All You Need to Know About: Queen in Vancouver

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      Along with the Rolling Stones, the Who, and the Beatles, Queen is nothing less than British rock 'n' roll royalty, starting with the band's name. That's why you can practically name every song the group's going to play tonight at Rogers Arena without bothering to hop on setlist.fm. Please, God, as sure as you outfitted Freddy Mercury with Invisalign braces the second he walked through the pearly gates, let things start with "You're My Best Friend".

      ON A BUDGET  Queen was famous for doing things as big and bombastically as possible, starting with the deservedly iconic “Bohemian Rhapsody”. But the band wasn’t necessarily opposed to taking the stripped-down and decidedly DIY route on occasion. Case in point is the official video for “We Will Rock You”. More than any other in the band’s canon, the anthem screamed for the big-budget approach—something like tens of thousands of fans clapping along in a soccer stadium 20 times the size of Wembley Arena. Instead, Queen shot “We Will Rock You” in the snowy back yard of drummer Roger Taylor. Evidently of the opinion that there was no sense paying for a camera crew twice, the band shot a video for “Spread Your Wings” in the same locale on the same day, not even bothering to move the stage or change clothes. Just because you have money to burn doesn’t mean you should.

      CONVERSATION STARTER  Ask any male rocker—including the sensitive post-emo ones—why they decided to join a band, and the answer often has something to do with girls. Queen guitarist Brian May is no exception. In a 2010 profile that ran in the Guardian, the lion-maned rocker revealed that he wasn’t just introverted as a child, but painfully shy. And one of the spinoffs was that the very idea of talking to girls terrified him. Asked if he was shy, he answered, "Probably. A lot of guitarists are, aren't they? That's why they make a lot of noise. When I was a young boy I used to go to local dances and not know what to do. I went to a boys' school, so I was totally afraid of girls. There'd be people playing on stage, and I'd think: if I was up there, I'd be fine. I could be some kind of hero, and I wouldn't have to worry about what to say to girls." 

      EVERYBODY SING  Speaking of “We Will Rock You”, the movie Bohemian Rhapsody would have you believe it was something whipped up on the spot in the studio. In reality, the birth of the future classic was far more calculated. The seeds for “We Will Rock You” and the song closely associated with it—“We Are the Champions”—were planted after the band played a Stafford, England, gig in Bingley Hall back in May 1977. Because—sugar-packed toothpaste aside—there are few things the English love more than singing together in a group setting, fans ended the gig by breaking into spontaneous rendition of the British football-anthem favourite “You’ll Never Walk Alone” by Gerry and the Pacemakers. May later touched on that gig in a Radio 1 interview: “We were just completely knocked out and taken aback—it was quite an emotional experience really, and I think these chant things are in some way connected with that.” Determined to give their fans a reason to sing along like fans of the world’s most boring sport, May and singer Freddie Mercury both got busy. The guitarist came up with “We Will Rock You”, while Mercury used “My Way” as a self-empowerment template for “We Are the Champions”.

      MADAM LAMBERT  Adam Lambert first popped up on the Queen radar when May caught him performing “Bohemian Rhapsody” on American Idol in 2009. Lambert didn’t win, but the guitarist was impressed enough to join him on-stage for the show's finalist round. Later, along with Roger Taylor, May got together spontaneously with Lambert for a Belfast TV show, a couple of days of rehearsing leading to well-received performances of “The Show Must Go On”, ”We Will Rock You”, and “We Are the Champions”. Loving the chemistry—as well as Lambert’s determination to be his own frontman, rather than a Mercury clone—the two still-active Queens decided that they were having enough fun to keep going as a live act. In his book Queen in 3-D, May suggested that his late bandmate would have loved his replacement for no other reason than Lambert's vocal chops. “I always think that Freddie, with a wicked smile, would say something like ‘I hate you, Madam Lambert,’” he wrote. “Because even Freddie would have been gobsmacked at his range and his ability to reinterpret these songs which the four of us originally created together.”

      ROCKERS DON'T RETIRE  There are many who wonder why bands keep on touring long after losing key members. Think of the Who soldiering on without Keith Moon and John Entwistle. Or the Beach Boys consisting of no one but Mike Love, that evidently part of his one-man mission to prove he is indeed, as often labelled, one of the most unself-aware subhumans in rock history. Sticking with Queen in 3-D, May answered the question of why he continues to live out of a suitcase when he and everyone in his will will never have to work again: “There are people out there who think it’s something quite unforgivable that we should be touring at all. They think we should pack up our gear and go into an old people’s home. But it’s been very obvious that not just the old folks, but at least two new generations around the world have absolutely latched on to Queen music, and love it, and have woven it into their lives; and they love seeing us play it live with this ‘boy’.” That boy is, of course, Lambert. “We have the same work ethic, the same enjoyment of the material, and in these arenas and larger places that we’ve played all I see are happy faces, people who feel, like us, that it’s a privilege to share these kinds of moments, long after Freddie has gone. And—my God—it’s fun.”

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