There are few bands of such gargantuan fame as Queen. Even if you can’t even hum one of the British rockers’ songs, chances are you’ve heard of the flamboyant former frontman Freddie Mercury, or seen the iconic image of him in his bright yellow jacket. Mercury’s death in 1991 could have put a stop to Queen, but the rest of the band made the decision to keep rocking.
Now, 46 years after their formation, the band is gearing up for another Hong Kong concert on Wednesday. They’ll be fronted by Adam Lambert, the US singer-songwriter who rose to fame on American Idol when he auditioned with Queen’s most famous song, Bohemian Rhapsody.
Though he steers away from pretending to be Mercury or trying to replace him, Lambert embodies everything the singer represented: a bold and confident showman who treats every performance like it’s his last, and loves a dazzling stage outfit.
“He’s a fantastic performer. I think he’s one of the best singers in the world today. We are very lucky to have him,” says drummer Roger Taylor. “When Freddie passed away, Brian and I really thought that’s the end of Queen. We really didn’t expect to be working ever again.”
Lambert met the band when they featured on the US talent show, and their relationship grew from there. Guitarist Brian May and Taylor saw great star potential in Lambert, and knew their fans would love him too. A few years after Lambert came second in the contest, he performed at an awards show with Queen.
“The response was just phenomenal,” says May. “Everyone said, ‘Boy oh boy, it worked, please do more of this’. So we did some things experimentally, we didn’t go for the huge thing straight away, but it happened. We didn’t look for it but it came to us in a way. Soon we found ourselves playing in front of 400,000 people”
Although 34-year-old Lambert admits he didn’t discover Queen until later in his life, he found it easy to connect with band’s image and sound. “I really love all Queen’s music,” says Lambert. “The catalogue of songs is so diverse; they covered so many different styles. And that’s how showbiz should be: we got to take the audience on such an incredible journey. There are songs that are really aggressive and tough; and there are songs that are sensitive and sweet. There are songs that are dramatic. They have such an amazing catalogue.”
The whole band is excited to be performing in Hong Kong for the first time. For Taylor, it means a chance to grab dim sum, while May will get to step foot in a place he has been dreaming of visiting for some time. “I have never been to Hong Kong! I am ashamed, as I have friends there,” says the sheepish guitarist.
As well as bringing Queen to a new generation of Hongkongers, and showing what Lambert can do, the band is excited to have Taylor’s 25-year-old son, Rufus Tiger, along on tour as a drummer. “My son will be coming and playing with us on stage in Hong Kong,” Taylor explains. “We have a drum battle and it’s great. So I’ll have a younger model on stage. I can still teach him some tricks.”
So what plans have been made for after the final tour date in Thailand on September 30? Lambert says, “I really don’t know how long it will keep going. But there’s no reason to stop!
“There are lots of people all around the world, and we love performing the songs for them! It’s great, very emotional.”