Yes! Another post about the Queen + Adam Lambert concert in Boston! Because I can!
Audrey and I originally wrote these at the end of July and in the beginning of August, but I'm posting them now. Because I can!
Audrey is a writer, rocking the Queens, NYC poetry and indie arts scene like a boss. She released her first book, Decisions We Make While We Dream, in 2012. Her second book, Traversals, was released this month. She had a (horribly edited) story published in the book, Bohemian Rhapsodies, but has kindly featured the original, non-shitty version on her website. Check out her work!
as a queen fan born too late, you just accept the fact.. you can never see your band. it's part of the ache that comes with falling in love with any of the classics - and this fact has broken my heart time and time again. there's a thing with queen, for me.. i always know it, it's always inherent - how much i wholeheartedly adore them and their music - but even still, all these years later.. it surprises me. after a childhood filled with the greats of rock & roll, i officially became a queen fan during the summer i turned 12 - we were riding home from upstate, i was sitting shotgun, my dad asked me to change the CD, and fatefully, he brought their greatest hits album classic queen. i had started to come into my own as a music fan the previous summer, and my life was ripe for destiny. at a time when i was trying to put sounds to names and piece back together the ever-present soundtrack of my life thus far, so many of the songs i remembered so fondly were ALL by queen..
and then, there was freddie. freddie, freddie, freddie, FREDDIE. when i first got into the band i didn't count on falling hopelessly head over heels for their frontman, but renting a VHS copy of their we will rock you (now billed as rock montreal) concert solidified it. there was just a moment - a moment when that feeling bloomed, never to stop - ever, ever again. he was everything. everything.
still now, i am struck dumb by the depth of this emotion. it all came back to me last night - the night during which i was able to see MY BAND - not as a shadow of themselves, not as a tribute, not as a substitute. but MY BAND. and all the magic they always stood for - live, joyous, electric. brian and roger, my steadfast companions through so many, many years - manifesting this beautiful opportunity to surprise everyone, and even themselves - touring with adam lambert, touring with this music again - recognizing that, no matter what - no matter how many years pass, and despite the tragedy of freddie's absence - that this is something BIGGER than them. bigger than tragedy. more powerful than any ending mortal lives could meet. this is the life this music has, this is the life this music BREATHES into countless people, the world over. this is how deeply it resonates. this is the beauty of QUEEN - the true, ETERNAL MAGIC of all they created.. last night, all i could do is marvel: how GLORIOUS. CAMPY. PLAYFUL. MASTERFUL. it was just as it should have been.. and so, so much more.
i have always been an emotional person. yet in recent months - through struggle, heartache, disillusionment, darkness.. letting out the tears has become extremely difficult. it felt like something welled up in me with a thickness that could not be released. but last night. last night. i remembered. i remembered everything. it was the kind of primal shakeup, shock to the system, SONIC BOOM of emotion that QUEEN, only QUEEN, can draw from me. i remembered everything. i saw the path out in front of me, the path that began to be laid when i was just barely a teenager. i heard "in the lap of the gods (revisited)" - the song that carried me through my very first heartbreak - and couldn't sing the words through the tears. "no beginning, there's no ending. there's no meaning in my pretending. believe me, life goes on and on and on.. forgive me, when i ask you where do i belong?" the words. those songs. that profound DEPTH of meaning. being there. with MY BAND. and my god, feeling, feeling SO MUCH that freddie was there. freddie was around me. freddie was with ALL of us, so pure and joyously. each time he came onscreen i just wept. wept in a way i haven't in so long.. and not because of pure sadness, wishing - why isn't he here? why did it all work out this way? but instead embracing that reality and crying instead from that WELLSPRING of gratitude. that JOY from knowing him. for all he taught me, for all he gave me. for all he means.
i realized again, as i do over and over - how much this band, and the spirit of THIS MAN mean to me. i will never love ANYONE the way i love freddie mercury. and i will never love ANY BAND the way i love queen. i remembered all over again who i AM. who they helped me to BE. this wild-eyed dreamer moving against the grain who was always too loud, too big, too fanciful.. QUEEN gave me a place to me. FREDDIE made it okay. so many things have beat it out of me.. toned it down.. made me less confident. last night i remembered the performer i always wanted to be, the performer i AM, the FREDDIE inside me that always has the opportunity to burst out. the music that shaped my world. accompanied me through my aches, my uncertainty, my greatest joys..
