Queen guitarist Brian May and Queen drummer Roger Taylor are reuniting with former "American Idol" finalist Adam Lambert to do a 2014 tour of North America. On March 6, 2014, they made the announcement at New York City's Madison Square Garden, which is one of the venues that they will be playing on the tour. Tickets for the tour go on sale on March 14, 2014, through the Live Nation mobile app and at Livenation.com. American Express card members can purchase tickets before the general public beginning March 10, 2014, at 10 a.m. local time in the United States and March 11, 2014, at 10 a.m. local time in Canada.. (See the tour dates at the end of this article.) Queen's original lead singer was Freddie Mercury, who died of AIDS in 1991. In the years since then, May and Taylor (without Queen's original bassist John Deacon, who has declined to tour with Queen since Mercury's death) have toured with "guest vocalists," including Paul Rodgers (best known for his work with Bad Company) and Lambert.
Lambert came in second place on "American Idol" in 2009, and even though he did not win on the show, he has become one of "American Idol's" most successful alumni worldwide. (His third album is due out sometime in 2014.) Lambert's ability to hit high notes and his theatrical way of performing is heavily influenced by Mercury, which makes him a natural to sing Queen songs. Lambert (who is 32) says he's been a Queen fan since he was a kid. He even auditioned for "American Idol" with Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." At the "American Idol" Season 8 finale in 2009, Lambert performed with May and Taylor for the first time when they did "We Are the Champions." In 2011, the trio reunited for a performance at the MTV Europe Awards. Queen and Lambert then did a European tour in 2012 and a performance at the 2013 iHeartRadio Festival in Las Vegas. Here is what May, Taylor and Lambert said at the press conference announcing their 2014 North American tour.
Do you have any opening remarks?
Taylor: We did a wonderful, short tour of Europe and England. Each time we’ve worked with Adam, it’s just worked very well with our music. He’s an incredible frontman, and we’re delighted to go on tour with him in North America. It’s a delight for us to work with somebody this talented.
May: We’re very excited. It’s been a while. It’s a thrill. Roger and myself, this is what we do. It’s very significant that we’re here at Madison Square Garden. It’s actually my condition for touring. “Give us Madison Square Garden. Give us the Forum in L.A., and we can do this one more time.” I’m thrilled to be here. Let’s do this.
Lambert: I’m so excited to be here with these two members of rock royalty … It’s an honor. I’m very humbled that I get to do this. What a career highlight. I’ve never played at Madison Square Garden before, so this is a big treat for me. So to be asked by thee two gentlemen to share the stage with them feels incredible.
Queen and Adam Lambert have done several other performances. Why was now the time to do a North American tour?
Taylor: We did a show last year for the iHeartRadio Festival in Las Vegas. And it just reminded us of all how well we got on together. It seemed to go along very well. I guess it was a natural progression.
May: Roger needed the money! I was only kidding.
Lambert: I need the money as well.
Did you ever discuss touring with Paul Rodgers again?
May: It was great with Paul Rodgers, and I think we all felt that we took it a long, long way — way further than we imagined it in the beginning. And we’re still pretty good friends, but it did come to a natural end. He needs to attend to his career. I think neither Roger or I are desperate to go and do what we did because.
It’s not like we’re always looking for someone to succeed Paul Rodgers. Organically, this happened organically with Adam. We feel good about it. We wouldn’t be here if it we didn’t feel it was right and natural to begin with. It’s a thrill. We were right in the end.
People are going to say, “Is this really Queen without Freddie?” Well, I have no idea. I don’t know what the answer to that question is, but people want to hear Queen music and hear Roger and I play it, and we love to play.
So having this opportunity is great. We’re still alive, thank God. And we’re still healthy enough to go out there and tread those boards one more time. And he [Adam Lambert] seems to be pretty healthy. Are you healthy?
Lambert: I try!
Why has John Deacon refused to tour with Queen since Freddie Mercury’s death?
May: He just doesn’t want to. We respect that. He wants his life to be private. He’s very much in approval that we do Queen’s stuff constantly, but John doesn’t want to do it, and we respect that. He approves, and that’s all he can do.
Adam, how did it feel to be following in the footsteps of Freddie Mercury, who is considered one of the greatest rock singers of all time?
Lambert: At first, it was a little daunting when we started our first incarnation of this. I was apprehensive. I thought that Freddie Mercury was one of the greatest singers that ever lived. He’s a big idol for me, and I thought to myself, “I hope that the fans dig this.” There was a possibility that they wouldn’t.
