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Queen Proves There's Life After Freddie
Paul Rodgers maintains electric magnetism of original line-up
Erich Adolfo Moncada Cota (komodo)     Print Article 
Published 2006-01-25 16:02 (KST)   
Queen, for the few out there who haven't heard of it, is one of the most successful bands in the history of rock and roll. So far, they have sold 300 million records worldwide and were pioneers in the music video industry with their 1975 song "Bohemian Rhapsody." According to the Guinness Book of World Records, "BohRap" was Britain's most popular single and the BBC confirms it's the tenth most famous song in the world. They were precursors of heavy metal, glam rock, progressive rock and "arena" rock. Their influence has arguably inspired musical artists like My Chemical Romance, The Flaming Lips, Nirvana, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Travis, Molotov, Spice Girls and Five.

The late, great Freddie Mercury
First, let's get something straight: Queen's fame will never fade out as long as people keep playing "We Will Rock You" and "We Are the Champions" at every sporting event, just like Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" is played at every damn boxing match. It's incredible that since 1977 and 1982 no other song has been able to turn itself into a major hymn for people all over the world.

On Nov. 24, 1991, Farrokh Bulsara, better known as Freddie Mercury, died in England from complications related to AIDS, making him one of the famous victims of this disease along with entertainers Wladziv Valentino Liberace and actor Rock Hudson. Rock and roll lost one of its most important figures and Queen faced the choice between continuing without their original lineup or passing into history as a legend that ended tragically like The Who, The Doors and Led Zeppelin.

In 1995, the remaining members recorded the CD, "Made in Heaven" with the last sessions made by Mercury weeks before he passed away. The future looked uncertain: John Deacon retired to live with his family, Roger Taylor was on and off in the public eye and Brian May produced a couple of successful solo albums.

Almost all of the bands that have suffered the death of a vocalist haven't been able to maintain their popularity, with the exceptional case of AC/DC. It is true that the death of a singer can catapult a band into legendary status, but an essential part of the magic that united the original lineup is lost forever.

This appeared to be the case with Queen. When Freddie died in the middle of the smash success of the last recording of his life ("Innuendo," 1991), the last thing on May, Deacon and Taylor's minds was replacing the mustached man from Zanzibar. It was almost impossible to find someone that reunited his eccentric craftsmanship: a versatile voice, impeccable handling of the audience, a classical musical sensibility and outrageous personality.

I've considered the few possible candidates of Mercury's stature: Gary Cherone from the band Extreme, Ian Astbury from the band The Cult, Robbie Williams and Justin Hawkins from the band The Darkness. But it was during the celebration of the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert on April 20 1992, when rumors began of the possible replacement being George Michael from the band Wham! for his excellent performance of "Somebody to Love" during that concert. But the rumors never came true and fans had to settle for years of boring collaborations, live and greatest hits compilations ... until 2004 came along.

A Phoenix Resurges From the Ashes

Guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor announced their comeback to the stage in 2005 without bassist John Deacon, along with Paul Rodgers, lead singer of legendary bands Free (Queen said it was a huge influence on them) and Bad Company. Under the creative name of Queen + Paul Rodgers, May told the press they didn't want the new singer to be a copycat of Mercury:
"This guy does not pretend in any way to take Freddie's place. He's nothing like Freddie because he comes from his own musical background and we can play his songs again with someone that understands us; therefore, the songs gain a new meaning."
Paul Rodgers and Queen
©2006 Queen Online
I've always been an unconditional slave, a fanaticized lackey of Her Majesty since I was 12 years old. The thought of seeing the reunion of my favorite band of all time was so surreal and as impossible as a Beatles or a Dave Mustaine-Metallica comeback. Nonetheless my biggest concern was that a "perfect nobody" would take over such an emotive symbol of my life that could ruin the Royalty's blue blood. And I have to admit that until recently I was very willing to violently criticize Rodgers for his lack of a suitable "rocker resume," but a quick look at his bio changed my mind completely. I understood the logic behind this new incarnation of Queen. I was able to notice that Freddie Mercury wasn't Queen itself, but just one of its members, and that both its drummer and guitarist were equally talented.

Queen deserves another chance of being heard by their fans and new generations so immersed in reggaeton and easy listening (rock) pop. For that reason I recently downloaded (shame on me) the double CD of their Sheffield concert, "Return of the Champions," and acquired their DVD. Wow! My negative opinions tumbled down like bowling pins. Of all the musical reunions I've seen lately, just a few still had the vital energy of the past. And Queen, without two of its original members, still has the ability of making audiences roar with their music.

The bet was risky, for the reasonable alienation of the followers, between purists and music lovers. Brian declared on the subject:
"I've lived all my life under a hail of bullets. As far as I'm concerned, this shouldn't matter to anybody but us. If anyone thinks they're going to hate it, don't go to the show."
The move was smart: most of the songs belong to Taylor and May and are sung by them, giving Rodgers a leading, but balanced role to play his classic songs such as "Reaching Out," "Wishing Well" or "Feel Like Making Love." His voice tends to be deep and scratchy like Bruce Springsteen's, sometimes imprinting a great deal of softness, without erasing the big smile on his lips while keeping adequate control of the audience, whose singing has become the band's fifth member. Between Brian's guitar solos and Roger's drumming, the band has found an ideal balance for a new version of a Queen that is more rockerish and reanimated. The band gives the fans a wide repertoire of old time favorites and some songs Mercury could never sing ("I Want It All," "These are the Days of Our Lives," "The Show Must Go On") because he stopped touring in 1986.

The brand new "Return of the Champions" album
The biggest accomplishment of "Return of the Champions" is the excellent quality of the recording of the CD and DVD versions. Above the energetic performances of the songs, the electric atmosphere of Live at Wembley Stadium '86 and the melancholy of Live at Brixton Academy (May's live record of 1994), are all kept intact to avoid repeating the same concerts of the past. Probably the hardcore fans of the band will be in denial, but a large segment of Queenatics are surely hungry for more music and fewer compilations.

At the present time, Queen is touring in the United States and this writer has already bought a ticket (the cheapest one, because the most expensive is around 200 bucks) for their March 31 show, at Glendale Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. Stay tuned for the chronicle.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Erich Adolfo Moncada Cota

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