Added on 17-Mar-2006
Last night's show by Queen + Paul Rodgers -- as the first North American tour by the British rockers in 20 years has been billed -- began with sound of the late, great singer Freddie Mercury.
FULL STORY More in JAM! Music TORONTO - Last night's show by Queen + Paul Rodgers -- as the first North American tour by the British rockers in 20 years has been billed -- began with sound of the late, great singer Freddie Mercury.
A recording of Mercury -- who died of AIDS in 1991 -- performing It's A Beautiful Day seemed a fitting beginning, as in Freddie's gone but not forgotten.
But it didn't take long for the mood to lift with such naughty favourites as Tie Your Mother Down and Fat Bottomed Girls as new singer Rodgers -- of Free and Bad Company fame -- was backed up by some monstrously loud playing from Queen guitarist Brian May, and Queen drummer Roger Taylor, both decked out in head-to-toe white.
The trio was also joined on stage by ex-Blue Oyster Cult bassist Danny Miranda, guitarist Jamie Moses of the Brian May Band, and longtime Queen sideman Spike Edney on keyboards. (Queen bassist John Deacon retired from touring.)
Two other big hits, I Want To Break Free and Crazy Little Thing Called Love, followed as the musicians veered from the set list at their Miami tour launch two weeks ago, also trotting out a new song, Take Love, early in the proceedings.
The biggest difference, of course, between Mercury and Rodgers, is power, range and the flamboyant factor.
But really who was ever going to fill Freddie's operatic and wildly over-the-top shoes? We all know who put the queen in Queen.
That isn't to say that the warm, bluesy tone of Rodgers' voice was a bad thing. Just different. And his muscular, compact frame wasn't hard on the eyes either. Even if he wasn't in a unitard, a costume that Mercury favoured.
As May said earlier, they weren't looking for a Mercury replacement or impersonator, but someone with whom they had good chemistry to reinterpret Queen's classic songs.
Rodgers, naturally, really shone on the Bad Company anthem Feel Like Makin' Love, filled out by lovely harmonies from the other band members, not to mention monster playing by both May and Taylor.
And he later rose from the stage, playing a piano for Bad Company, and quickly followed that up with another great Bad Company hit, Can't Get Enough.
But the first really poignant moment in the show came when May walked out to the tiny stage on the floor to play acoustic guitar and sing on his own. At least initially.
"You guys are great, fantastic, thank you for this welcome back," said the guitarist, 58. "I sincerely thought it would never happen. This is a great bonus in my life. I hope it's a great night in yours."
"This is for Freddie," said May before launching into Love Of My Life, which saw him accompanied by the crowd's voices.
May then strapped on an electric guitar and was joined by Rodgers and Taylor, both 56, and the rest of the band for Hammer To Fall, which May described as "my little old song of peace."
The Rod Stewart-sounding Taylor even took over on lead vocals on I'm In Love With My Car, after a drum solo, and These Are The Days, which saw black-and-white vintage footage of Mercury playing on video screens behind him to huge cheers from the sold-out audience.
Speaking of Mercury, he would later return again to sing a videotaped concert version of Bohemian Rhapsody, before Rodgers and the rest of the band eventually took over in the live setting. This was a wise move on everyone's part given the song's legendary challenging vocals.
Less successful was when Rodgers attempted Another One Bites The Dust, which frankly was missing Mercury's nicely clipped delivery.
But perhaps the ultimate highlight was a rousing performance of the Mercury-David Bowie duet Under Pressure, which May described as "a song that we've never, ever played before on this continent, but they put me under a lot of pressure."
We're glad they did, Brian.
Matching that song in intensity was the encore trio of We Will Rock You, Free's All Right Now and We Are The Champions.
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