Added on 17-Oct-2008
Queen + Paul Rodgers
By Ian Harvey
When legendary Free and Bad Company singer Paul Rodgers went on the road with Queen’s Brian May and Roger Taylor in 2005, many thought it might be a one-off.
Three years later and Queen + Paul Rodgers are still going strong with The Cosmos Rocks, the first new album of new Queen material in 13 years, and a tour which called in at the NIA last night.
While many fans remain divided about Rodgers filling the shoes of the frankly irreplaceable Freddie Mercury, the sell-out NIA crowd were on their feet from the off as he led the band through Queen songs old and new plus a choice selection from his own back catalogue.
Rodgers himself has insisted that he is not Freddie’s replacement. The key perhaps is to think of him as the singer with Queen, not the singer of Queen.
While the new album tends to sound more like a Paul Rodgers record with a Queen accent, this was most definitely a Queen show, from the gargantuan lighting rig to the huge sound, Brian May’s trademark “red special“ guitar and the big crowd singalongs.
It kicked off with the triple whammy of Hammer To Fall, Tie Your Mother Down and Fat Bottomed Girls, Rodgers and May making regular forays down a 30m walkway into the audience.
Queen shows were always about variety, so as well the all-out rockers we got pop hits like Crazy Little Thing Called Love and the recent single C-Lebrity, as well as new album tracks Surf’s Up . . . School’s Out, We Believe and Cosmos Rockin’.
Where Mercury was once Queen’s clown prince, May is the current band’s master of ceremonies. He led the NIA choir through a lump-in-the-throat-inducing Love Of My Life, dedicated to “you beautiful Brummies” and, despite a slight lapse in geography, recalled the first time that song became an iconic Queen audience participation event at Bingley Hall in Stafford 30 years ago.
In truth, Rodgers’ blues-rock vocals suit some Queen songs better than other, with I Want To Break Free not quite convincing, but The Show Must Go On, Radio Gaga and I Want It All are right up his street. His own career was represented by a storming All Right Now, Bad Company and a gorgeous solo rendition of Seagull.
Drummer Taylor got his moment in the spotlight as he joined May on the walkway for ‘39 and then dominated proceedings for the next 15 minutes with a knockabout drum solo on an ever-expanding drum kit, proving that he too has a great rock voice as he took the lead on I’m In Love With My Car, A Kind Of Magic and Say It’s Not True.
And Freddie Mercury? Yes he was there too . . . in spirit and on screen, first projected behind the stage during May’s guitar solo spot and then in sight and sound on a video and audio feed from an old Queen concert as the live band played along with the mighty Bohemian Rhapsody.
The song ended with the crowd mesmerised as the video Mercury and the real-life Rodgers traded vocal lines. The show itself ended in typical style with all arms aloft for We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions.
Special mention must go to former Whitesnake bassist Neil Murray who joined the backing band of Spike Edney and Jamie Moses at short notice after tour bassist Danny Miranda had to go into hospital.
On this evidence, Queen, with Paul Rodgers, remain the champions of the world.