It’s Late

Almost a year ago to the hour, this happened:

(video from queen + adam lambert unofficial’s YouTube uploads)

I think for a lot of Queen fans in the UK, this represented a massive moment in keeping the band alive.  Although Brian and Roger had been working with Adam since the MTV music awards appearance in 2011, the collaboration wasn’t well-known over here – and Adam Lambert certainly wasn’t.  Some UK fan club members and others got to see the 2012 London gigs, but these were more like experimental performances to see if QAL could work on a bigger scale.  Other than that, Queen in the UK had been fairly quiet for some time, so the 2015 dates came as a big surprise.

I suspect that a lot of us had bought tickets on trust, or out of curiosity – or as in my case, without thinking to check out YouTube.  There were also a lot of us who hadn’t seen QAL’s brief appearance on X Factor a few weeks previously, so NYE was something of a revelation and it set off a mad roller coaster ride that has lasted for 365 days and is going on into 2016.

QAL 1

What a year it’s been for me – for all sorts of reasons.  Rewind to 31st December 2014 and this blog didn’t exist – I’d been thinking about blogging again for a while (I did it a few years ago), but it was going to be an anonymous autobiography and nothing to do with music at all.

Then QAL happened in January and February and I ended up colliding with Queenies and Glamberts in a big way, first of all on Twitter and then on Facebook and various fan forums.  Very soon after, I started writing and found I had to learn quickly – you guys are knowledgeable and sharp-eyed and I knew immediately that there was no way I could rely on BS to get me through. I needed to know what I was talking about and make sure I’d done my research carefully.

So I’ve read, listened, watched hours of YouTube footage, analysed Adam’s vocal technique and compared the way that trained and untrained voices work.  I’ve dissected performance skills and also watched – very carefully – how fandom works.  What a fascinating lot you are. This has involved many, many late night chats, watching fan reactions on Twitter (special mention to Alex Morner, the Crown Prince of Flail for causing my phone to explode a number of times), chasing around on the internet for online streams of gigs and being awake at 4.30 a.m. to make sure I didn’t miss out on Rock In Rio.

insomnia

Pic credit: gallery4share.com

A year down the line, I’m still an insomniac, I’m most of the way through a novel and I’m hopefully going to be embarking on a PhD in Fandom and Fan Culture in the not too distant future.

I’ve also met some truly amazing people – online and in real life too. I’ve rubbed shoulders with superfans, the barrier boys and girls who will queue from the early hours for one of those elusive front row places.  I’ve also come across “fan experts” who know more details of their idol’s life than they do themselves (big shout out to @mmadamimadamm for her encyclopaedic knowledge).   I’ve seen what an amazing thing fan solidarity can be, but on the other side of the coin I’ve seen more than a few fan battles.

But it’s all fascinating and one of the reasons that I’ve decided to make it a study.  Why have the actions of the two remaining active members of Queen caused such a storm amongst a section of their fans? Is it because Freddie died rather than decided to retire? Is it because our brains are hardwired by recorded music and another voice just sounds “wrong”? Or on a more basic level, is it because some of us are more willing to accept change?  These are some of the questions I’m hoping to look at as part of my research, and of course I’m going to be looking for people to help me out with this.

Sao Paulo opener

Pic credit: @scubadan21

As well as raising all these questions (and more!) in my mind, during 2015 I’ve also seen and heard some truly astounding music and I’m one of the many Queenies who is incredibly grateful that I’m still able to do this.  For me, there is no substitute for live music; even the most perfect recording doesn’t have that special something.

And the show is scheduled to go on – for next year at least.  So far a number of festival and one-off arena gigs have been announced for QAL and I suspect there may be more. 2016 would have been Freddie’s 70th birthday, it’s 40 years since Hyde Park and 30 years since Knebworth. That’s a lot of anniversaries to be marked. I’m off to the Isle of Wight festival in June and I’m going to do my darnedest to see if I can get to one of the other arena gigs as well – all in the object of research, of course.

QAL Krissy 1

Pic credit: @IamjustMissy (with thanks!)

Even all these years down the line, Queen (with Adam Lambert) have proved that they can still pull in crowds.  One of the things that has amazed me this year is the realisation that Queenies aren’t just the old-timers like me; the band have been around for such a long time that there are plenty of fans who were born after they stopped touring in 1986, and even after Freddie died in 1991.  I’ve also discovered that some of the Glamberts were Queen fans as well, while others have got into the music through Adam.

