It takes some balls for a band to carry on losing a singer, fighting a relentless niggling feeling that you’re always being held against the original. Even if it’s a success the spectre is always there – millions of AC/DC fans still harp on about the Bon Scott years even though Brian Johnson was their frontman for 37 years.
Other times it’s just wrong – see Black Sabbath without Ozzy Osbourne, Iron Maiden without Bruce Dickinson or (the fucking worst) Thin Lizzy without Phil Lynott.
Freddie Mercury has arguably has the biggest dead frontman shoes to fill in history, with the Queen singer generally regarded as a superhuman performer, a one-off flamboyant miracle.
Beyond the rich four-octave voice and lyrical drama, Freddie’s struts, pouts and Pied Piper crowd manipulation are part of rock’n’roll folklore, and the concert movie Live at Wembley in 1986 is still staggering. You know the yellow jacket/white jeans & vest combo too.
After Freddie’s tragic death in 1991, Brian May and Roger Taylor kept the band’s legacy alive with reissues, occasional guest appearances and an eventual hook-up with croaky classic rocker Paul Rodgers of Free from 2004-2009.
This never sat right with fans or anyone with eyes and ears – Rodgers could maybe hit the notes but missed out on the nudge/wink flourishes that made Freddie so special. So while Rodgers was all bombast and chest-beating, current frontman Adam Lambert is a better fit — an X Factor graduate who’s got the feather boa flamboyance and the high notes. Still, there’s a bit of an “aye right” buzz when you see him looking like an reality show try-hard.
Freddie can never be replaced so Taylor and May won’t ever call the band simply Queen, and during camp epics like Radio Ga Ga and I Want To Break Free he’ll be missed the most. But even if it’s not the real thing, the greatest Queen tribute band on Earth is a good substitute.
- Queen and Adam Lambert play Marlay Park in Dublin on Sunday, July 8.