24 August 2016 by Chen Nan
Fans in Shanghai will soon be treated to legendary rock band Queen’s first show on the Chinese mainland. Chen Nan reports.
In 1997, Queen guitarist Brian May traveled to China to see a total eclipse of the sun, which was something that interested him as an astronomer with a PhD. He had a fabulous time traveling around the country that inspired him to write a song called ‘China Belle’. Featured in his second solo album, “Another World” [AMAZON],
In 1998, May sang: “There’s a little lady living down in old Beijing/She got everything you need, well you know what I mean”.
“It was just before the internet … I felt that I was in a culture that was so different from my own,” he says in an email interview with China Daily. “Probably not many people know that song. It’s a kind of humorous song, but it encapsulates some of the things that I felt when I was in China – that it was so exotic and different, and a part of my life that I’d never experienced before,” he adds.
In September, the 69-year-old guitarist will return to China for the band’s first show on the Chinese mainland, in Shanghai.
“I’m thrilled that we can go and actually do what we’ll do in China. It’s an incredible opportunity. We certainly discussed it in the old days, and it’s something out of the blue to realize now that we can do this. We’ll give it all we’ve got. We’re starting rehearsals as we speak, and we’re up for giving you guys the best show you’ve ever seen in your lives,” says May.
Besides the Shanghai concert, Queen band will play two shows at Tokyo’s Nippon Budokan, the original site of their historic first concert in Japan in 1975.
They are also set to perform at the second night of the F1 Grand Prix in Singapore, as well as arena shows in Hong Kong and Bangkok.
One of the most influential rock bands in the world, which entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, they produced 15 gold and platinum records, including hits like We Are the Champions, We Will Rock You and the six-minute rock opera, Bohemian Rhapsody, which has been performed by many artists, including Chinese pop diva Faye Wong.
Queen’s shows are big, emotional, heroic and have a lot of light, sound and elaborate sets, which are not always the way May is. Sometimes, he likes to play intimate concerts, like he does with British singer Kerry Ellis.
“If you saw us in 1976 or 1984 or 2016, you know what Queen is. And, even for me, it’s something that I respect. It’s like we built something, like an amazing racing car or a jet plane. And it still runs. And it runs in some ways even better than I can ever imagine,” he says.
What’s amazing for the British rock band, which celebrates its 46th anniversary this year, is that they can still do it because they have found new energy in Adam Lambert, the “wonderful boy” as May calls him. Since 2011, Lambert, the American Idol season-eight star, has been touring with Queen.
The band also features Roger Taylor on percussion, Spike Edney on keyboards and Neil Fairclough on bass. Their successful partnership has seen over 70 sold-out shows worldwide with over a million in attendance.
Speaking of the upcoming shows, Lambert says: “I have been lucky to visit Asia recently, and am so thrilled to be able to return to perform with Queen. We are going to give you a show to remember.”
Recalling Lambert’s first performance, May says the first gig they did with him was for about 400,000 people in Eastern Europe. Then, May says, Lambert just walked out and smiled and did his part, which was great, adding: “He also has humility and he goes out there and he says: ‘Look, I’m not Freddie Mercury (Queen frontman who died in 1991 of bronchopneumonia brought on by AIDS), but this is what I do and this is what I would like to do with you guys, and let’s celebrate.’ And people immediately feel that he’s genuine, because he is.”
May, who grew up in Hampton, in London, met the members of Queen in 1970 when they were all university students, including then art student Mercury, biology student Roger Taylor and John Deacon, who was studying electronics.
Looking back on their decades-long association, May says there are so many memories. He says the first one that comes to mind is of him standing alone on the roof of Buckingham Palace and playing the British national anthem to open the Queen’s jubilee concert in 2002.
“By that time Freddie was gone, but I was so used to using Freddie as an icon. So, I think if Freddie had been around we would have had him on top of the Palace. But, at that point, it was me. I thought if we wanted to create an iconic experience, one that people would not forget, I had to do this. I had to step up,” he says.
There were also many other moments in the band’s career spanning four decades, including Live Aid, the historic concert at London’s Wembley Stadium in 1985, and the first time they played in Japan in 1975.
“Now we’ll have our first night in Shanghai. I can’t wait to see what it’s going to be like,” says May.