I’m sure that while the fans are still there, Brian and Roger will want to carry on performing for as long as they’re able.  One of a musician’s most basic drives is to stand up there and perform; often it’s more about this than about the ideas of fame and fortune.  You feel you have something to say musically, so you get on and say it as well as you can.  Also, because of the quality of Queen’s catalogue of songs, they don’t have to be restricted to a “greatest hits” set; there is so much more that they could look at using and it will be interesting to see if there is a new setlist for 2016.

I’ve looked back and now I’m looking forward.  I’m hoping it’s going to be a great year.

queen-logo--620x350

Pic credit: imgsoup.com

 

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16 thoughts on “It’s Late

  1. Thanks for the beautiful words. I think that this is the best way to join the best of the two fandoms (And I love Queen since childhood and Adam since frist CD). It´s shame that we probably won´t see each other on some concert (till now I have tickets for 4 of Adams and 1 QAL) but thanks for the help with some translations I am doing. Maybe one day…. 8^) Happy new year!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so glad you loved Adam and welcomed him into your Queen-fandom-world. You and all the others who fell in love with Adam one year ago tonight have made my life so much richer. Congratulations on reaching the end of your rookie year as a Glambert. Fasten your seatbelt – it’s going to get even crazier from here.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Happy New Year Kym! I wish you well with your studies–it truly sounds fascinating!! I’m glad that you fell “down the rabbit hole” with the rest of us 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for your great article. I was looking forward to hearing from you again. I was wondering if you have heard the interpretation of “Somebody to Love” by Jordan Smith, the winner of this season’s The Voice (USA) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQao9OnpmLU . I think he has a great voice, although I still prefer Adam’s interpretation (I don’t care for growling, for example) and I feel he was sort of trying to copy Adam’s (see Adam’s Toronto performance https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQAuooJ3V6c). Interestingly, Jordan’s video of “Somebody to Love” has got more than 10 millions views to date, whereas Queen + Adam’s performance on X-Factor (the most viewed of their “Somebody to Love” performances, I think) has less than 2 millions views so far. Maybe it’s because of Jordan’s physical appearance… or because it was seen on TV by 14 millions people to begin with. Anyway, I would like to get your opinion on Jordan’s singing compared to Adam’s. Thands

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    • I have heard this rendition of Somebody To Love – it turned up on a couple of Facebook groups a few weeks ago. I actually think it’s very interesting, as it combines ideas of the original version – such as the use of the gospel harmonies. Queen multi-layered this themselves in the original recording, and then during the Freddie Mercury tribute concert, there was a gospel choir on stage to provide the harmonic backing for George Michael.

      There are also references to the “new” version done by QAL. Because of the influence of recorded music (and now, being able to see almost any live performance we want via YouTube), we will get imprinted with how a song is being performed. Adam’s version has been heard a lot in the last couple of years, and for quite a lot of people it’s now the familiar one – so it’s inevitable that other performers are going to pick up on the way he does it. And don’t forget that imitation can be the sincerest form of flattery!

      I’m not surprised at all that Jordan’s version has had so many hits on YouTube – it’s been shared a lot of Twitter, and of course The Voice US will have a lot of TV viewers every week. Also, his performance of it is his only stab at it, whereas Adam has performed this many times and so there are at least a couple of dozens different performances of it on YouTube to choose from.

      As for Jordan, I think he’s got a great voice! It’s very flexible and he has loads of top notes. Whether he survives in the “real” world of music rather than in the rather strange environment of the talent show remains to be seen. Sadly, there are a lot of excellent performers who appear like shooting stars and then vanish again soon afterwards. This is very sad in my opinion, but it’s a representation of how the music industry works these days. The promotions people are always looking for the next new thing and last year’s star gets discarded.

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    • Hi again too! I’ve seen a few of Adam’s live performances of Lucy. I so hope that this ends up on the 2016 sets as I would love to fear a fully “Queenified” version of it (bearing in mind what they did with Ghost Town).

      The person who has the most pressure on them in this song is undoubtedly Adam’s guitarist – step into the shoes of Dr Brian May? No pressure…

      The Light is one of the songs that don’t resonate with me so much; to my rock-influenced ears it sounds a little too much like club music, even in live performance. That doesn’t take away anything from the way Adam sings it – it’s just not my sort of thing.

