this week - and all of them good in one way or another.

Regular readers of my eclectic mix of posts will know that I recently received a number of boxes that were stored for me in my former home in Luxembourg. Among them were books by the hundred, clothing items by the score and a collection of CDs, vinyl records and cassette tapes of various types - the latter two being rather a surprise since I don't own anything to play them on. But, among the musical items, I've discovered a couple of 24-carat nuggets which have served to remind me of a particular group I followed avidly as a teen and beyond.

Couple that with a recent live televised performance by two of the remaining members of that group with a relatively new front-man, along with about a million Tweets and Facebook messages, and I just had to sit down and offer my own tuppence-worth (see last week's post for more information on ancient coinage -

The band in question are, of course, Queen, and many of the posts I've seen are bemoaning the fact that Brian May - a quite brilliant guitarist who still plays his own fireplace (check out the Red Special story - it's remarkable and fascinating - and Roger Taylor, a rock drummer par-excellence ( - have employed the services of a singer for their latest tour as Queen and Adam Lambert (

Queen were originally fronted by the incomparable Freddie Mercury of course, and some of the negative posts have complained that Brian and Roger are in some way trying to replace the irreplaceable. The more generous of the nay-sayers will grudgingly admit that Adam is a good performer but, they cry, it should be Freddie or no one. They say that Queen is not Queen without the great man.

What a load of bollocks.

For a start, Brian May and Roger Taylor are fantastic musicians and they simply want to perform. They aren't trying to replace anyone and even Freddie himself would appreciate the quite brilliant work that Adam Lambert does. Queen is not a collection of four people - Queen is a sound, an experience.

In Lambert, those two remaining members of the group (John Deacon, the bass guitarist, retired a long time ago and Todd Mathers provides a very decent set of opinions as to why that was - have found a performer who does justice to the complex vocals that the band's back-catalogue houses.

The tour's playlist scours more classic tracks than I can spare the space to list here and includes unforgettable masterpieces of complex rock. Those tracks - think Bohemian Rhapsody, Don't Stop Me Now and Somebody To Love, to name but three - are burned into our collective consciousnesses and they need to be performed. But as I say, these are complex and need a vocalist of tremendous talent to perform them well. Many Queen fans of a certain age will remember the 1992 tribute concert in Freddie's name when a lot of the classic numbers were covered, live, by leading vocalists - and if we're honest, very few of those star performers were able to do justice to the music they performed.

It is almost galling to admit that the only stand-out for me was by none other than former Wham front-man, George Michael.

My point, though, is that the immense talents of such vocalists as Roger Daltrey, Phil Collen, James Hetfield and Robert Plant (The Who, Def Leppard, Metallica and Lead Zeppelin, respectively) could not bring out the underlying magic of the tracks they performed. And as for Axl Rose and Elton John... oh dear.

But Adam Lambert can do justice to the incomparable music of the band. And when he performs on stage with Brian and Roger, it's as close to the real Queen experience as it is possible to get.

For many, many fans of the band's music, they are simply too young to remember Freddie Mercury performing live with the group - 1986 was a long, long time ago - and believe me, live is so much bigger and better than any recording (even of live shows). So anyone under the age of about 40 couldn't possibly know what they are talking about when they say that Queen are no longer Queen. I wouldn't be physically capable of attending a Queen concert now but if I were fit enough I would love to attend an event. Or four.

And for the doubters, perhaps they should know that Freddie's own mum (Jer) and his sister (Kashmira) attended the Queen and Adam Lambert concert in Nottingham just yesterday (the 24th January).

Queen is a sound and an experience. I saw the band in the 1970's and 1980's and those shows are, to me, unforgettable. I am sure that a similar experience now - Freddie or not, and we know it's 'not' unless we're into the very darkest side of voodoo - would be just as memorable.

Of course Adam Lambert is not Freddie Mercury. But that doesn't make him a poor substitute. Brian and Roger are deservedly replaying the Queen magic and they are touring as Queen AND Adam Lambert.

But that brings me back to my nuggets (so to speak). Among the twenty-nine boxes, one contained a case in which are 1990's re-mastered copies of all of the Queen albums on CD (eighteen up to that point, and also a couple of post-Freddie compilations) and another box contained many vinyl albums - but only one drew my hands to it. This is a copy of Night at the Opera, published in 1975, which many feel is the definitive Queen album (it includes Bohemian Rhapsody among many other classics) but it's rather special to me in one other way. It was the first imported album I ever bought (I was only just 15 then) - and it's pure white vinyl.

So, you see, I have been a Queen fan for a very, very, long time (I can still recall my parents moaning about me playing the Sheer Heart Attack album over and over - and 'rather' loudly), and I, for one, applaud the remaining band members for bringing the magical sounds to a whole new generation. Of course they can't do it with Freddie M there where he belonged - but the brilliant musical pair have found someone who can do justice to the Queen sound, and perhaps just as importantly, someone who can bring his own personality to the stage.

As it says on the last track on that white vinyl album - God Save the Queen.


  1. I really enjoyed your review. As a long-time Queen fan (never saw them live with Freddie), as well as a long-time Adam Lambert fan (Glambert) I applaud your insight. I saw the Queen & Adam Lambert tour six times in N. America + the 3 2012 Hammersmith shows and can't get enough of this magical pairing.

  2. Thank You for this wonderful review. I do not understand why fans can't just remember the past and embrace the future. I am sure Freddie would not have wanted for Brian & Roger to give up their love for music because he died. It would be utterly selfish. I believe Freddie & Adam would have gotten along splendidly and he would probably be appalled by his so called fans negativity towards Adam. Opinions may vary but in the end it's about showing respect!!!

    1. My gratitude goes to you - that's a wonderful series of posts you have put together, and it's great to hear from other true fans

  3. What a clever and brilliant article from a true open-minded, live-loving music, true Queen fan. I heard Freddie's "mum" was at the concert, but I wondered if Kashmira was there. I was so excited to hear this. I wonder if Adam knew. Thanks for caring about the great catalog of Queen and being able to over look the sad fact that Freddie can't be there. We all wish he could, but Adam is a great interpreter (not imitator) of this music. I am so proud of him. As a die-hard Queen fan (I'm 56) and Glambert of 6 years, this is the best time for rock music in my life. I get to see my favorite singer collaborate with my favorite band.....there is a God!