News > Carrying On Without Mercurial Star (Miami Herald 2/26)

Added on 26-Feb-2006

BY HOWARD COHEN hcohen@MiamiHerald.comWant to start an argument with a classic rock fan?

Come down one way or the other on whether Queen should have reformed with Bad Company vocalist Paul Rodgers in the frontman role once occupied by the late Freddie Mercury.

Of course, many rock bands have replaced lead singers -- INXS, Van Halen, Journey, Foreigner, Fleetwood Mac, the Doors, Styx, to name some -- but few have engendered such passion after doing so.

Imagine the Rolling Stones without Mick Jagger.


And so it would seem with Queen sans Mercury whose pliable voice could handle heavy metal, pop, rockabilly, vaudeville, Tin Pan Alley, opera, disco, funk and Arabian music -- all in the space of one album. Add his flamboyant image and he came to define rock showmanship.

Rodgers, by comparison, is the straight, no-frills, blues-rock belter behind such '70s testosterone staples as Feel Like Makin' Love, Can't Get Enough and Free's All Right Now. Can you picture him in tights prancing across a stage, singing Killer Queen?

Some can't.

In a feature on dead rock stars in the March issue of Blender magazine, a writer opines that the new Queen + Paul Rodgers, as the act bills itself, ''diminishes Queen's brand value'' but enhances the personal reputation of Mercury, who died in 1991 of complications from AIDS. ''Rodgers is unfit to wear his predecessor's crown, metaphoric or otherwise'' they write. That's one view.

Meantime, when I merely suggested in a recent column -- without commenting at all on the musical merits of the new band -- that charging $200 for top seats for Friday's U.S. opening concert date at Miami's AmericanAirlines Arena was outrageous for a Queen concert without Freddie Mercury my in box sagged with missives from peeved Rodgers fans.


''My advice to you . . . let Freddie's act rest in piece. Give yourself a gift and check out the greatest rock vocalist out there,'' read one of the nicer ones. Most, however, suggested I commit an act of flexibility using my head and backside that doesn't seen possible for anyone who isn't a Cirque du Soleil performer.

Queen drummer Roger Taylor, who, along with original guitarist Brian May, are on tour with Rodgers, chuckles when he hears that anecdote.

''Two-hundred dollars does sound like a lot,'' Taylor, 56, says.

But beyond the potential for financial gain, Taylor's thrilled to be on the road again. Reviews for the European and Japan shows last year featuring Rodgers proved kind and led to the U.S. jaunt. Queen has not toured in the U.S. since 1982's Hot Space Tour so the curiousity factor is amped.


''I have to say fantastic. We've got one of our favorite singers from all time -- one of Freddie's favorite singers -- and Queen was a four-man band and Brian and I feel vindicated in carrying on with Paul who is not trying to be a Freddie,'' Taylor says in a telephone interview from his home in Gilford, England.

He has a point. Queen will forever be linked with Mercury if, for no other reason, his force of presence and for dreaming up Bohemian Rhapsody, but the band was never a dictatorship. Each member, including departed bassist John Deacon who opted out of this reunion tour, wrote a Queen tune alone. Radio Ga Ga is one of Taylor's compositions, for instance, and he sang lead on I'm in Love With My Car and others. May, 58, wrote We Will Rock You and Fat Bottomed Girls and sang lead on Sail Away Sweet Sister and '39. The band will also perform Deacon's No. 1 smash Another One Bites the Dust Friday.

''John is like a hermit and doesn't go out,'' Taylor said, ``but he wrote us a nice letter that said he totally approved of what we were doing and he is still a partner in our band name and we do some of his songs.

``Brian and I both sing quite a lot in this show. Paul is the lead singer but there were three singers in Queen.''

Still, to accommodate Rodgers' vocal range the band had to make some changes. ''We dropped a couple keys,'' Tay

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