the concert last night was more than a concert. i could write about a thousand moments - standing there BASKING in the sound of brian's red special, laser lights piercing the air, shimmering in their sacred geometry.. seeing roger in the flesh for the first time - seeing him play, hearing him sing. he and brian performing 'these of the days of our lives.' knowing - god, all at once - yes, those days are all gone now, but one thing will ALWAYS be true. love. love love love for QUEEN. WE LOVE YOU, i screamed, i called their names, i sang every word, and i cried and laughed through my tears. i was so IN THE MOMENT i didn't notice time passing, i wasn't thinking of anything but being THERE, marveling at this perfect spectacle of rock & roll glory, being there with the ONE person in the world who understands the depth of this love like i do, my best queen friend zander, who i met in the official queen fan club chatroom when we were 12. two friends broken off from the norms of early adulthood in our separate states, to find each other in this unexpected way, and suddenly, all these years later, to be standing next to each other. appreciating this like no one else could.. MAGIC.
and adam. oh, adam. OH, ADAM. this gorgeous, shining jewel of a creature.. freddie would've been so proud of the FUN he was having. of the camp. of the pomp. of the SASSINESS. he would have absolutely eaten him UP! his costumes, his expressions, his banter, his UNDENIABLE WEALTH OF TALENT. that leopard print suit and glittering crown. toasting the entire bottle of champagne to brian, taking a swig, and then spitting it on the crowd. swooning on that couch - catlike with pure mischievous expression, kicking up his platform heels like freddie's in the 70s, FANNING HIMSELF like a true KILLER QUEEN.. i couldn't. i was there for queen but i was SCREAMING for adam, too. his PRESENCE. his VOICE, absolutely SOARING. he fits. he. so. FITS.
and do you know why it all fits? there is something about QUEEN that defies EVERYTHING. i am far from the 12 year old girl that began this journey but i am EVERMORE deeply in love. what this band originally gave me, they gave back to me last night - and for every night after i will try to remember.. there is triumph after tragedy. there is art that lives forever. there is beauty that will stun you, drain you, pull from you every emotion trapped within you - if it comes from this place of magic. i am so thankful to have been there. i am so thankful for adam. i am so thankful for the band. i am so thankful for brian and roger to be able to stand on these stages around the country and KNOW: WE LOVE YOU. we have always loved you. and we always will.
because when it comes to QUEEN: it doesn't end. it can never end. always and forever, the show must go ON.
It should be noted that when I first read this, I was still struggling to find all the words to describe my experience with this concert, and Audrey seemed to figure out pretty much EVERYTHING I wanted to say!
My piece is next. I do not have kickass credentials outside of this blog.
It’s been a little over two weeks since my dream came true, and things have settled and Audrey inspired me to write about the emotional impact of the greatest concert I’ve ever been to.
I’ve tried and failed for years to talk about what Queen - and Freddie, in particular - mean to me. I’ve historically always been shushed, waved off, or humored. “Yeah, Freddie was pretty cool,” some would say if they were making an effort to be nice despite my being relentlessly annoying - like when I was 10 and learned the words to Bohemian Rhapsody by listening to my (US) Greatest Hits cassette over and over and over and over and…
And while I loved anyone saying anything nice about Freddie (growing up in the conservative Midwest, there were many “original” gay “jokes” hurled around, so anything said that wasn’t intended to be insulting was pure gold), they didn’t truly get it. I didn’t get them, either. I didn’t get how they could see a concert video or documentary, or hear any Queen song without becoming dumbstruck! How could they watch Freddie doing pretty much ANYTHING and not find him the most fascinating and engaging, God-like human being on the planet?! How could they make fun of me for being sad that Freddie’s dead?!
We got the internet in my house when I was 12, and it was there that I finally connected with other Queen fans via the Queen Fan Club chat room. I don’t know if I was making it a bigger deal than them, but all the same, their kinship couldn’t have come at a better time. I was in middle school and boy bands were the “in” thing, and I refused to jump on board. My peers couldn’t understand why I loved Queen and classic rock, just like I couldn’t understand their love of formulaic, soulless, auto-tuned drivel. The QFC chat room was a really lovely break from that relentless pressure!
And then, one fateful day, a new nickname arrived. “freddiegirl86”. “YOU LOVE FREDDIE?? ME TOO! YOU’RE FROM THE US?? ME TOO! YOU WERE BORN IN 1986?? ME TOO!”
As much as I liked everyone else, I felt I had found my Queen soulmate in Audrey. We talked online constantly, and jacked up our respective phone bills (dial-up internet is really no laughing matter, kids). We would call each other on the phone and REALLY jack up our phone bills, pretend to perform concerts, and talk about Freddie and Queen on a level that remains very special.
Audrey and I seemed to enable each other, and it was glorious. Brian and Roger hadn’t started touring as Queen yet, but we were determined that - somehow - we’d meet in person and meet them and see them live.
15 years later, it finally happened. I took a day trip from Boston to New York City, finally met Audrey, and we went to meet Brian May at a book signing. That remains one of the greatest days of my life.
I’m very privileged to have had the experiences I’ve had so far. It’s a combination of luck and having amazingly kind and generous friends. But seeing Queen live was something I NEVER thought would happen for me! Ever! When Queen + Adam Lambert added Boston to their North American tour, I thought I’d be lucky to get Audrey and I the shittiest seats in the stadium!