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  5. Thank you very much for everything you do for us, fans. I am personaly thankful to you for how you extend my visions, I learn lots of new things from your blog. Happy New Year :)) (excuse my bad english, please 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Happy New Year Kym!! Great blog! I can’t express how the QAL experience has changed my life. I’ve always loved Queen, but Adam most definitely reignited that flame! Queen was more about Freddie for me in the past. But after that very first show in June 2014, I fell in love with Brian and Roger as well! I didn’t see that coming! I see the band in a whiole different light now, and I think it’s an interesting twist. Thanks to folks like you I can share my obsessive Queen disorder with like minded people! Here’s to a wonderful 2016 filled with many Queen adventures, Love And happiness!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Happy New Year Kim!!!2015 it’s been a wild ride in Adam stuff BUT 2016 is going to be AWESOM in so many ways!! Im so glad we have you in the fandom Thaks t taht NYE concert, you’re such a tresure!! Love your thoughts about music and the way you write them down. thank you for thouse moments and more to come!!

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  8. Adam Lambert is the full package and can embody the songs he sings, either his own or covers. This musical embodiment comes as a natural skill set allowing his song delivery to be unique and able to stand on it’s own as a song of Master Class historical quality. This is why I believe the Queen + Adam Lambert partnership musically works over other singers. Their relationship best explained by Dr. May pondering of Adam being an unexpected gift from God.
    This QAL symbiotic collaboration will (IMO) go down in the musical history books in so many greatness categories… Yes Adam Lambert you will add music legend to the front of your name.

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  9. Happy New year. Thank you for your many insights into this phenomenon we call QAL!

    Here are a few observations I have had:

    1. Adam sings the music more traditionally than Freddie did. He sings the songs on key and he only improvises around the edges. I can hear the beauty of the songs to a greater extent in this iteration of Queen than Queen with Freddie. I think that one reasons new fans are falling in love with the music is that they are hearing the songs sung the way they were meant to be sung. The melodies can be enjoyed throughout the songs. Freddie improvised so much in pitch and tempo and he changed to melodies when he sang live. I don’t know if this is because Freddie couldn’t reach the notes when he sang live or this was his way of interpreting the songs. I enjoy Adam’s versions much better. Is there a difference in how fans learn to love music if they saw and heard it done live vs. hearing it on the radio for the first time?
    2. If Adam had been the first singer for Queen and he could no longer perform with Queen, would there have been a Freddie as a front man for Queen? I am not talking about Freddie’s song writing. Freddie was captivating for his time in the ’70s and ’80s but would he stand out in this age of Youtube? Would Freddie have been considered good enough to lead Queen after Adam led Queen? I don’t think so. I don’t believe fans would appreciate Freddie’s live interpretations of the songs after hearing and seeing Adam perform them. This is a question no one has asked. Can Adam be replaced as front man for Queen?
    3. I watched the original Rock in Rio with Freddie, Brian, Roger and John. They were received like deities. There was no Youtube so when a band came to town, it was a new show to the viewing audience. The audience was seeing its heroes perhaps for the fist time, unless the band had performed on TV. I did not see the same reaction to QAL at Rock in Rio. I don’t think it had anything to do with QAL not being good. I think it was because people are so used to being able to see performers on the internet that it is not such a phenomenon when a band comes to town. I think that some of the younger attendees were at Rock in Rio because they heard from their parents about when Queen came to play at Rock in Rio and they heard about how intense and exciting it was. They probably watched a concert on Youtube before they went to the live performance. Will there ever be a reaction to a band like there was for Queen at Rock in Rio due to the availability of videos of the band showing the performances they audience will see?
    4. If you watch Brian and Roger during the QAL performances and during the performances with Freddie, they are much more engaged with the show now. Watching Queen in live performances with Freddie, most of the time Brian is standing still and looking down at his guitar. It is hard to tell how much more engaged Brian is but when they sing “Under Pressure,” Roger is very happy. Brian has said that these are the best shows that Queen has ever done. Adam actively engages with Brian many times during the show. There is laughter on stage. This can be seen in the videos that potential fans see. How does this relationship between musicians and the front man change how fans regard the band and its live performances? Does this make potential fans more likely to go to a live show?I feel I am more drawn to a show when the people playing are more engaged with each other and they look like they are having fun.
    5. It does not appear that Adam has gained enough fans from his QAL concerts to fill arenas for his tour. Why hasn’t the exposure of singing with Queen brought Adam a much larger fan base?
    6. As far as I know, QAL has only done a few tv appearances, including the iHeart festival in 2013, the NYE concert in 2014-15, X-factor in 2014 and on a German TV show. They announced the tour in 2014 on GMA, a morning tv show in the US, but they didn’t perform. If the NYE show had such a big impact, why wouldn’t they do more tv to promote the tours? That would help Adam get more recognition.

