Queen’s infamous band logo.

A Night at the Opera: How Queen’s 49-Year Legacy Lives On

By Brittany Anderson
Web Content Contributor

It’s the stuff dreams are made of: thousands of people stomping twice, then clapping once in unison; singing “Galileo” as high as their lungs will go. The only thing missing? The legend himself: frontman extraordinaire Freddie Mercury.

Freddie Mercury performing at a concert in November 1978, wearing his iconic black and white checkered bodysuit.
Mercury performing in November 1978. Photo by Carl Lender.

Queen is regarded as being one of the most iconic rock bands of all time and rightfully so. During their reign, they accumulated a worldwide following and made a household name for themselves with classics like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “We Will Rock You,” “We Are the Champions” and “Another One Bites the Dust.” With a nearly 50-year legacy — stretching from the gritty glam rock of the ‘70s, discotheque beats of the ‘80s and everything in between — Queen pushed musical and societal boundaries in a way that was well before their time, and none of it would have been possible without Mercury.

Queen has recently seen a surge of new success and popularity among millennials after the biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” was released in 2018, which garnered four Oscars, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA, among others. The film chronicles the life of Mercury and his bandmates throughout their golden era — from their inception in 1970 until their 1985 Live Aid performance, a 20-minute set that is considered to be one of the greatest live performances in rock history.

Mercury’s life was tragically cut short in 1991 from complications due to AIDS. After bassist John Deacon retired in 1997, the rest of the surviving members— drummer Roger Taylor and guitarist Brian May— set out on the seemingly impossible quest of continuing the legacy of Queen without the legend himself.

In his lifetime Mercury became a well-loved figure: from his witty, charming demeanor, exuberant stage persona, stunning four-octave vocal range and unapologetic sense of self. So how could Queen ever find success as they did back in their heyday? Just ask one of the thousands of attendees at the sold out Queen concert at the Toyota Center in Houston on July 24.

Queen + Adam Lambert’s seventh stop on the Rhapsody Tour was theToyota Center in Houston, Texas.
The Toyota Center in Houston was Queen + Adam Lambert’s seventh stop on the Rhapsody Tour, which will last until February 2020. Photo by Brittany Anderson.

Since 2011, Queen has performed with singer Adam Lambert, best known for finishing as runner up on “American Idol” in 2009— and who fittingly auditioned for the show by singing “Bohemian Rhapsody.” He found himself touring with the Queen rock legends just two years later, memorizing their discography and working to respectfully pay homage to Mercury’s electrifying personality and undeniable musical gift.

Taylor, May and Lambert have all made one thing clear: Lambert does not perform with Queen as a Mercury impersonator. Instead, Lambert brings his own pizzazz to the show with his dazzling and demanding stage presence and impeccable talent. Nearly 50 years after forming and 30 years after the death of the band’s key member, Queen has been able to keep their legacy and Freddie’s memory alive thanks to their collaboration with Lambert.

A disco ball spun above the stage during one of their famed songs from the ‘80s, “I Want To Break Free.”
The crowd got a taste of disco heaven during “I Want To Break Free” with a massive, shimmering disco ball. In the ‘80s, the music video for this song was infamously banned on MTV in America. Photo by Brittany Anderson.

On the comfortably warm July evening, everyone in the arena— Taylor, May, Lambert and concert goers alike— echoed the same bittersweet thought: Mercury is truly irreplaceable. But it’s evident that Lambert helps celebrate Mercury; building upon the band’s timeless reputation while offering a fresh, creative perspective to their deep rock ‘n’ roll roots by bringing their story into the 21st century and uniting younger and older generations. It’s reassuring to see that Taylor and May have embraced Lambert as one of their own. Paired with phenomenal visuals and just the right amount of nostalgia, this show was one of a kind.

A sea of lighters and phone lights during “Love Of My Life.”
Lighters up: the crowd got emotional during May’s cover of “Love Of My Life,” written by Mercury for his noted “one true love” May Austin. The song ended with a video of Mercury singing with the crowd during a performance at Wembley Stadium in 1986. Photo by Brittany Anderson.

Everyone has sung really bad karaoke to most of Queen’s classics— expand your Queen knowledge and press shuffle on this Spotify playlist, filled with hidden gems and underrated tracks from Queen’s two decades-long discography.

Featured image by Alaa El Awaad via Creative Commons.

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