Stubhub.com is a wonderful thing. Miraculously, I was able to secure floor tickets not *too* far from the stage! As a believer in karma, I’m still wondering what I did to be able to make that happen!
The days leading up to the concert were hard to get through. My stomach would do one somersault after another. “This is happening!” I thought. “Holy shit! Audrey and I are going to see QUEEN!” followed by, “The tickets you got must be fake! Audrey’s going to come all this way only for you both to have the stadium doors slammed in your face! She’ll never forgive you! The gig will be canceled, everything will go to shit!”
The tickets were fine and everything else was fine!
The first time I heard Procession felt like I was hearing music for the first time in my life all over again. I loved picking up the subtle sounds on Queen II on my headphones (cranked up to full volume, because the 1992 CD releases were lacking compared to the 2011 CD releases). Every single note of every guitar part in Procession was so ominous and sad and triumphant and glorious! Somber, but building to something greater than myself! So hearing the drum pound in the taped intro in TD Garden in 2014, surrounded by other Queen fans, feeling the electricity build, brought out that response. The guitar parts came in, and it was like I was back in that moment listening to Queen II for the very first time. Except it didn’t sound ominous this time! I spent years watching concert videos and listening to CDs, hearing crowds get excited and knowing precisely why they were excited - but to actually be there! To be in it! To feel your pulse ramp up and synch with everyone else’s! The fact that I was sharing this with Audrey especially! There really is no comparison between that and any of their concert videos!
Only after Now I’m Here did my brain suddenly process that I was seeing Roger Taylor on drums (along with his son, Rufus), Brian May playing guitar - HIS guitar! The Red Special! The most perfect and amazing guitar that will ever be! Neil Fairclough doing John Deacon justice! And Adam Lambert as front man! He had finally come into it! I’d seen other videos of him performing with Queen, and he was lacking as a showman. Until I’d heard other people gush about earlier concerts in the tour, I was worried he’d fall flat again. But he was perfect! He brought himself to the stage, owned it, and - maybe inadvertently - filled in some of the gaps where Paul Rodgers couldn’t! Champions Of The World was a great concert, but that was it. It was a concert. This was a show! Queen is supposed to be big lights, big sounds - completely overwhelming in the best way! I kept watching Adam and thinking of how Freddie must be positively BEAMING with joy from wherever he is! I wonder if that’s how the band felt when John Deacon auditioned for them back in the day? Like Audrey said, “Adam just fit!”
I did the Radio Ga Ga clap when I saw Queen Extravaganza in 2011, and I thought that would be as close as I’d get to the real thing. It was fun, but the connection doesn’t compare when doing it with the greatest band in the universe (obviously). I felt a sense of purpose, and finally truly understood what people meant when they said that Queen could connect with even the person furthest from the stage (still, I’m glad I got us good seats!). I revisited that sense of finally belonging on first entering the QFC chat room all those years ago.
Bohemian Rhapsody felt like I had come full circle. This was the first Queen song I fell head over heels in love with, and the only way it could have been more perfect is if Freddie were still alive and performing it! Hearing Bohemian Rhapsody for the first time at the age of six had brought me to this moment, and my entire journey as a Queen fan came bubbling up through the course of the taped operatic section. The lights, the video on the screen, flashes of my childhood playing in my mind not unlike the video footage playing during These Are The Days Of Our Lives, the sounds, the stadium filled with people, the camaraderie, my friends a few seats down in the next row, my counterpart right by my side! It was like feeling every ounce of joy from hearing every Queen and Freddie song for the very first time all at once. Like how I felt when I listened to the Made In Heaven album and heard Freddie sing his ass off on It’s A Beautiful Day.
It was fucking amazing, is what I’m getting at.
After the show, Audrey and I watched VH1 Legends. Brian said (and I’m going to paraphrase) that Queen wanted to leave their audiences “deafened, blinded, completely emotionally drained - and totally wanting more!” We looked at each other and exclaimed hoarsely, “THAT’S HOW WE FEEL!!!”
As I write this, I’m still feeling the aftershock from the show. My voice took a few days to recover, and I have moments where I start to tear up because this was such a huge deal for me in so many ways. I go through Youtube videos of the Boston show, and it’s like I’m there again. I look at the pictures I took and stare in amazement because, “Holy shit! These are pictures of Queen! That I took! At one of their concerts!”
I still can’t find all the words to describe what Queen and Freddie mean to me, and how much this concert means to me. Eventually, I’ll stop trying. Because really, you either get it or you don’t. And those who get it know that there are multiple intricate layers, subtle notes, bits and pieces that will be missed the first time around, revitalized joy when you drop everything, look at any part of your Queen collection, and let it hit you all over again just how much you love this band.