A singer fit for Queen: Adam Lambert fills Freddie Mercury’s boots


20 January 2015 by Sadie Nicholas

NEARLY quarter of a century after Freddie Mercury’s death his bandmates Roger Taylor and Brian May have found a worthy successor in Adam Lambert.

Adam Lambert at the O2
Adam Lambert performing with Queen at the O2 arena last week

Adam Lambert performing with Queen at the O2 arena last week

When Adam Lambert belted out Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody to talent judges Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul during his audition for American Idol in 2009 he could never have dreamed that one day he would form part of the legendary band. But six years later the 32-year-old singer, who finished as runner-up on Cowell’s US version of The X Factor, is taking fans and music critics by storm as a re-formed Queen go on tour, with himself as the new frontman accompanied by original members Brian May on guitar and Roger Taylor on drums. Billed as Queen with Adam Lambert they have silenced even the purists who declared that without Freddie Mercury there could be no Queen.

Last Saturday with 31 dates of a world tour already under his belt Lambert took to the stage with them at London’s O2 Arena and wowed the audience with his own brand of the flamboyance and exuberance Freddie was famous for. Yet without trying to impersonate the legendary singer – no mean feat.

Lambert may only have been nine when Freddie died in 1991 of Aids-related pneumonia but he became a big Queen fan. On stage at the O2 he was the first to pay tribute to him saying to the audience: “I love him just as much as you.”

In an interview on American radio last November Lambert revealed his nerves at performing with Queen lest anyone should think he was trying to fill Freddie’s shoes.

Referring to the tour dates he did with Queen last summer he said:

“I was pinching myself every step of the way. This is an iconic rock band. It’s an honour to be up there singing the songs that Freddie helped to write and make famous. And we sold out all these arenas. It was nuts, there were thousands of people. I knew that this was sacred ground. I went in cautiously and respectfully and made sure I’m communicating that I’m also in love with the original image of this band.”

Roger Taylor, Adam Lambert and Brian May at Press Conference
Roger Taylor, left, and Brian May, right, with Adam Lambert

Witty and camp with a voice described by many as being technically brilliant Lambert has been credited with “stealing the show”.

But then he has long been a seasoned performer. Before appearing on American Idol he cut his teeth in musical theatre appearing on stage in big Broadway hits such as Wicked. His route to Queen began decades earlier when he was growing up in San Diego, California, and enrolled at the Children’s Theatre Network as an eight-year-old.

“My parents put me in there because I was hyperactive and made too much noise. They had to find an outlet for me,” he said.

Thanks to Simon Cowell’s clout it was on the final of the TV talent show that he got to perform on stage with Queen for the first time. It’s impossible to imagine what his reaction must have been when three years later May and Taylor called and announced him as Queen’s new frontman for a series of gigs including the Sonisphere festival at Knebworth, Hertfordshire.

The sceptics went into overdrive – how could anyone replace Mercury? Yet that wasn’t ever the band’s intention.

Taylor explained:

“After Freddie died Brian and I thought it was all over but it just seemed to keep coming back. We had the stage musical and the Queen music lived on. Now we’ve just done a big tour in America. Adam Lambert is magnificent and he fits in very well. He’s very theatrical. I call him ‘camp Freddie’. We met him through American Idol. They asked us to perform We Are The Champions with him and the other finalist. We got on very well and a couple of years later asked him to do a few shows with us.”

Freddie Mercury in 1986
The exuberant Freddie Mercury performing at Wembley Stadium in 1986

By then Lambert had already clocked up two hit albums proving that he’s no talent show flash in the pan but he admits that he remains star-struck.

Asked whether there were any rock ’n’ roll antics during the tour last summer he said:

“Roger is still a bit more of a party animal than Brian but they both know how to let their hair down and we had a lot of fun. We would finish a show and then get out the back, still sweaty and in a bathrobe and drive to the private jet. I thought, ‘Are you kidding me… a private jet?’ And we’d get on the jet, have a couple of glasses of wine and laugh about the show and then they’d tell me stories. I mean this was a golden age of rock.”

As for the UK tour extra dates at Wembley, Sheffield and Liverpool have been added during February to cope with the massive demand.

For anyone still sceptical about Lambert’s place on stage with Queen, despite the sensational reviews, Roger Taylor has the final word: “I think Freddie would be his No1 fan. He loved anyone who could sing like that.”

Not a tribute band at all as some had feared Adam Lambert’s inclusion would make them – but a tribute to Freddie Mercury. Even Queen’s hardiest fans can’t argue with that.