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    • Hi there and thanks for your very detailed comments – I’ll try and answer them as best as I can.

      1. I think there are a number of points here. I believe Adam tries to be as true to the recordings as he can – he’s said that he feels that this is the “right” thing for him to do. Freddie was a law unto himself onstage and he liked to mix things up. But (and this is a big “but”!) he did experience vocal problems at various points in his singing career. There were a couple of reasons for this; although he didn’t start smoking as a very young man, when he did start, he smoked quite heavily. This has an effect on any singing voice. Importantly, Freddie didn’t have a trained voice – he was completely self-taught, which in some ways makes his voice even more remarkable as that was his raw, uncoached sound. The downside of having an untrained voice is that it takes more punishment than a trained voice and so vocal problems are more common, particularly as you get older. Queen also used to do long, long tours, often on consecutive nights; this will put a lot of pressure on an untrained voice and as a result of that, Freddie used to drop some of the high notes to pace himself (Roger usually sang them in as he has a good top register). In the end, whether you enjoy Freddie’s version or Adam’s version of a particular song is down to personal taste – some voices just resonate with us more. However, some of this may depend on which version you heard first, or are more familiar with. This may well be something that I look at in my research.
      2. All of this one is pure speculation – Adam would be a much older man now if he had fronted Queen from the start, and his own voice would have changed radically over that time. Freddie always said that he didn’t want to be “prancing about on stage” (his words) as an old man, so I do wonder whether he would have retired anyway at some point if he hadn’t been a victim of HIV/AIDS. This whole scenario may be a key factor in whether or not a new lead singer for Queen would have been accepted; it may be that Freddie’s death has somehow “sanctified” the music in the minds of some fans, making it untouchable by anyone else. I suspect Freddie would still have been immensely loved even in this age of YouTube; he was a matchless performer who could engage every person in a crowd, no matter how big. And he was one of the creators of this amazing music.
      3. From what I’ve been told by people who were lucky enough to be at Rock in Rio, QAL had a tremendous reception. Today’s recording equipment picks up less crowd noise, which I think probably makes a difference to those of us who had to watch a streamed broadcast. Also, when Queen performed at Rio in 1985, it was the first festival, which must have made it a very special occasion. I think you can only ever truly judge the atmosphere at a live performance by being in the middle of it.
      4. This is an interesting point. Both Brian and Roger have said that they have enjoyed going back on the road immensely, and they feel much more relaxed about it. I’m sure some of this is that they’ve done it all before and know exactly what to expect. But Adam adds a different dimension as he is young and energetic, and they all clearly get on very well. I think that in the “old” days there was much more pressure on them to play the part of rock stars, which didn’t necessarily mean that you had fun on stage!
      5. I think this is about musical styles. Queen’s music is very different to Adam’s solo music. I have definitely come across people who love Adam singing with Queen, but aren’t so keen on his solo stuff. This is purely down to personal taste and what type of music you find yourself identifying with. I’ve been into guitar-based rock music for almost as long as I can remember, so this is what I gravitate towards.
      6. TV appearances are largely down to TV companies, I suspect. I don’t know how this part of the industry works in detail, but certainly in the UK, TV scheduling on the major channels is a mix of drama, sport, reality TV, news, music and all sorts of other stuff. A general channel will probably only have a set time allocation for music, and then there are all sorts of other complex factors such as the target audience and who else is promoting albums and tours. There are a lot of musicians out there to fill a very small space. Also, I think Brian and Roger are very aware that Adam’s career is his own, a separate thing to what he does with Queen, and they need to keep these separate to ensure that Adam gets the chance to do what he wants to do as a solo singer.

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