Queen and Adam Lambert are hitting the road this fall for a North American expansion of their Rhapsody Tour, with a freshly minted knight onstage and plenty of post-pandemic energy.
The band boasts about a new production with a some new songs added to the setlist and a few surprises that members won’t reveal, the product of plenty of time to think about the way the tour looks and sounds.
“We do constantly try and keep ourselves interested because it’s nice to change the show around, even in small ways,” says drummer Roger Taylor. “Obviously we do some sort of deep cuts whilst at the same time keeping the big hits that everybody knows. People want to see what they know. But it’s nice to spice it up with a few things they might not expect.”
The tour will make 14 stops throughout the U.S. and Canada, including shows in Baltimore, New York, Atlanta, Denver, Boston, Toronto, Chicago and Dallas, before closing out in Los Angeles in November. The concerts are being billed as a continuation of Queen’s 2017-2019 Rhapsody Tour.
It’s the first time the band has toured North America in four years, because of the pandemic, and guitarist Brian May — who was recently knighted by King Charles III — says he, Taylor and singer Lambert have deepened their bond.
“For a long time we were sitting there thinking, ‘What the hell do we do?’ But when we came back to it, it was very fresh, which is probably a nice thing,” he says. “I think we learned all over again how to interact with each other. So I think we are on a different level.”
The band is riding a wave of respect following the 2018 release of the Oscar-winning “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the biopic of lead singer Freddie Mercury, who died in 1991.
“It brought in a younger audience and younger people are what you feed on, in a sense,” says May. “The energy of young people is what we’re about. We’ve always been about that. So it’s been fantastic for us that a whole new generation understand what we’re about and come and want to really rock.”
While the band won’t reveal the setlist, it isn’t too hard to predict “Bohemian Rhapsody” will be played. The complex song that no one thought would be a radio hit has emerged as one of their top tracks, in large part because of 1992’s “Wayne’s World,” where it played during a key scene.
“That one took us really into another league,” says Taylor, who calls it a “game-changer.”
Expect also to hear “Don’t Stop Me Now,” which Taylor says started as a medium hit and has emerged as a top Queen request and “Who Wants to Live Forever,” which May says Lambert takes “to a different place” live.
The time away has also given members a chance to appreciate finding Lambert, who impressed with a Queen song when he auditioned for “American Idol” during the 2009 season. Lambert started performing with Queen in 2011.
“Our material, our songs, are very eclectic and the plain fact is that Adam is a truly great singer, and there are not many singers that could cover that range of material as wonderfully as he does,” says Taylor.
May agrees, calling Lambert “kind of a gift from God” who combines a powerful voice with a stage presence and emotional interaction with the audience.
“He ticks every single box that we could possibly want and he’s quite a nice chap, too,” May says.
Lambert, who earlier this year put out “High Drama,” an album of covers from such hitmakers as Duran Duran, Bonnie Tyler and Culture Club, says he always tries to keep Mercury at the forefront.
“There’s no replacing Freddie Mercury. That’s impossible. And so I think we’ve made it a real priority to sort of honor him every night, every show we do. It’s a celebration that includes Freddie. And I think the audience feel that,” he says.
As for his knighthood, May jokes his bandmates need to adjust to a new reality.
“I have the sword now,” he says, laughing. “They have to be much more respectful.”
—Mark Kennedy, The Associated Press