In honor of Adam Lambert‘s return to “American Idol” this Sunday as he coaches the Top 8 contestants on how to properly attack a Queen anthem, here is the performance that would lead to him eventually filling in for the band’s late singer, Freddie Mercury. Yes, the eventual winner Kris Allen gets to warble the first verse of “We Are the Champions,” but the minute that Lambert opens his mouth, he commands the song as his voice takes flight into the heavens.
The curtain then raises and Queen guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor are revealed in a cloud of smoke. The season’s other contestants seem to be hanging about onstage while acting as a chorus of sorts as the audience and judges leap to their feet. But only Lambert seems to feel right at home next to these British rock legends.
Explain to me again how America got it so wrong and relegated Lambert to second-place status? At least May was paying attention to what was going on with that charismatic leather-clad dude on his right in what was supposed to be a one-time event.
“It was really blindingly obvious that there was a chemistry already between us and Adam,” May has said of that moment. “It just happened completely naturally and made us all smile. The public reaction was massive, and so I think that moment the idea of us working with Adam was seeded in our brains.”
Meanwhile, after playing together at the MTV Europe Awards in 2011, Taylor described Lambert’s voice as being “one in a hundred million.” The singer would eventually do his first full-length concert with the pair in 2012 and they have been touring as Queen + Adam Lambert ever since. Initially, he was nervous about Mercury’s rabid fan base being upset over this interloper. But at a concert in Melbourne in 2018, he addressed their concerns, saying, “I know what some of you might be thinking. … He’s no Freddy. No shit! Because there will be only one rock god named Freddie Mercury.”
There is more Lambert ahead on “Idol.” He is due to perform May 19 on the season finale. And, on Monday, ABC will air the documentary special, “The Show Must Go On: The Queen + Adam Lambert Story.”
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