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Brian May talks Queen's revival: 'We would never be doing this now if it weren't for Adam Lambert'

Lyndsey Parker
Yahoo Music

Queen + Adam Lambert kick off their limited-run Las Vegas residency at the Park Theater this Saturday, Sept. 1. It’s an event that has been a long time coming. Truly, from the moment Lambert first entered America’s living rooms and the American Idol audition room nine (yes, NINE) years ago and belted out “Bohemian Rhapsody,” he seemed fit for a Queen and destined to one day front the legendary glam-rock group.

Lambert may have lost the Season 8 Idol title to Kris Allen, but he was undoubtedly the winner of that season’s splashy finale, when he and Allen joined Queen’s Brian May and Roger Taylor for a spectacular performance of the fittingly titled “We Are the Champions.” While Allen held his own that evening, it was clear from the look on May’s face that he was especially amazed by the rock chops of “a wonderful singer called Adam Lambert.”

“It was a nice time, because both of those boys were great, but there was something about Adam,” May tells Yahoo Entertainment while promoting his retrospective photo book, Queen in 3-D, which has an entire chapter, “Madame Lambert,” devoted to Adam. “This chemistry was instant, and it was like we were already kind of in a band with him. It’s quite strange. [He didn’t join Queen] for a little while afterwards, because [he] couldn’t. He was under contract to the American Idol people. But when we had the opportunity to work with him, we did three songs in Ireland for an awards show [the 2011 MTV Europe Awards]. We did ‘The Show Must Go On,’ ‘We Are the Champions,’ and ‘We Will Rock You,’ and everybody, including us, went, ‘Oh, this works. It just has it. It just has the right ingredients.’”

Many European MTV viewers were unfamiliar with the Idol alum but were understandably wowed and eager to see more. Suddenly, there was demand for a new Queen world tour, and “Queenbert,” as they were jokingly nicknamed by fans, made their full concert debut at Kiev’s 140,000-capacity Independence Square at a joint show with Elton John for the Elena Pinchuk ANTIAIDS Foundation. Fans excitedly uploaded all two hours of the televised event to YouTube, and as more gigs followed in Russia, Eastern Europe, and England (where the supergroup played a sold-out, three-night stint at London’s Hammersmith Apollo), American fans started to wonder when they’d finally get to witness this remarkable show too.

Queen + Adam Lambert made their official stateside concert debut at Las Vegas’s iHeartRadio Festival in 2013, and they have been entertaining audiences worldwide ever since. And now, they’re triumphantly returning to Vegas.

In the Queen in 3-D book, May jokingly writes that late Queen legend Freddie Mercury would almost be downright jealous of his successor’s vocal prowess. “Freddie would love and hate him, yeah; I mean, you know, he’d be like, ‘You bastard!’” May quips. “Because, I mean, Adam has a real gift from God. That voice is a voice in a billion, and nobody has that range, nobody that I’ve ever worked with. And not just the range but the quality throughout the range and the passion to use that instrument. And I’ve seen Adam develop, just like I watched Freddie develop. … He was great to start with, but now, we’re doing something like ‘Who Wants to Live Forever’ onstage, and sometimes I almost stop playing because I think, ‘What did he just do?’ He’s so free with his interpretations, and it’s spine-chilling, just the sound he makes and the way he interprets a song.”

While May stresses that Lambert “in no sense imitates Freddie” — a point that Lambert, a huge Queen fan himself, makes humbly every night onstage — May explains that Lambert “provides that piece of the jigsaw puzzle, which is, I mean, stupendous. We would never be doing this now if it weren’t for Adam.’

“It’s an incredible life. I feel so grateful that [Queen] had it. And we still have it.”

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