Even after eight years as frontman for the iconic Queen, Adam Lambert is still billed as a separate entity — and still feels the need to explain his role.
“I know what some of you may be thinking,” he has told concert crowds on more than one occasion. “I’m just going to call it out: ‘He’s no Freddie.’ No shit! Because there will only be one rock god named Freddie Mercury.”
Indeed, the frontmen differ in vocal range: Lambert, a clarion-clear tenor, ranging three octaves and a B2-B5 semitone; the late Mercury, possessing a range of F#2-G5 — just over three octaves, heading into four-octave range.
Yet, despite the “American Idol” alumnus’ refusal to imitate his legendary forerunner, there’s no denying that original guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor wound up with yet another vivacious and theatrically rakish singer.
When Lambert and Queen take the stage at Wells Fargo Center this weekend, fans also might be making another comparison — with Rami Malek, who won the “Best Actor” Oscar earlier this year for his portrayal of Mercury in the slick biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which became cinematic gold. Except Malek didn’t actually sing: He lip-synced.
To be sure, Lambert won’t be lip-syncing — even if he does seem to be asking the audience for forgiveness for not being Freddie.
Lambert, 37, was just 9 years old when Mercury died of AIDS-related complications in November 1991. The original Queen frontman was 45, and had spent most of his life in the closet — an experience vastly different to that of Lambert, who has lived openly as a gay man for as long as the public has known of him.
Mercury also kept his illness under wraps until just two days before his death, when he issued this statement: “Following the enormous conjecture in the press over the last two weeks, I wish to confirm that I have been tested HIV-positive and have AIDS. I felt it correct to keep this information private to date to protect the privacy of those around me. However, the time has come now for my friends and fans around the world to know the truth and I hope that everyone will join with me, my doctors and all those worldwide in the fight against this terrible disease.”
Even the film played down gay sexuality — for which May and Taylor have been criticized, given the details that emerged after Mercury’s death about some of his escapades, including the more-lurid tales. Rated PG-13, the film contains drug scenes but no overt sexual activity. (Conversely, in the recent R-rated Elton John biopic, a naked ass and a bit of thrusting were met with controversy.)
Yet, in reality, Mercury was one of Western music’s great anomalies — a flamboyant, gay Persian gentleman with an octave-crashing range, falsetto and operatic highs, whose emotive voice graced some of rock ’n’ roll’s heaviest moments.
For Lambert, currently in a relationship with model Javi Costa Polo, the need to hide orientation isn’t even remotely an issue. Alas, Mercury was also a victim of his era.
Lambert also shouldn’t feel the need to apologize for not being Mercury.
A member of Queen since he performed the 2011 splashy finale of “Idol” with guitarist May, he has rightly refused to imitate the singer he replaced.
During a 2014 performance at the Atlantic City Convention Center, Lambert’s range throughout “Somebody to Love” seemed as natural as breathing. So too went his theatrical leap from a low purr to an upper register during “Who Wants to Live Forever.”
After nearly a decade of proving his own unique abilities, it’s time to lose the “and Adam Lambert” and just call this ensemble “Queen.” n
Queen — with Adam Lambert — performs 8 p.m. Aug. 3 at Wells Fargo Center, 3601 S. Broad St. For more information and tickets, visit wellsfargocenterphilly.com.