My fears over fronting Queen
Intimidating: Adam Lambert and Freddie Mercury
Words: Kate Mossman
No one really expected a comeback from Queen, especially not one involving a 30-year-old show tunes fanatic they first met on American Idol. Many were highly sceptical about the culture clash and, when Sonisphere was cancelled, pointed the finger at the unlikely alliance.
Then singer Adam Lambert took to the stage with Queen at Hammersmith Odeon in July with a unique combination of humility and flamboyance – and the first voice to hit all the notes since George Michael.
Lambert faces up to his fears in Classic Rock No.179, on sale now.
Were you aware that many Queen fans wrote you off before you even started?
When I first heard murmurs of people being sceptical I thought, they’re allowed to be. They’re protecting the legacy. I mean, it’s Freddie Mercury! You don’t want to fuck with that. When I got the offer I immediately said yes, and then I hung up the phone and thought: “Oh my gosh, how the fuck am I going to do this? This is a big deal.”
Did Brian and Roger give you any advice about how to deal with the pressure?
In fact they were so relaxed that I thought: “Okay, what are they not telling me here? Are they just as sceptical as the fans?”
Do you think you were an odd choice?
The generation gap and the difference in our nationalities were intimidating. But I remember sitting with Brian early on and the conversation got kind of abstract. I thought how cool it is we can talk about this stuff. Roger was funny and playful, and he’s real nostalgic. They both said: “You and Freddie would have giggled together. He would have gotten a kick out of you.” Then I felt accepted.
With you the band played all this disco material that Queen haven’t touched in years. Did you have anything to do with that?
I told them early on what my Queen touchstones were,and Another One Bites The Dust was the top of my list – more dance-oriented, more R&B, and I loved that funk bassline. Brian and Roger said that song was really the love child of Freddie and John [Deacon]. Apparently they were both talking about this guitar player called Nile Rodgers [from Chic] at the time. I told Brian I’d just worked with him on my new album. There were some moments of this process that felt like fate.
You grew up listening to musical theatre. A few years ago Roger Taylor said he couldn’t stand musicals.
I think they started to like it more when it was their music.
What was most difficult about being Freddie?
Really, it was the sheer density of the set we put together. There were songs that I didn’t know at all, like Dragon Attack, and others in that funk section. The first show we did was to 250,000 in the Ukraine. I’m not going to lie, I was deeply nervous for the first half of that show. After the gig I felt a weight lift.
You didn’t appear to be imitating Freddie’s stage movements.
I thought that would be really tacky. It’s a really fine line, paying homage versus doing an impression.
Why did people warm to you?
Because we believed it could work. We didn’t allow any sceptical energy to creep in.
Will you do more with Queen?
I would definitely be open to it. It’s important to me to have my own body of work, but after those shows I came home far more confident and well-rounded. I’m not going to lie – it made me go: “Ha-ha! Look what I just did!” I’m proud of myself.
This article is featured in the latest edition of Classic Rock, dated January 2013 and on sale now. The issue is dedicated to The Best Of 2012: the ultimate review of the past 12 months. The new edition also includes a free 2013 calendar, Best of 2012 CD and features on the Rolling Stones, Duff McKagan and Nikki Sixx, Rush, Queensryche, Alice Cooper and much more.
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