Yes, that’s my original 1980 Queen tour t-shirt that has been butchered in all the right places by it’s previous owner. It is the one thing in my closet I cherish more than anything else. Occasionally, I’m fortunate enough to get asked the question, “So, who’s your very favorite band?” I always smile calmly before I answer, but deep down I’m foaming at the mouth and about to hyperventilate because this poor soul has no idea what they’ve just gotten themselves into. My very favorite band is Queen and there are so many reasons that I could share with you as to why. I’ll spare you a nineteen page read and instead tell you my story of what it was like to see and hear the band that means so much to me.
On June 19, 2014, the wheels hit the pavement at 7:00AM because my concert confidante and best friend, Becky, and I had a seven-hour trip on which to embark to Chicago. All of this started three months prior in March when I was minding my own business and cruising Ticketmaster for upcoming summer tours. I had heard rumors from my internet sources (the most reliable sources of all!) that Brian May and Roger Taylor were going to team up with Adam Lambert for a full scale US summer tour. “Hmmm.” I said to myself. “Okay…I’ll believe that when I see it.” Three days later, my internal screaming could have permeated even the most soundproofed military installations because there it was – the official US tour press release. Once the color had returned to my face, my blood pressure had slowed down and I had mopped myself from the floor, my more rational and skeptical self kicked in. I immediately questioned Adam Lambert as front man and used the term with air quotes. Wasn’t this the American Idol guy? Wait, was it a different singing show? At any rate, I didn’t care on what show he had been. Brian May and Roger Taylor were going to be on the stage…together…in the US…IN THE SUMMER…A MERE SEVEN HOURS AWAY FROM ME!!!! My blood pressure shot up again….
Going back to June 19. I’m fairly certain I white knuckled the steering wheel the entire way to Chicago. Neither Becky nor myself had ever been to Chicago. She and I had agreed during our trip that Adam Lambert was going to be the weak link that we could do without (remember the air quotes?). With that commonality agreed upon, we continued to keep I-65 hot. Once we arrived to our hotel, I did my best to not blurt out in the form of a battle cry, “HI, WE’RE HERE TO SEE QUEEN! THIS IS NOT A DRILL! THIS. IS. NOT. A DRILLLLLLLLLLL!” It pays to have a friend who was able to see the look in my eyes of a hungry, insatiable animal from the Serengeti as I instead replied to hotel staff, “Hi, we’re checking in.”
We’ll fast-forward now to the United Center, approximately 5:30PM, two hours before show time. The line in front of the venue was already strong and the parking lots full. Immediately, I imagined this was a similar sight to what it looked like the last time Queen played Chicago (then the Chicago Stadium) around 1978. There were three Chicago rock radio stations covering the night. I already felt a lump in my throat.
Once inside the United Center, people sprawled out like ants for concessions and the like. I’m not a merchandise person, meaning, I don’t buy any band merch at shows unless the circumstance is remarkable. This was remarkable because a tour program was a must have. Wrestling the giant thing was another story, but I’m so happy I didn’t leave without one.
I felt another lump in my throat upon entering the seating assignment levels. Grandiose. That’s the only word that can describe the stage setup hidden behind the Queen crest curtain. Really? Would you expect any less from Queen? I’m sure that at this point you are chomping at the bit to know where our seats were located. Becky and I are pros when it comes to seating. It helps that we already know whose equipment is where (as any good fan should do) whenever we are determining which side of the stage we want. When I say stage, that’s exactly what I mean.
We are not nosebleed people. In fact, we start to get squirmy if the set list gets out of view. We had our seats nailed. Section two, row six, seats one and two. ROW SIX. As we proudly showed our magnificent tickets to the usher, we followed her jubilantly, leaving a trail of glitter in our wake. We already knew EXACTLY where to go, but humored her. Suddenly, something unpredictable happened. The usher passed Section Two, Row Six. “Wait…WAIT….WAAAAAIT! YOU PASSED THE ROW! WE’VE HAD THESE SEATS SINCE MARCH! WE KNOW THE VENUE BETTER THAN YOU! WHERE ARE YOU TAKING US USHER LADY!?” Said the insane commentary in my head. The thing the seating pros didn’t take into consideration was the addition of more seating. Section Two Row Six was now approximately four rows closer than we had anticipated based on the United Center seating chart study guide. As we approached the catwalk, getting even closer to the front of the stage, I punched Becky in the arm with the force of E. Honda from Street Fighter II. We were speechless. Here we were, nestled in the comforting nook of the catwalk and the main stage. We were so close, that, as long as I believed in myself, lint from Brian May’s pants might have landed on me. As you probably guessed, I went on blood pressure meds shortly after this incident.
