Following the tragic demise of Freddie Mercury, the iconic and flamboyant front man of Queen, few would have thought that they would see Queen on stage again. However, when Brian May and Roger Taylor began working together again the rumours began to circulate that Queen would again perform and speculation was rife as to who could possibly fill Mercury’s huge shoes with names such as Robbie Williams being bandied around.
When Paul Rodgers was eventually unveiled as the one to join May and Taylor, a fair few eyebrows were raised. How could the Bluesy tones of Rodgers fit the opulent Queen style? In fact as it turned out, the choice of Rodgers proved to be something of a masterstroke. Instead of being a Freddie clone, Rodgers has his own style and an enormous reputation in his own right dating back to a time when Queen was a mere twinkle in Brian May’s telescope. Rodgers has over the years been revered as one of Rocks greatest singers and the prospect of him joining forces with May and Taylor had many Rock fans drooling in anticipation.
After a hugely successful tour, documented on the Return of the Champions disc, the band now monikered Queen + Paul Rodgers (Q+PR), recorded their first all new material in the form of the well received Cosmos Rocks and with new material in the can, it was time to hit the road once more.
The Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle has seen many bands come and go over the years but few shows can have been as stuffed to the rafters as this. There was literally no space anywhere to shoehorn another single person into the venue and when Queen + Paul Rodgers took to the stage for “Hammer To Fall” the place literally shook.
With a huge, elaborate lightshow forming the impressive backdrop to the stage, Q+PR let fly with the monster Rocker “Tie Your Mother Down”, a thumping “Fat Bottom Girls” which had the Newcastle crowd punching the air to Taylor’s bass drum beat and the Funk fuelled “Another One Bites The Dust” set the temperature soaring.
Rodgers was simply on fire and clearly relished the chance to sing some classic Queen material. His charismatic charm and warm stage presence combined with “that voice” ensured that even the hardest of cynics could not fail to be won over after the first few songs.
Rodgers performed best on the harder edged, more dramatic material with “I Want It All” and the “The Show Must Go On” being particularly suited to his vocal style. In fact “The Show Must Go On” was utterly sensational. Rodger’s spine tingling rendition was the evenings highlight as he delivered a performance of real class. The song seemed to have been custom written for his voice and it’s to his credit that he has taken someone else’s song and really made it his own.
On the more Poppy material such as “I Want To Break Free” however, it doesn’t work quite as well but that doesn’t seem to bother the buoyant crowd.
Having a new album out gave Q+PR the chance to play some material written by them as a band for the first time. “C-lebrity”, built around a classic Brian May riff and “Surfs Up/Schools Out” both pack a much bigger punch on stage than on the album while the more ballad orientated material like the Taylor sung “Say It’s Not True” bristled with passion. The only real omission from the new album being the foreboding “War Boys”, which would have been a treat to hear live.
The pace of the show dipped slightly in the middle as Rodgers took a long break while introducing “Dr. Brian May” before leaving May alone to sing a heartfelt “Love Of My Life” movingly accompanied by the huge crowd. “39” gave the crowd a chance for a more rambunctious sing-a-long before May indulged in a technically excellent if somewhat overlong solo which at times threatened to break into “Now I’m Here” but unfortunately it did not.
Taylor also had his moment in the spotlight with rather clever drum solo where the drum kit was built up from scratch from a bass drum and high hat to a full kit by the roadies as Taylor played his solo before launching into his trademark “I’m In Love With My car”.
Taylor also took the microphone to the front of the stage for “It’s A Kind of Magic” before Rodgers rejoined the fray for the last verse. Although the crowd seemed to enjoy the acoustic/solo segment one can’t help thinking that a few more songs might have been a better bet than the solos. If “Don’t Stop Me Now” or “Ogre Battle” (yes, please!!) were thrown into the pot that would have been something special.
Paul Rodgers also had a chance to celebrate his heritage with a delicate “Seagull” and an impeccable “Bad Company” with him seated behind his grand piano. Unfortunately other than encore “All Right Now” which really did have the hall rocking, Rodgers back catalogue seemed a little overlooked and a couple more Free or Bad Company tunes wouldn’t have gone amiss.
For the final part of the show, the hits came thick and fast with “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” bouncing with vigour and “Radio Ga Ga “ seeing thousands of hand shooting simultaneously skyward, an impressive sight indeed.
No Queen show would be complete without “Bohemian Rhapsody” and in a moving tribute to Freddie a video montage of Mercury’s finest moments was played to his vocal track while the band performed live. The word “classic” is bandied around far too often these days but this song truly merits that accolade.
Closing the show with encores “Cosmos Rocks”, a real shit kicker in classic Queen fashion from the new album and the aforementioned “All Right Now” got the crowd fired up perfectly for the anthems to end all anthems and who could resist clapping along to “We Will Rock You” or singing wildly to “We Are The Champions”. Being in the midst of a mass of 10,000 or so people all singing and clapping together was certainly a stirring sensation.
They may have been around for more years than they dare to remember but Q+PR thrilled the capacity Arena with over two hours of classic songs, delivered by musicians at the top of their game. Q+PR certainly proved that this was no short term, one-off project and with a couple of tours and a new album under their belt, this exciting new chapter in the careers of both Queen and Paul Rodgers looks set to continue well into the future.
For more on Queen and Paul Rodgers visit www.queenpluspaulrodgers.com