Should bands continue without key members?
#ADAM NOBERT // Taylor Kirby
Freddie Mercury has been dead for 26 years, but Queen rocks on.
With Adam Lambert taking the lead mic, Queen has launched its 2017 world tour and will play a packed Pepsi Center on July 6—despite the fact that Queen should have permanently disbanded the day they lost their leading man.
While the contributions of instrumentalists are undeniably equal to the lead singer in the pursuit of of top-grade music, it’s the latter who bears the burden of representing the whole. To lose a band’s voice is to lose its agency, its ability to grow beyond what it was before (note that Queen only tours albums that are decades old).
Here’s the scene to expect come July: guitarist Brian May cues up the iconic chord progression behind “We Will Rock You.” The audience’s collective excitement is expressed via frenzied screaming, momentarily muting the very thing that inspired their attendance. This track earns out 20 percent of the cost of their tickets, minimum, and May knows it: he extends the prologue by another 30 seconds.
Then the vocals come in.
Since 1991, many artists have helmed Queen’s shows, and the one thing they all share in common? They’re not Freddie Mercury. In all arenas in life—and especially during stadium tours—anything “not Freddie Mercury” can only be a disappointment. The audience knows to anticipate that dismal fact, but there’s still a moment of dissonance, a gap between expectations and reality that can never be closed. Even when the artist taking the lead is as talented as Adam Lambert, a stage without an original lead singer will always sound like a karaoke track—an imitation that only the people pre-determined to like the performer can truly enjoy.
#ADAM BAEBERT // William Card
Queen has been making this rockin’ world go round for 40-plus years. Even with the passing of Freddie Mercury, Queen has made the tough, but triumphant decision to carry on.
Despite the decision garnering quantities of scrutiny, Queen has decided to extend its musical legacy by adding additional musicians that keep intact original stylings while giving individual performers a chance to bolster their own abilities.
Music is a flexible, malleable, and divisive force. Its interpretations change, divert, and grow with each performance of its composition. If music lived and died by the original performers, that would mean hundreds of decades worth of music falling off the face of the live music-canon.
To scrutinize Queen for choosing Adam Lambert is to scrutinize your younger sibling for choosing to play Mozart’s “5th Symphony” instead of their own shitty composition.
Listeners of Queen—especially to their classic records—have a solid place for Mercury in their heart. Yes, each and every person will wait for the fervid cries of Mercury in “We Will Rock You,” but to say that in reproducing that same moment live has no value because Mercury himself isn’t producing it is the musical equivalent to shooting yourself in the foot.
Haters of Adam Lambert are welcome to skip the July 6 celebration of musical excellence. Just as Panic! At the Disco hasn’t relinquished its desire to bring its live show to millions of fans, despite lineup changes, Queen knows it’s not delivering a carbon copy of its classic record. It’s delivering an authentic experience that galactically exceeds an experience one would get drunkenly at a local karaoke bar.