It felt really good. The reception was warm. The press reaction to it the first time was very warm. And it’s such a treat for me to pay my respects and pay tribute to one of my favorite singers ever and sing some of the greatest music ever written.
Brian and Roger, is the different energy that Adam Lambert brings to Queen songs change the way you approach these songs?
May: Yeah, definitely. One of the things about Adam is that he’s never an imitator. He finds his own way to the songs. And that’s what we all want. We want our music to be alive and dangerous and still open to change.
Freddie, particularly, would have hated to have things reproduced the way that they were. We take it to a different place. It’s exciting. And I don’t think we’d be doing it if we didn’t think we were actually going into new territory. Every time we work with Adam, we do that. So I’m very happy.
Taylor: Adam is a great diva. I mean that in a wonderful sense, in the best sense. And I think our music, at times, calls for that theatrical presentation and extraordinary range. He just adds to what we have. It works for us.
Many Queen fans think that “Hot Space” was a misunderstood Queen album. You don’t play a lot of songs from “Hot Space” in concert. Will you be doing any songs from “Hot Space” or other underrated Queen songs?
May: We don’t have a set list yet, But yeah, we’re up for anything. We were saying earlier on that we need to be happy, we need to be comfortable, Adam needs to be comfortable — challenged but comfortable.
And I think we’ll take a look at all of our albums and see what we can cherry pick. For some people, “Hot Space” was too much a departure that they couldn’t deal with it, but in retrospect, “Hot Space” was very important part of our growth.
Adam, are there any lesser-known Queen songs that you would like to perform in concert with Queen?
Lambert: I think I brought one to the table, and that was “Dragon Attack.” I think, personally, one of my favorite periods for Queen was when they had a little funk. “Another One Bites the Dust” is probably my favorite.
And so I was looking at that album [“The Game”], and one of the B-sides of that album is “Dragon Attack.” I fell in love with it. It’s such a cool groove. I suggested it, and they were like, “Oh, yeah. We like that one too.” So we had fun rehearsing it.
Adam, when you auditioned for “American Idol” with Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” what was your wildest dream then?
Lambert: If someone had said to me, “By the way, you’re going to be performing with them in Madison Square Garden in five years,” I would have laughed in their face. This is so surreal!
And I'm glad I sang that song for my audition, because maybe it planted a seed. I think because of that audition that's one of the reasons at the end of the show they said, “OK, let’s think of some things to do for the finale.” And when I heard that Queen were going to be onstage, it was a full-circle moment then. And now the circle is huge, so I feel great.
May: That rippled around the world. I had thousands of people around the world sending me messages, “You have to see this guy!” And we went to see him, didn’t we?
What is the process like for you to choose a set list of a Queen tour? Does each of you pick favorites and then you vote?
May: You’re imagining that we’re logical people and that we go through a process. I think it’s highly likely to be random. We think of things, like, “Oh, this is interesting.” I think we’ll just alight on things that are fun to do. It’s like Desert Island Discs. What are your favorite Queen songs?
For this purpose, it’s all about [performing] live. What is going to work live? What is going to be fun for us, what’s going to push audiences into an area that’s a little dangerous or unusual. We don’t really have a process.
Taylor: But at the same time, we’re very aware of what people want to hear. Ultimately, I think our concerts are exactly what people want to hear. I think we try to deliver that as well, what people what to hear in concert: obviously, the big hits. We try and make it an interesting journey through the hits.
May: [He says jokingly] The big problem is we have too many hits. It’s really embarrassing.
Have you started thinking about what the stage production of this tour is going to look like?
May: Oh yeah. We came up with an interesting idea, which I’m not going to divulge, but it’s a very interesting set design.
Lambert: It’s amazing!
May: It’s big. And I think people will like it. Our motto is “Leave them wanting more.” But yeah, it’ll be cool. We don’t do this every day.
Adam, do you remember the first time that you were exposed to Queen’s music?
Lambert: My father had a very extensive record collection, mostly ‘70s rock — and then some. He was a DJ in college, so he had a ton of vinyl. He used to sit around on weekends playing records.
One thing was I was old enough where he would allow me to touch his records, and I got to explore all the music he had. I pulled out all the queen stuff. I got to hear it on vinyl, which felt very legit. At the time, I didn’t realize it, but now I know it’s kind of special, in this day and age.
And all the amazing placements that the band has had over the years in movies and commercials. As a kid, I remember the first time hearing something and wanting to know more about it was “Wayne’s World,” the Mike Myers film, that scene with “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I thought, “What is that song? It’s so cool!” My dad said, “Here, son. This is Queen.”
