Added on 22-Mar-2006
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
By Ed Masley, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Queen drummer Roger Taylor likes to stress the importance of Queen + Paul Rodgers not being construed as a tribute to Queen.
But it was kind of hard to shake that feeling Monday night at the Mellon Arena when the image of the late, great Freddie Mercury appeared on screen to lead the band on stage through the majestic genius of a song that's destined to be Queen's crowning triumph, "Bohemian Rhapsody." At first, the musicians on stage played along, then dropped out on the operatic middle part the way Queen used to, only to return with Rodgers in for Mercury to hammer home the big rock ending.
It was ghoulish. But it worked on some strange level as both a touching tribute to a fallen comrade and a total smil
In fact, it was among the moving highlights of a night that found guitarist Brian May and Taylor reconnecting with the memory of their former singer and their former selves with such sincerity and warmth that cynically dismissing what they put together as a tribute band would be missing the point, which was to celebrate the legacy of not just Queen but Rodgers' former bands, Bad Company and Free.
While clearly lacking Mercury's flamboyance, Rodgers made the most of an unenviable job, lending a grittier edge to such stadium-rocking gems as "Tie Your Mother Down," "Fat Bottomed Girls," an awe-inspiring "Under Pressure" and "Dragon Attack." He may have been the one behind the train wreck that derailed what should have been another major highlight, the chart-topping funk of "Another One Bites to Dust." And interrupting the natural transition from "We Will Rock You" to "We Are the Champions" so he could drop in "All Right Now" was not the brightest move.
But Rodger's own material fit better than you would have thought, with May, whose guitar work was brilliant throughout, reprising many of the solos note-for-note on Rodgers' hits -- a more faithful approach, by far, than Rodgers took to Queen's material. He even stepped down from the helium-sucking highs of "Under Pressure," leaving that to May, a vocalist whose range and style are both a good deal closer to his former bandmate's, as are Taylor's.
Early in the concert, Taylor belted out "I'm Love With My Car" from behind the kit and later came out front to turn in an emotional "These Are the Days of Our Lives" and the '80s hit "Radio Ga Ga" over piped-in beats. But the concert's emotional climax was either "Bohemian Rhapsody" or a tender performance of Mercury's "Love of My Life" by May, who introduced it, understandably enough, as one of his old friend's most beautiful songs. And that's exactly how it felt, despite some failed attempts at turning it into a stadium-worthy sing-along.