Blog: Will Queen bite the dust at Sonisphere?

The biggest festival booking of the century or an affront to one of the largest rock bands in UK history?

It would be an understatement to say the announcement of Queen‘s live return with Adam Lambert at the vocal helm has met mixed reaction from Queen and Sonisphere fans alike. Is this the end or the start of something beautiful, we ask two VF scribes to have their opinions

Alex Fahey – Verdict: in favour…

It’s no secret that metal fans like a bit of drama; be it Ozzy biting off the heads of bats, Def Leppard’s firework displays or the suspense in guessing how Eddie will appear at the next Iron Maiden gig, when they pay for a performance it’s exactly that they expect.
Personally, Downton Abbey is excitement enough for me, but after the Sonisphere headline announcement I can see that the axis has shifted and now Knebworth House is the place to be for high drama.
The Friday night bill-toppers are Kiss, the perfect tongue-in-cheek (or rather below-the-chin) band to act out the light relief against the heavier aspects of the weekend.  At the other end of the spectrum, the Sunday night plays host to a band towing the Sonisphere ethos, Faith No More, so it’s not exactly the Eastender’s Der, der, ders, is it?
It’s the group that’s sandwiched in the middle of this ménage à trios that’s causing all the controversy and a Royal appointment that I’m very pleased to hear: it’s Queen (featuring Adam Lambert).
Let me state my case.  I’m aware that ‘Queen’, shouldn’t be considered as such without the fantastic, irreplaceable, Freddie Mercury, indeed I don’t find too much love in their output after that first 1981 Greatest Hits but there’s more than enough in that canon alone for me to make my way to the front for their Freddie-less festival appearance.  
The craft the band honed was built around the theatrics of the stage, the grandeur of the stadiums and the inclusion of the masses. Despite Ben Elton’s best efforts I’m not drawn to the box office of the Dominion Theatre, though he has debatably found Queen’s natural home, I want to see it through Freddie’s vision with 50,000 people responding to the cat calls of the frontman.
I don’t much care for Roger Taylor, that’s a personal aside involving a yachting regatta, too much beer and the obligatory ‘Do you know who I am?’ speech, but I do hold admiration for Brian May. It’s obvious he doesn’t need to re-unite the outfit for the money, his side projects in stargazing and stereophotography being proof that he’s financial secure to dally in other pursuits.  So this leads me to conclude that his musical endeavours have merit beyond one last payday.
So it’s through May’s endeavours that I am willing to take a risk, he wouldn’t invite Lambert to perform if the singer wasn’t fit for the task.  Purists will be irked by Adam Lambert’s credentials, he shot to fame on American Idol but when analysed he’s the perfect foil for the late Freddie Mercury.
Lambert won’t replace the man Mercury as a personality, no one will, but he does have the stagemanship and the vocal ability to certainly compete with the demand of Freddie’s theatrical range and performance. His career on the American Idol stage proves he has the confidence to perform in front of large audiences as well as a gloss of professionalism that reality stars are force fed.
If you’re still unsure I urge you not to worry, it’s a festival not a stadium gig you’re paying for, so your not directly feeding the cash cow. I recommend you have a drink, loosen those vocal chords and go to see if Taylor and May have resurrected Queen as a Killer or Killed them for good.
It’s not about detracting from the Queen of old, it’s about celebrating them, embracing them and being steaming drunk and bellowing out that you too ‘need somebody to love’ right? And there’s no drama in that.

Claire Elshaw – Verdict: against…

Queen are an iconic band. They have talent to spare, amazing song and one of the greatest front man ever to grace the stage. Very few bands can boast a singer with such an astounding vocal range that also has the kind of showmanship, swagger and charisma of the late, great Freddie Mercury.

It’s to my great sadness that I’ll never see him live; I was only 10 when he shuffled off this mortal coil. But even without him they have more talent than half of today’s crowd, and a classic catalogue of uplifting, intricate songs that deserve an airing. So it’s not that Queen want to play live this summer that dismays me. It’s just they seem to be devolving into some kind of pantomime version of themselves. Adam who? from what now? Some idiot pop-star wannabe who didn’t even win the competition?

To drag out any old singer who can don lycra is not a suitable way to honour the memory of Freddie, or indeed the songs that made Queen great. It’s not just a bad idea; it’s a terrible one. I want to hear the songs played, but not murdered! Very few people have pulled off singing like, or even with, Freddie. You want to pull out Bowie or George Michael then fine, or Tom Chaplin did a decent job with ‘It’s a Hard Life’ last year. But please, not this lame loser.

Seeing them with Paul Rodgers would have been like owning a print of a famous painting. I can’t afford a Picasso so I buy the print as it’s nice to have something pretty that resembles the original. But in this case, with Adam Lambert, it’ll be like I got the neighbour’s cat to draw me a Picasso and hoped no one notices the smell. 

Mr May claims he thinks Freddie would approve of the choice. I can’t speak for him. But I know one thing: if I pop my clogs tomorrow and my friends replace me with anyone who’s been within a hundred miles of anything pop idol-esque I’ll be haunting them!

My only consolation is that many have tried and failed to capture the originals vocal dexterity. I’ll be interested to see how far they have to alter the tracks to enable him to sing them. I’m going to stick to my copy of Queen Live at Wembley ‘86, close my eyes and know it’s as close as I’ll ever to get to seeing one of the greatest performers at his prime. That and I’ll keep working on my time machine.

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