Queen drummer Roger Taylor vividly remembers the first time he watched Adam Lambert sing. It was early 2009 and the 27-year-old singer was generating worldwide headlines for his incredible performances on American Idol. “A musician friend of mine in America was like, ‘You’ve gotta check out this guy on Idol,” Taylor told Rolling Stone in 2014. “So we Googled him. His voice was phenomenal. He had this sort of slight Elvis look going on. I just thought, ‘Wow, what a voice! Those octaves!'”
Before he knew it, Taylor flew out to Los Angeles along with Queen guitarist Brian May to perform “We Will Rock You” with him on the American Idol season finale. It wasn’t enough to help him defeat Kris Allen and win the show, but it did start Queen thinking that this could be the beginning of something very special. Two years earlier, Queen ended their partnership with Paul Rodgers and they were in the market for a new singer. Lambert wasn’t ready right away since he had to go on the American Idol tour and then begin work on his solo debut, but in 2011 he played three songs with them at the MTV Europe Awards and they began talking about something more substantial down the line.
A tiny European tour was booked for the summer of 2012 as a sort of test run for the project. It began June 30th in Kiev, Ukraine as part of a massive AIDS benefit show. The crowd was absolutely enormous. “It’s one of those things where you’re going to sink or swim, especially when we were onstage for for the first time in the Ukraine in front of 300,000 people,” Lambert told Rolling Stone in 2014. “I was like, ‘Well, it’s now or never. You gotta run with it.’ It’s similar to be in camera with Idol. You go for it.” Check out the video of Lambert and Queen doing “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the very song that he sang at his American Idol audition four years earlier.
Queen + Adam Lambert didn’t launch a proper tour until 2014, but they’ve been on the road every year since. And with all due respect to Paul Rodgers, fans haven’t enjoyed Queen gigs this much since the Freddie Mercury days. Lambert is the first one to say that filling Freddie’s shoes is impossible, but it’s hard to imagine any singer that can come as close as Lambert. They have no dates on the books right now, but the new Queen movie Bohemian Rhapsody is likely to create a new generation of fans and they’d be crazy not to book another tour with Lambert to capitalize on that. It can never be 1986 again, but they still put on a pretty spectacular show.