The UK leg of the World tour by Queen with Paul Rodgers kicks off in Nottingham tonight. "No one is trying to take Freddie's place, no one ever could," he tells EG...
FOR Paul Rodgers, singing in 1970s supergroup Free just wasn't enough.
After the band's demise in 1973, three years after their biggest hit All Right Now, the Middlesbrough-born vocalist went on to form another chart-topping band, Bad Company.
Along with former Free drummer Simon Kirke, Mott The Hoople guitarist Mick Ralphs and King Crimson bassist Boz Burrell, the band released a string of international hit albums, while singles such as Can't Get Enough and Feel Like Making Love – a No 1 hit in the US – can still be heard on the radio to this day.
The rest of the 1980s saw Rodgers kick-start a successful solo career and team up with Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page in The Firm. He might have earned a break from music by the time the 90s rolled around, but he got involved in another band, The Law, and jammed with the world's best-known rock musicians for various one-off concerts and musical tributes.
Now, he's lending his world-famous voice to another band, touring the world to promote a an album of new material, The Cosmos Rocks, under the Queen + Paul Rodgers banner.
During their illustrious career, Queen were one of the biggest bands in the world, largely thanks to larger-than-life frontman Freddie Mercury.
Paul, however, is known for his bluesy vocals, and, during his time with Free and Bad Company especially, famous for a no-frills approach to music and performing.
Paul singing with Queen might seem an unlikely union, but, as he's keen to point out, it works.
"There was never really a long-term plan with this whole thing," he says.
"We did a TV show together. I sang with Brian (May) and Roger (Taylor). We did a couple of Queen songs, and then did one of my songs. It started after that when Brian asked me if I'd like to sing with them on a couple of European shows, as Queen + Paul Rodgers, just for a bit of fun.
"A couple of shows turned into a full-blown European tour, which then developed into a worldwide tour. It's taken on its own momentum."
This happened in late 2004. Since then, Queen + Paul Rodgers have toured the world and released DVDs of their concerts, all the while readying themselves for perhaps the biggest challenge – recording new music.
The Cosmos Rocks was recorded over the "best part of two years" and sees a slight change in direction from the Queen we know and love.
Paul's rootsy influence, as well as his unmistakeable voice, is all over the album, while May and Taylor provide harder, rockier backing than anything we heard on Queen's last few albums.
Current single C-lebrity mocks today's fame-hungry culture, while Voodoo and Warboys in particular feature Paul's finest vocals of recent years.
"Voodoo was a song I had already when I came into the studio," says the 58-year-old.
"We really just jammed on it, I picked up an acoustic guitar and played it, then Roger came in on the drums, Brian then joined in, and we played through it. We recorded the second or third take.
"It ended up being quite a sparse song with not much instrumentation on it, and dare I say it, very bluesy, very loose.
"We didn't know what we were going to do or sound like, so we were just playing to see what came up. Some of the songs on the album are different; some are very natural and organic, like Voodoo, but there are others that are beautifully produced, too, All The Glitters, for example."
It's difficult to comprehend Queen without Freddie Mercury, who passed away of an Aids-related illness in 1991, as his showmanship was an integral part of the set-up.
"In my mind, this is two forces joining together," he explains, adding that the band's name, Queen + Paul Rodgers, was an extra distinction for anyone who might be concerned he was trying to step into Mercury's shoes.
"No one is trying to take Freddie's place, no one ever could. I accept that," he continues.
"He was a great singer, great performer and great songwriter, and I wouldn't attempt to impersonate him.
"The most important thing for me is the music, it always has been."
Strangely for artists so big during the same era, before Paul and Brian's meeting a number of years ago, Paul had only met the other members of Queen once before.
"I saw them briefly on a stairway once, when they were looking for a manager. They were talking to Peter Grant, who managed me and Led Zeppelin at the time. The four of them, Brian, Roger, Freddie and John (Deacon) were coming out of his office, and we bumped into one another, said hello, and that was about it.
"Of course, Brian and I have done a few things over the last few years – we played at the Olympics in Spain in the early 1990s, and we even appeared on Top Of The Pops together doing a charity song."
The band are currently out on tour and arrive in Nottingham tonight to kick off the UK leg.
As well as new album tracks, the set will include many Queen favourites and a few from Rodgers' back catalogue.
"Queen really do play my songs exceptionally well. Feel Like Making Love went to a new level when we played it, which I never thought it could.
"There's such a deep catalogue to draw from between us.
"I suppose I enjoy singing The Show Must Go On, because that was virgin territory for me, Queen never played that live themselves.
"I really like I Want To Break Free, too. It's a complete challenge to interpret that song in a different way! I look at that song in a way that an older Freddie might sing it."
For ticket availability call 08444 124 624.
THERE will be a collection at the concert in aid of the Post's £500,000 Maggie's appeal for a cancer caring centre in the grounds of Nottingham City Hospital.
Maggie's supporters will be going around with buckets appealing for donations for the appeal which now stands at just over £274,000.
The centre will provide emotional, psychological and practical support for cancer patients, their families and friends. http://www.thisisnottingham.co.uk/entertainment/Interview-Paul-Rodgers/article-389732-detail/article.html
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