Lovers Lane
Copernicus Center

Queen + Paul Rodgers Reviewed

| March 29, 2006

Queen + Paul Rodgers
Allstate Arena, Rosemont
Thursday, March 23, 2006

After testing the waters, so to speak, overseas, the newly rechristened Queen + Paul Rodgers launched its first full-fledged American tour. Considering it’s been more than two decades since the original act stepped foot on Stateside soil, anticipation was high, though the stakes this time through were incredibly different.

Filling in for the late great Freddie Mercury was the somewhat strange, but quite capable choice Rodgers (of Free and Bad Company fame) along with guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor. Fellow original and bassist John Deacon has long since retired from the road, but the rhythm section was fleshed out by a trio of additional session players. Yet no matter who was involved and how the tour was specifically billed, there was no escaping the ample supply of memorable material, which nostalgic as it may have been, still royally rocked while transcending generational constraints.

Unlike recent tours by The Doors Of The 21st Century and INXS (who despite new singers made little, if any, reference to departed leaders) the current Queen contingency didn’t deny the group’s ties to Mercury. Instead they were the very first sounds that oozed from the speakers, as a taped rendition of him singing “It’s A Beautiful Day” triggered the group’s entrance. He reappeared two hours later for a piped-in duet with Rodgers on “Bohemian Rhapsody” with shout outs and tributes in between.

But that underlying streak of homage didn’t take the spotlight off Rodgers by any means, who still had the daunting task of winning over the masses as he covered the rest of Queen’s massive catalog. Though not always a success, he rose to the occasion from the get go with the killer combination of “Tie Your Mother Down” and “Fat Bottomed Girls.” Such a series of rousing romps laid the groundwork for several other staples, such as “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “The Show Must Go On,” both of which took kindly to Rodgers’ bluesy undertones and much more muscular demeanor when compared to the flamboyant Mercury.

Speaking of Rodgers’ aggressive nature, it was also highlighted in several nods to Bad Company, which despite not necessarily fitting hand-in-glove with the set’s bulk of Queen material, added additional doses of radio familiarity. “Feel Like Makin’ Love,” “Can’t Get Enough,” and “Bad Company” were spirited throwbacks, connecting with the gritty riffs that first made them famous (much better than the fleet of bar bands who regularly cover such cuts every weekend). The singer wasn’t the only member to have the spotlight as May and Taylor also took turns stepping up to the microphone. The former was particularly poignant in dedicating the acoustic “Love Of My Life” to Mercury, while the latter tastefully recalled “These Are the Days Of Our Lives” with old footage of the originals playing above on the jumbo screen.

Though Taylor started “Radio Ga Ga,” he passed the baton back to Rodgers midway through, but it resulted in one of the lowest energy moments of the night (and certainly miles short of the resplendent Live Aid performance in 1985). “Another One Bites the Dust” and “Under Pressure” were also weak without the melodic temperament they required, instead replaced by the newcomer’s burly pipes. However, the group truly hit stride during an electrified encore of “We Will Rock You,” Free’s “All Right Now,” and “We Are the Champions.” In fact members gelled so well one could completely forget about prior blunders and truly be consumed by this reunion of sorts. With a jubilant outro to “God Save the Queen,” Queen + Paul Rodgers appeared to officially pass the fans’ test.

— Andy Argyrakis

Category: Live Reviews, Weekly

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