Sunday, April 15, 2012

Queen "Plus" - Part I

A Friend asked me on Facebook, “How do you feel about Adam Lambert singing with Queen?” My answer, without hesitation was “Meh.” Which is not necessarily negative, just an acknowledgement of what it was. It’s become painfully obvious that Queen will never replace Freddie Mercury, and will probably never come close, even after a world tour and album using the “Queen +” moniker, the surviving members (minus reclusive bass player John Deacon who is “retired”) are still trying to recreate the band’s identity and bring the legendary music to new generations of fans. I figured for those who were not fanatical Queen fans through the 90’s I’d give a rundown of the interesting and sometime unfortunate Queen+ iterations we’ve seen over the last decade and half, and why Adam Lambert might not be so bad as some might think.
“Queen +“ was first used on 1999’s Greatest Hits III, which offered an introduction to solo material from Freddie Mercury and Brian May, some fan favorite “deep cuts”, a new Remix of Under Pressure, and a couple of performances of the band in their post Freddie years. The concept was interesting, a way to market the Queen name and bring the music to new fans (and keep selling albums) without, per se, tarnishing the Queen name, while respecting Mercury’s memory as an irreplaceable front man. After more than 10 years, fans are still divided.

Here is part 1: the 90’s (and 1 from 2000)
1992 - Queen + George Michael
Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, CD single of performance
Song: Somebody to Love
I’ll spare going through every performance at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, because this is the one that everyone points to as the best of the evening. After some well-intended covers by a who’s who of early 90’s rock and pop stars, George Michael delivered an excellent performance of one of the most difficult Queen songs, hitting almost every single note. This one performance spawned a million internet rumors that George Michael would be “the guy, the only guy” Queen would, could, EVER perform with if they were to tour again. Of course it never came to fruition, but for a long time there was no question in fan’s minds that it was inevitable. This performance also was featured on Greatest Hits III and was released on a CD EP in 1993.

1997 - Queen + Elton John
Berjart Ballet for Life
Song: The Show Must Go On
Performed at the opening show of the Berjart Ballet for Life, a ballet featuring Queen Music, this was Queen’s first public performance (other than the Tribute Concert) as Queen since Freddie's death, as well as John Deacon’s last performance with the band before he “retired”. Elton John was pretty up front about this being a one-off performance in memory of his friend Freddie, but the internet, in its infinite wisdom, continued to spin rumors that he would be Freddie’s repalcement, keeping in mind Elton John performed this song (and others) at the Tribute Concert six years earlier as well. The performance itself is solid, but Elton John has a completely different voice and stylings than Freddie and I was always of the opinion that it fell a little flat. It was at least, once again, well intended. This performance also made the Greatest Hits III cut.

2000 – Queen + 5ive
Brit Awards, CD Single
Song: We Will Rock You
This is probably Queen’s blackest mark in my book. This performance kicked off the 2000 Brit Awards, and resulted in a single, and I think a track Brian May lent some guitar to on their album. Fortunately being in the US I was isolated from what I believe the British call “Bullocks”.

Stay tuned for Part 2, Queen + in “The New Millennium”