The Show Must Go On: The Queen + Adam Lambert Story

By the early 1980s, Queen was one of the biggest stadium rock bands in the world. Their set at the 1985 Live Aid concert is basically the most significant live performance of all time. Queen meaning Roger Taylor on drums, Brian May on guitar, John Deacon on bass, and Freddie Mercury on piano and vocals. Mercury was a flamboyant showman on the stage, an inimitable presence with an incredible voice. When he died in 1991, the band more or less died with him; his bandmates were his friends, and they needed to mourn him away from the music.

I can’t remember when I was first aware of Queen because I was born into a world already obsessed with them. I remember being in my mom’s van and hearing the telltale bassline of Under Pressure and being mad, SO mad, when it turned out to be “that old song” by Queen, and not Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice, a flash in the pan hip-hop monstrosity that sampled from Queen/David Bowie without crediting them. Imagine being disappointed by Under Pressure. Imagine. I have been atoning for that musical folly ever since.

I have probably never been to a hockey game that didn’t play We Will Rock You at least 5 times. As a kid I probably thought it was specifically written for hockey. But in 1992 the band got an even bigger boost from a different Canadian export, Mike Myers. Wayne’s World was released just a few months after Mercury’s (AIDS-related) death, and the studio begged Myers to go with a Guns N Roses instead, but Myers was insistent. The film propelled Bohemian Rhapsody to #2 on the charts 17 years after its first release. Mercury saw the head banging scene before his death, found it hilarious, and approved the song for the film’s use. It was a nice way for new fans and old fans to appreciate Queen once again. Just two months later, in April 1992, the remaining Queen members put on a benefit, The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, to which 1.2 billion viewers tuned in (they made the Guinness Book of Records!). Performers including Robert Plant, Elton John, Annie Lennox, George Michael, and David Bowie performed alongside the original members, and they raised over £20M for AIDS charities.

This would prove a wise and prophetic move: Queen never tried to replace the irreplaceable Freddie Mercury. When they were ready to perform again, they performed as Queen + ________. John Deacon retired in 1997, but a new Greatest Hits (III) album was released in 1999, Queen + Wyclef Jean on Another One Bites the Dust, George Michael on Somebody to Love, and Elton John on The Show Must Go On (among others). And beginning in 2005, they toured + Paul Rodgers. Fans could enjoy the music they loved without feeling their Mercury had been replaced. May and Taylor could play again, in tribute to their friend of course, but also because this was their music too, their passion.

In 2011, Queen began playing with American Idol loser, Adam Lambert (that year’s winner, Kris Allen, has long since been forgotten – the show has a pretty crummy record: out of 17 seasons, only 2 early winners ever had any lasting success, Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood). But Queen knew a winner when it saw one.

This documentary covers a lot of ground. A LOT. But it’s Queen, so let’s gobble it up. And it’s kind of cool that this iconic band, now consisting of two aging rock stars, can see in Lambert a little bit of their old friend. Adam Lambert is himself a flamboyant showman, but he doesn’t invite comparison to Mercury, which is what makes this union work. He is a confident performer in his own right, and May and Taylor seem re-energized in rediscovering their old hits with him, old hits that, like me, Lambert has grown up just knowing. And though he’s also passionate about his solo work, Lambert knows what a huge opportunity this is, how lucky he is to perform to arenas filled with people. But most of all, it’s just cool to see how things have changed, from Freddie Mercury’s deathbed confession of AIDS, to Lambert being able to perform as an openly gay man. Many great bands continue to tour long past their prime, eventually becoming a sort of cover band of themselves. Queen, however, has lasted because it’s been open to change, it has evolved. They never wallpapered over their past. They knew they had a once in a lifetime thing with Freddie, but they also admit they’ve somehow found it again with Lambert.

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35 thoughts on “The Show Must Go On: The Queen + Adam Lambert Story

  1. ninvoid99

    Adam Lamebert still fucking sucks. He can’t sing for shit and doesn’t deserve to be in the same universe with the likes of Freddie. Plus, trying to force someone to suck your cock on national television isn’t the way to go to become famous.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. slynnc

      His vocals are phenomenal. Brian and Roger knew what they were doing when they hired him. Their choice has allowed Queen to tour the world again for the last 8 years, selling out arenas wherever they go,

      Liked by 3 people

      Reply
    2. Karin

      If you don’t like Adam, that’s your opinion and you’re entitled to it. But anyone who says Adam Lambert is a bad singer is either deaf or stupid. You don’t have to like someone’s style to acknowledge an ability. If you don’t like it, don’t listen. So easy.

      Liked by 3 people

      Reply
      1. ninvoid99

        Wow, it’s obvious you haven’t heard anything by Queen at all because you have no idea what the fuck you’re talking about. Go listen to your Taylor Swift records snowflake.

        Like

      2. Tom

        Besides being obviously wrong on his singing ability Ninvoid’s opinion matters to Lambert about as much as mine matters to Ninvoid I’m sure. So, less than 0%.

        Liked by 1 person

    3. Laurie Pesanski Wygonik

      We hear music like we taste food, so I have no problem with someone not liking Adam Lambert’s voice or stage persona. But to say he can’t sing is technically incorrect according to any music professional. And thank God QUEEN (with Freddie) produced countless albums that you can listen to over and over where QUEEN will never change.