There was a couple beside us in town from Wisconsin to see their daughter. In chatting with the man, Mr. Wisconsin we’ll call him, looked at his tickets, looked at me and said, “I just happened upon these tickets. My wife and I wanted something to do after visiting our daughter. I’ve never seen Adam Lambert. Who is it that’s with him?” My heart stopped. My breath stopped. My saliva production stopped. Oh, my blood pressure…You mean to tell me that Becky and I bought our tickets thirty-two and a half seconds after they went on sale and Mr. Wisconsin just ‘happened upon’ two tickets…IN THE SIXTH ROW!? I thought the guy was kidding, I sincerely did. I even said, “Ha! Funny!” He looked at me seriously. “No, really, I don’t know who I’m here to see.” It’s a good thing I keep a collection of iPhone images complete with informational commentary for instances like this.
When the lights went down, I could feel myself begin to sweat…a lot. The next few seconds seemed liked hours. True to form, the show opened with the processional followed by the opening chords to ‘Now I’m Here’, which has been a Queen tradition for many years. The curtain dropped and I scared the living daylights out of Mr. Wisconsin with my banshee-like screams of unfathomable fandom and adoration. Brian May had just taken the stage. I was in awe and on the verge of needing to reach for my rescue inhaler. But then, Roger happened. Picture a mushroom cloud. I was a mushroom cloud.
Becky and I were bound and determined not to like Adam Lambert. After all, he was nothing more to us than air quotes! A lead singer was needed, and somehow this Adam Lambert guy got it. He was at the top of our ‘people we don’t want to like’ list. I can speak for both of us when I say we have a new found respect for Adam Lambert. He killed it. His stage presence, his voice, and his interactions were all exquisite. We like Adam Lambert. I actually find myself listening to him on the radio even though his music isn’t my style. Why? I respect the guy for the homage he paid that night. He was classy and confident, two things I love.
It was an amazing night, an unforgettable night, and on top of that, it was opening night of the US tour. It was a night that is just as fresh in my mind today as it was two years ago. I knew every word to every song and already had every chord and cymbal crash memorized. As with any Queen show, the theatrics were incredible. But, I didn’t care about that. They could have played in the parking lot and I would have been just as moved. My favorite band. My very favorite band…and I was there! I still tear up when I think about it.
When bands use old concert footage in their shows, it should come with a warning label. UGLY CRYING AHEAD PROCEED WITH CAUTION. I LOVE old concert footage. I love it. But when Queen decided to use old concert footage as a part of their live show, it sent me into an emotional frenzy. Did I mention ugly crying? Granted, I didn’t actually cry. But inside, my heart was weeping. I had missed it. It all had already happened and I missed it. Though I had already seen the old footage at least fifty times, it didn’t erase the fact that I came along too late, being forced to watch Queen’s career unfold on BluRay Disc and YouTube. There’s an advantage though. Seeing Brian May and Roger Taylor at this point in their careers allows them to slow down and reflect, a fleeing and unrealistic idea in the height of 1975. Brian May was as humble as he has ever been.
An astrophysicist disguised as a guitarist. Roger Taylor got all the extra glamour that Freddie Mercury left behind, as if he needed any more! He proves still to be a multi-talented and divine drummer. His friendship remains strong with Brian after nearly 45 years. I found myself longing for John Deacon to be on stage. He has been tucked away privately with his family like a jewel safely kept on velvet. Those riffs will always be John’s and though he wasn’t present, he was certainly felt.
Of course, there will always be a critic who, with an eye-roll, will inform me, “You didn’t really see Queen.” To that I say, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that you feel the need to validate my experience. I’m sorry you don’t love this band as much as I do. I’m sorry that they don’t mean to you what they mean to me. I’m sorry I missed the Bicycle Race auditions and I’m sorry I missed Live Aid. You, Mr. Critic, are NOT killing my buzz!” Usually the person who’s telling me, I ‘didn’t really see Queen’ is the same person who then proceeds to rattle off the slew of shows his dad/uncle/brother/half-cousin saw that ‘totally rocked’.
I love Queen. I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about my experience. I haven’t talked about it much prior nor have I talked about it in detail. It was my bucket list concert. Of all the other shows I get so worked up about, this one was the one I had dreamed of for several years. I hope you get the vibe of how crazy passionate I am. Be passionate. There aren’t many people out there who understand what it’s like to love a band so much that it hurts. When you find that one thing that moves you, I mean, really moves you to the point it gives you chills, be passionate. Rock on.
Writer: Amanda Knight