Lambert brings new life to Queen
With all the attention brought back to Freddie Mercury and Queen with the awards-circuit success of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a documentary about the band’s second life with a new lead singer is well-timed.
In “The Show Must Go On: The Queen + Adam Lambert Story,” premiering Monday, April 29, on ABC, the story of the iconic ’70s rock band’s return to touring with Lambert, a solo artist who rose to prominence 10 years ago on “American Idol,” is told through rare concert footage, portraits of the band members and interviews with all concerned as well as Lambert’s parents, “American Idol” judge Simon Cowell, the Foo Fighters’ Taylor Hawkins and Rami Malek, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of Mercury in “Rhapsody.”
Like Jim Morrison or Janis Joplin, Mercury had one of those distinctive voices that you just don’t go out and replace. Surviving band members Brian May and Roger Taylor knew that when he died of AIDS in 1991, and after a one-off tribute concert featuring various singers in ’92, decided to retire the act. A few projects followed but Queen remained largely dormant until they crossed paths with Lambert, whose powerful voice and unapologetically flamboyant stage presence was reminiscent of Mercury, in 2012.
Lambert, a Queen fan since childhood, found a kindred spirit in Mercury. Like Mercury, Lambert is gay, has the over-the-top stage manner and of course, that voice. Unlike Mercury, he was raised by parents who supported his lifestyle and career choice and is completely comfortable in his own skin. That his sexuality was an issue at all caught him by surprise.
“It wasn’t until he got on ‘American Idol’ where seemingly everyone else had a reaction to his sexuality that it became a story,” explains Matt Lombardi, the film’s executive producer. “But up till then, it was a truth about his life that he was completely comfortable with and his family was comfortable with. So in that sense, I think (he) would ultimately become the perfect frontman for a band like Queen, where that kind of artistic expression is embraced.”
Nearly 200 sold-out concert dates later, the music of Queen is alive again and gaining a new younger audience, as the documentary tells us.
“The world has just been so captured by the Freddie Mercury story that really (this is in effect) the next chapter,” Lombardi says. “And you’re seeing not only the music of Freddie Mercury live on but you’re also seeing just the way that spirit has informed and sort of paved the way for a new artist, a contemporary artist who is not imitating Freddie. That’s not what he’s doing.
“He’s his own man and he’s his own artist,” he continues, “but he’s paying homage to those songs. And as he says in the documentary, ‘I know I’m not Freddie but if you come to the show, I’ll help build a bridge between the young audiences and the old and we’ll just have a good time.’ ”