      Liked by 3 people

      Reply
      1. ninvoid99

        Just because I’m not a music professional doesn’t mean I know what is good and what sucks and Lamebert fucking sucks. It has no sense of passion or soul. Bob Dylan and Tom Waits may not have the greatest voices but they can do so much with what they’ve got.

        Like

      1. Tom

        I actually just watched this docu on this site’s rec0mmendstion and it’s the first time I’ve heard Lambert sing. I was blown away. I have no idea what tf you’re talking about lol

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Jay Post author

        I don’t watch American Idol so I only knew him for some stuff on the radio. There is no besting Freddie Mercury of course, which is why I think Queen has been so smart to not replace him with another lead singer, but to tour featuring guest stars. I think Lambert has proven himself worthy and he’s definitely got the pipes. I was particularly impressed with how warmly he’s been received by Taylor and May who are themselves legends but they’re still so respectful and admiring of this young kid and his talent – I think that is not likely typical in the music community but it made me like them even more.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Tom

        Is it obvious though? I watched the documentary. In which he was introduced. I heard him sing in the documentary. And I enjoyed his sound so I checked him out on YouTube later. But I also fucking like Adam Lambert so don’t condescend to me as if my positive opinion of the other guy makes me ignorant toward the other. Jesus you’re small.

        Like

      4. ninvoid99

        And you’re a fucking idiot. I don’t need to watch it and I don’t want to. It’s not Queen anymore. It’s just a fucking tribute band with a no-talent singer who got famous by getting someone to try and suck his dick on national TV.

        Like

      5. Jay Post author

        Whoa, dude, calm down. No one’s making you watch anything. His talent isn’t really up for debate. And I’m pretty sure Queen gets to decide who’s Queen. And they have. So let’s take a few deep breaths and remember to be civil.
        Oh, and you bringing up the “suck his dick” thing is starting to feel just a tad homophobic. Nearly every male pop star since the beginning of time and certainly since the beginning of MTV has done that and worse to any and all females on stage, and we’ve managed to remain pretty silent about that.

        Like

      6. ninvoid99

        Yeah but on national TV and forcing someone to do it? How is that homophobic? Don’t give me this PC bullshit. I am fucking tired of that shit. I have no patience for it. And in regards to Queen. It’s only half the band who chose to carry on because they have nothing else to do. At least John Deacon had the dignity to not continue knowing it wasn’t going to be the same w/o Freddie.

        Like

      7. Jay Post author

        It’s not PC bullshit to say that there’s obviously a double standard here. It’s not “PC bullshit” you have no tolerance for, you just don’t like being called out, but everyone here seems to agree that you’ve taken things too far and whether you want to sit with your possible homophobia or not, I think maybe you need to take some time to wonder why this topic makes you so angry. Because it hasn’t anything to do with the movie, which you clearly haven’t seen (the premise of which is: OF COURSE it’s not the same without Freddie).

        Like

      8. ninvoid99

        I’m homophobic? Whoa… how am I homophobic just because I think Lambert fucking sucks?

        My father is right all along. You people just don’t fucking get it and you never will. I’m out. Don’t fucking come crying to me when you’re being forced to suck someone’s dick on national TV to make some no-talent bitch famous.

        Like

    4. mfy

      That’s a lot of anger for someone (Adam Lambert) who brings so much joy to so many. I pity you that you are so without grace, generosity, and good taste.

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply
      1. ninvoid99

        I don’t have good taste. Yeah, says the one who listens to a third-rate singer from “American Idol” who tries to become famous by shoving some dude’s head on his crotch to get his dick sucked.

        Like

  2. macalder02

    Actually, with Freddie Mercury, he was one of the most representative rock bands. And as you say, the show must continue with the new member (Lambert). I had not seen the documentary and now I was curious to see it. Your review is very good.
    Manuel

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  3. leendadll

    Interesting! I haven’t been able to tolerate Lambert but maybe I’ll give this movie a shot.

    My fav memory related to Queen: Their first album had come out but my young (pre or early teen) BFF and I couldn’t afford it. My BFF’s relatives were visiting and she asked her uncle for $$ to but “A Night At The Opera”. Impressed that she was interested in opera, he have her the cash. The left that night and the next day we walked to Tower Records and bought the album. The uncle was a good sport when, weeks later, she played it for him.

    Liked by 4 people

    Reply
  4. BreatheFree

    I watched this documentary on Netflix and wow, what a remarkable story of how the Queen + Adam Lambert partnership happened. It’s the best serendipity. And what a frontman they’ve got now, for the second time. Roger’s right when he says, “I don’t think there’s anyone alive today who can out-sing Adam Lambert.” The range that guy has is mind-blowing. What a joy to see Brian and Roger at the top of their game along with Lambert out front and the other talented members of the band. Is there any band with better (live) backing vocals?

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply
  5. slynnc

    I don’t think two living legends would chose to tour with a wailing bitch, not to mention they have been successfully selling out arenas all over the world for 8 years. 😂😂😂

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
      1. Lloyd Marken

        I wonder if it’s on YouTube. I hear nothing but good things about Lambert but am afraid haven’t seen much except the opening at the Oscars which didn’t blow me away. I will check out the doc.

        Like

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