||Last Updated: Mar 20th, 2006 - 14:10:42
WASHINGTON POST 3/11/06 (www.washingtonpost.com)
Simple rock arithmetic: "Queen + Paul Rodgers" does not equal Queen. Fans of the legendary band surely knew as much when original Queenies Brian May and Roger Taylor announced a reunion tour, with Rodgers filling the Grand Canyon-size shoes of their late frontman Freddie Mercury.
Thursday at the Verizon Center (that's the center formerly known as MCI), Rodgers wisely sang less like Freddie and more like Paul. The former Free and Bad Company crooner offered his own understated take on classic Queen hits such as "I Want to Break Free" and "Fat Bottomed Girls." His performance was tasteful but a bit underwhelming. The absence of Mercury's flamboyance and theatricality made the exercise feel less like a night at the opera and more like a night at the karaoke bar.
May nimbly brushed these issues aside with some of the greatest guitar playing a rock fan could ever hope to hear. The audience cheered his soaring solos, but gasped when May took an accidental plunge into a hole in the stage (through which Rodgers and his grand piano were slowly ascending). Crew members quickly hoisted the 59-year-old guitarist back to his feet and he walked it off without much fuss. As he and Rodgers sang later in the set: "The show must go on!"
The band encored with a half-throttle version of Free's "All Right Now" sandwiched between quintessential Queen hits (and de facto jock-jams) "We Will Rock You" and "We Are the Champions." You can hear the former over the PA during practically every sporting event the Verizon Center hosts, but seeing it stomped out in real time was a treat. As for "We Are the Champions" -- we won't get to hear that one again until the Wizards figure out how to contain Shaq in the paint.
BOSTONHERALD 3/11/06 (bostonherald.com)
Queen in good company with Paul Rodgers on the mike. BySarah Rodman
It was a song that said it best last night. Near the end of their celebratory two-hour set, Queen and Paul Rodgers roared through the majestic harmonies and slamming power chords of “The Show Must Go On.”
Written by Freddie Mercury near the end of his life, the tune is an aching yet thunderous ode to treading the boards no matter the circumstance.
While the night was painfully bittersweet in places without the late showman, Free/Bad Company vocalist Rodgers capably commanded center stage with his robust, soulful voice and didn’t let Mercury - or bandmates guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor - down.
Some songs were better than others, but Rodgers gave his all from “Tie Your Mother Down” to “We Are the Champions.” And if he didn’t hit every note, scatted distractingly in places where Freddie didn’t and seemed to be searching for his second wind during “Another One Bites the Dust,” he still impressed with his brawny wail. He was in even better form on Bad Company hits “Feel Like Makin’ Love” and “Bad Company” and Free’s “All Right Now.”
It’s also hard to begrudge May and Taylor doing what they so clearly still love to do. Even if they - and Rodgers - need teleprompters, they still have plenty of gas left in their tanks judging by Taylor’s hard-hitting yet nimble stick work on “Fat Bottomed Girls” and the funky “Dragon Attack” and May’s piercing, melodic solo on the elegiac, slowed-down version of “Hammer to Fall.”
The pair’s lengthy drum and guitar solos felt like hoary 70s cliches, but their turns at the microphone were much more pleasing. Taylor played and sang on the bloozy-rocker “I’m in Love with My Car,” crooned - sounding a bit like Rod Stewart - on the nostalgic “These Are the Days of Our Lives” and shared the vocals with Rodgers on the inane but still infectious “Radio Ga Ga.” May dedicated his gentle acoustic interlude “Love of My Life” to Mercury and got plenty of help from the three-quarters capacity crowd, who also supplied the “Ready Freddie!” shout out in “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.”
The band - augmented by auxiliary guitar, bass and keyboards - played along with live video of Mercury singing “Bohemian Rhapsody.” During the nutty faux-opera portion of the song, a beautiful montage of images of the killer Queen - in drag - flickered on the central screen in loving memory.
If Queen and Paul Rodgers weren’t exactly the champions of the world last night, they were at least victors in the eyes of the folks assembled in the DCU Center.
PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS
It's Mercury-free, but Queen still rocks out
By A.D. Amorosi
"God save the Queen" isn't just a mocking Sex Pistols song or the traditional expression of good will for England's reigning mum. The phrase became applicable to Britain's pomp-rocking legends, Queen, when members Brian May and Roger Taylor announced they'd replace their late singer - the fabulously fey Freddie Mercury, who died from AIDS complications in 1991 - with the decidedly earthier Paul Rodgers.
Having the bluesy belter from Bad Company replace the campy, operatic Mercury was akin to replacing the cast of Desperate Housewives with guys from The Sopranos. Yet the audience that sold out the Wachovia Spectrum on Tuesday night found it could be done.
Sonically, Queen is the same as it ever was. Guitarist May's towering glissandos and drummer Taylor's chunky rhythms were in place. May rather touchingly sang "Love of My Life," which he called "Freddie's love song." Taylor did his creepy smash, "I'm in Love With My Car," as well as Mercury's synth-slick "Radio GaGa."
Although a sashaying Rodgers wore his spiky hair back-combed, weird facial hair, and some wrongly chosen tank tops, he didn't attempt to emulate Mercury, at least not Freddie's ragingly high vocals. (That's left to Taylor and Queen's backing vocalist-musicians.)
Instead, a nonbluesy Rodgers reached for his higher range and hit it, sturdily, every time - through guitarist May's globs of glam-metal on "Tie Your Mother Down" and "We Will Rock You," the choppy "I Want to Break Free," and the grand "The Show Must Go On."
Oddly, Rodgers' own material - like his soul-metal "Bad Company" - fit right in with Queen's sleekly crunchy harangue. While Rodgers upped the gruffness, Queen turned "Feel Like Making Love" from casually cool to shuck-jiving.
How did they handle the multilayered bombast of "Bohemian Rhapsody"? Rodgers stepped back and smartly let Freddie take the stage: A filmed solo vocal-and-piano clip of Mercury was shown while May and Rodgers played live. Two-thirds into it, Rodgers took over, breaking into a belt, with the two "dueting" by song's quiet end for a "Rhapsody" that was macabre yet effective.
By EMILY GILMORE
Let's get one thing straight right away: While Queen frontman Freddie Mercury is no longer with us, his former bandmates still kick some major rock 'n' roll butt.
So much so, in fact, that a couple of them--guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor--are bringing the music to the masses once more, this time with former Bad Company and Free singer Paul Rodgers taking over where Mercury left off.
It's important to note that concerts are billed as Queen plus Paul Rodgers, rather than Queen with Paul Rodgers, which means that Queen's music is emphasized, but the group pays tribute to Rodgers' bands, as well.
With this in mind, last Thursday's show at the Verizon Center (formerly the MCI Center) in Washington was a blast for most everyone involved. The musicians never stopped smiling, and they performed with the skill that comes from having done this for most of their lives, and with a verve that shows they still get a thrill from being onstage. The people in the audience were on their feet almost the entire time and sang practically every word.
During a set of more than 20 songs, May honored Mercury with "Love of My Life," Rodgers attacked the piano on "Bad Company," and the audience raised their arms in the air to clap during "Radio Ga Ga."
A consummate guitarist, May positively wailed on his Red Special, even after taking an unfortunate spill near the middle of the show.
And to his credit, Rodgers didn't try to imitate Freddie Mercury on hits like "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" and "Another One Bites the Dust." His style meshed well with the Queen aesthetic, though he does not possess Mercury's theatricality (but who does, really?).
Freddie was missed, though. Video footage of him performing "Bohemian Rhapsody" elicited tears from some, and for a split second I was convinced that, once the lights went up, Freddie would be onstage. Rodgers belted out the last few lyrics which was fine, but bittersweet.
For the encore, the group transitioned from a thundering "We Will Rock You" to Free's "All Right Now" before swinging back around to finish with "We Are the Champions."
And then at the end, as he, Taylor and Rodgers took their bows, May threw his plectrum into the audience.
In a show of pure elation, the guy who caught it summed up the spirit of the evening as he threw his arms into the air and enveloped the woman next to him in a rib-cage-crushing bear hug.
Skeptics may have their doubts about this combination, but Brian May is still Brian May. Roger Taylor is still Roger Taylor. And Paul Rodgers is even Paul Rodgers. We can't go back in time, but it was still totally exciting to be in that room and hear that music performed with passion.
© Copyright 2005 by QueenWorld.com
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