And what does your dad say now?
Lambert: “Holy sh*t! Adam’s singing with Queen!” He can’t believe it. He’s a good guy. My dad’s cool.
Is there a possibility of Queen and Adam Lambert recording an album together?
May: It’s too early to say, really. Everything is a possibility. At the moment, this [tour] is enough to take on.
Taylor: Yeah, we haven’t really thought that far. Who knows?
Lambert: The beauty of getting to do this is that there are so many fans who grew up, they can listen to certain songs and remember where they were when they first heard it or what they were doing with their girlfriend they first time they heard it. All these memories that are associated with so many years and such an amazing catalog of music.
I think the real treat here is to bring some of those memories back to life, bring back nostalgia a little bit, and make a truly classic rock mirage of sorts. As much as we can bring that feeling back, I think that’s kind of the beauty of it, while injecting in some new life and reinventing it at the same time.
Brian and Roger, did you feel immediate musical chemistry with Adam?
May: Yeah, I think we knew immediately. We get on personally, which s great. That counts for a lot. And we were awestruck with his instrument and how he uses it. That counts for a lot. And we work well on stage together. We were just doing it, and it sounded great.
Taylor: We were pretty sure that extraordinary voice would work well. And it did.
Lambert: I think the having fun part is a huge part of being on stage performing music, because if there’s no joy up there and no chemistry, you’re not going to connect with the audience. It doesn’t take off that way.
These two gentlemen are so sweet and so warm, after the first day or so, I felt very comfortable. I was so nervous the first time that we were going to prepare a set, but they made me feel really at ease and encouraged. I still can’t believe it. It’s amazing. It’s really an honor.
Will Queen and Adam Lambert do a world tour together in other continents besides Europe and North America?
Lambert: We did the MTV EMAs, and then we did a little brief tour of Europe. We did some shows in the U.K. and did some shows in Eastern Europe, so it’s kind of reached out a little bit here and there, and now we know we have to bring it to North America.
May: We did the Ukraine. We did Kiev. We played to 300,000 people.
Lambert: I was so nervous.
May: Everything that’s worth doing is a little scary.
Lambert: I think by the time we got to Vegas for the iHeartRadio thing, we had done such great work on that short tour, we dove into an hour-and-a-half set — they had done this before — but in Vegas, it felt like it gelled even more, even more in the pocket, and it just felt grounded, and it felt just right. It was really magical.
Here are the details of Queen and Adam Lambert's 2014 North American tour:
June 19, 2014: Chicago — United Center
June 21, 2014: Winnipeg, Canada — MTS Centre
June 23, 2014: Saskatoon, Canada — Credit Union Centre
June 23, 2014: Edmonton, Canada — Rexall Place
June 26, 2014: Calgary, Canada — Scotiabank Saddledome
June 28, 2014: Vancouver — Pepsi Live at Rogers Arena
July 1, 2014: San Jose, Calif. — SAP Center
July 3, 2014: Los Angeles — The Forum
July 5, 2014: Las Vegas — The Joint
July 6, 2014: Las Vegas — The Joint
July 9, 2014: Houston — Toyota Center
July 10, 2014: Dallas — American Airlines Center
July 12, 2014: Auburn Hills, Mich. — The Palace of Auburn Hills
July 13, 2014: Toronto — Air Canada Centre
July 14, 2014: Montreal — Bell Centre
July 15, 2014: Philadelphia — Wells Fargo Center
July 17, 2014: New York City — Madison Square Garden
July 19, 2014: Uncasville, Conn. — Mohegan Sun Arena
July 20, 2014: Columbia, Md. — Merriweather Post Pavilion
March 24, 2014 update: Several dates have been added to the tour:
July 22, 2014: Boston — TD Garden
July 23, 2014: East Rutherford, N.J. — Izod Center
July 25, 2014: Uncasville, Conn. —Mohegan Sun Arena
July 26, 2014: Atlantic City, N.J. — Boardwalk Hall
July 28, 2014: Toronto — Air Canada Centre
Tickets for the newly added dates will be on sale beginning March 29, 2014, at 9 a.m. local time through the Live Nation mobile app and at Livenation.com. American Express card members can purchase tickets before the general public beginning March 24, 2014, at 10 a.m. local time in the U.S. and Wednesday, March 26, 2014, at 10 a.m. local time in Canada. Facebook pre-sale will begin on March 26, 2014, at 10 a.m. local time in the U.S. and March 27 at 10 a.m. local time in Canada.
For more info: Queen website