Last weekend Lesley and I travelled through to Glasgow to see Queen at the SECC. Lesley and I are both Queen fans going back a long way, and we have both been a bit fanatical about them at certain points in our lives (me during the early eighties, and her since the late eighties).
The big issue of course, is the question of whether Queen really exist now as we knew them then. After seeing the show, the answer seems to me to be, well sort of, but it actually doesn’t matter. What we saw was something new and different, and hugely enjoyable.
The show was billed as ‘Queen + Paul Rodgers‘, and this is now the official title of the band. Only half of the classic Queen line-up remain (John Deacon is AWOL, and Freddie Mercury is long departed), but the real enjoyment of the new incarnation is that Roger Taylor and Brian May are great musicians and performers in their own right, and although Paul Rodgers does most of the vocals, he doesn’t do them all, and it’s really a performance shared by the three men.
It’s such a great show that the absence of Freddie Mercury doesn’t seem to be an issue, and when Freddie’s voice and image made an appearance later in the show as part of an homage, my overriding feeling was that the strength of these three performers and the material was such that I wasn’t even really thinking that this was a replacement for Freddie Mercury or some sort of nostalgic tribute show, but actually something new and different, that has grown out of the original Queen, but exists on its own merit, without the input of Freddie Mercury.
As for the name, perhaps they really should call themselves something like May Taylor Rodgers. This is an evolution of the Queen sound, but it’s such an evolution that retaining the Queen moniker is perhaps a bit misleading. The new sound is bluesy rock, with plenty of heavy guitars. It’s a little bit of pub-rock, and a little bit of Status Quo. There’s little if any of the camp and pompous strutting about that used to be their trademark.
Highlights of the show for me were a stripped-down performance of ’39, Roger Taylor doing a very jazzy drum solo whilst roadies built his drum stack around him so he could launch into I’m In Love With My Car, and Brian May getting into Pink Floyd territory with his prog-rock guitar solo that included snatches of Brighton Rock.
They packed a lot into a set that lasted two and a quarter hours. A lot of the favourites (Love of My Life, Tie Your Mother Down, Another One Bites the Dust), three tracks from Paul Rodger’s back catalogue and five songs from their (dreadfully titled) current album of new material, and some of this was great live (particularly Surf’s Up… School’s Out!, C-lebrity and Cosmos Rocking). They even managed three songs from the much-derided Works album of the early eighties.
Would Freddie approve of all of this? Well of course he would. The show must go on after all.
Lesley has written a blog posting about the concert here.