Added on 14-Oct-2008
By John Aizlewood, Evening Standard 14.10.08
Not really Queen: Paul Rodgers keeps the band going
Queen? Not really. Freddie Mercury cannot be with us for well-documented reasons, bassist John Deacon prefers to sit at home counting his money and polishing his dignity, leaving guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor as the half who wouldn’t let things lie.
The joy and genius of Queen was the outrageously camp Mercury vying for supremacy with three blokey blokes. More often than not, the tension in a band of four songwriters and three singers resulted in what was genuinely a kind of magic.
Since 2004, May and Taylor have replaced Mercury with Paul Rodgers. Once of Free and Bad Company, Rodgers is a harmonica-playing, microphone-stand-twirling, great British bawler. Alas, the 58-year-old Teessider married to a former Miss Canada is too sexually uncomplicated to strut in Mercury’s shoes.
Rodgers was a curious figure, occasionally brilliant, as when tearing through I Want To Break Free and wrestling in manly fashion with The Show Must Go On. Yet he fluffed more than one line and when a lighter touch was required, he struggled. Radio Gaga is a nostalgic paean to an idealised childhood, not a hairy-chested romp, although the spellbinding Leni Riefenstahl-esque syncopated clapping brought out the latent totalitarian in everyone. Strangely, he needed an autocue, although you suspect May and Taylor hoped their newish singer would be familiar with Queen’s songs by now: after all, by unhappy osmosis even I know every last lumpen line of the loathsome (“no time for losers”) We Are The Champions.
So, in a Faustian accommodation with Rodgers, May and Taylor have re-written Queen’s history to re-position them as meat ’n’ potatoes rockers and omitted the bulk of their great songs (You’re My Best Friend, Now I’m Here, Las Palabras De Amor, Innuendo, Don’t Stop Me Now among many others). It was as if the dazzling, ground-breaking, reflective, wry Queen had never existed.
Instead, there was Fat Bottomed Girls; new songs, including We Believe (improbably even more pompous than its title with its “we believe there’s a deed of obligation to bring reconciliation” line), while comedian Al Murray appeared on Cosmos Rockin’. There was a torturous drum solo, an interminable guitar solo and Free’s All Right Now (a song that is always too soon to hear yet again). Most tellingly of all, Mercury’s appearance on screen during Bohemian Rhapsody only emphasised that, in Queen’s case, the past is a superior place and nobody present last night thought otherwise.
Queen + Paul Rodgers play the 02
Arena 7 November and Wembley Arena 8 November (0870 534 4444)).