Since joining forces in 2011, Queen + Adam Lambert have quickly become one of the most successful touring acts in the world — and now, they’re ready to prove why.
On Friday (March 24), the internationally beloved rock group announced the latest North American expansion of the Rhapsody Tour, set to take place this fall. Kicking off at Baltimore’s CFG Bank Arena in October, the tour will make 14 stops throughout the U.S. and Canada, including shows in New York, Boston, Toronto, Chicago, Nashville and Dallas, before closing out at Los Angeles’ BMO Stadium in November.
For fans who saw the first North American leg of The Rhapsody Tour in 2019, fear not; the new set of dates promises an “expanded and updated” show, with guitarist Sir Brian May adding in a statement, “Our last tour featured our most ambitious production ever. So we decided to rip it apart and get even more ambitious.”
Billboard caught up with May, Lambert and Roger Taylor ahead of their official announcement, where the trio talked about what fans can expect from the new show, their favorite songs to perform live, and why “this is not a farewell tour,” according to May.
This is the first time in four years that the three of you will be touring the U.S. together, following your European tour last year — how are you feeling ahead of hitting the road this fall?
Brian May: It’s incredible, yeah. I think we all learned in COVID how much we really missed this. It was really tough for everybody. We already did our big outing in Europe, but with a lot of restrictions on that; we had a very strict protocol just to get through, because people were going down like flies. But we managed to get through that whole tour without losing a date, and it was all sold-out, packed, fantastic and better than ever, I think. So we thought, “Well, we just have to get back to the states.”
Outside of those restrictions, were there any significant learning curves you had to navigate in a post-COVID touring environment last year?
Roger Taylor: Not really, no, I think it was a huge relief to just get back to something approaching normality. That made up for the fact that we did have to have a lot of mask-wearing, and we temporarily lost a few people along the way. And it was a long tour wasn’t it?
May: Oh, yeah.
Taylor: We were changing it and improving it as we went, and we are now going through all of those improvements again when it comes to this American leg.
I’ve noticed that the phrase “one more time” has been thrown around quite a bit when it comes to this tour — are you planning on this being Queen + Adam Lambert’s final outing?
May: Let me be clear, this is not a farewell tour. You can always do one more time … and then one more time … and then another time after that!
Adam Lambert: [laughs] Yeah, why limit yourself, guys?
Taylor: It’s just a simple, five year farewell tour, right?
When it comes to the “improvements” you’ve made to the show, what can fans expect to see that’s new with this leg of The Rhapsody Tour?
May: Well, we’re not gonna tell you that much, we don’t want to spoil it. [laughs] But the nice things is that the material is what ultimately gives the ideas, and we’re able to develop those ideas as we go along. We get to throw more and more stuff in, production-wise.
Lambert: I will say, the technology has come so far, even in the 10 years that we’ve worked together. It gives us so much freedom when it comes to what we want to create, what environment we want to put around a song. We have all of these toys that we get to play with, which we all get a big kick out of. We have an amazing creative team that work with us — I mean, we add something in a couple of days if we have a cool idea. Once the show kicks off, the show is never locked. It’s never the same show every night, we have the ability to throw a new song in, move the set around, change the visuals. There’s so much freedom.
That’s really interesting — how exactly do you go about adding new songs or new moments on the fly like that?
Lambert: I’d say a couple of glasses of wine and a chat, yeah?
May: [laughs] I mean, we also always do a soundcheck. The soundcheck is the key thing for us, I think. Every time we go into a new city and set things up, we’ll go into a soundcheck for two or three hours sometimes. When we’re doing that, we’ll try new stuff out, and our team is so flexible with us, that we’ll just throw out, “Can you give us a certain lighting effect, can you do stuff on the screens?” And they’ll build it on the spot for us. We don’t work on backing tracks or anything, which means we can kind of do anything we want. And we’re really fortunate to have a technical team that can handle that — a lot of this stuff is programmed to work at pretty exact intervals, and ours is all human touch, which gives it that live feel.
Lambert: Also, when we add a song sort of impromptu, we don’t like to over-rehearse it. We play it in that soundcheck and maybe one more soundcheck, and then we throw it in. It makes it really fun, like it’s a thrill-seeking activity, where we just go for it and see what happens.
Brian, I wanted to congratulate you on your recent knighting from King Charles III — what was that experience like for you?
May: It was nice! It was a lot more exciting that I thought it would be, really. We’ve interacted with King Charles a lot — he was at Live Aid! We’ve worked with him on the Prince’s Trust, which is a wonderful charity that takes care of young people, over the years. So meeting him and having him actually do that for me, was actually a really big deal for me. We had a pleasant chat about how old age was treating us, because we’re about the same age [laughs]. It’s quite nice, I feel like it’s given me a little bit more power to do the work I do with animals. I view it in that light — not so much as a prize, but as a kind of empowerment.
And Adam, congratulations on your High Drama covers album — were there any big covers you wanted to include that didn’t quite make the cut?
Lambert: There were definitely a couple others I was considering, but it was a very thought-out project, so we weren’t wasting a lot of time or energy in the studio. We did it so quick, probably recorded those over about two months. I’m so happy with it, even though I did not write those songs, it felt like I was getting creative in the studio to find new ways to make them sound. That was such a cool challenge for me.
Queen has one of the most prolific songbooks in modern rock music. Obviously there are the core set of hits that you’re gonna play almost no matter what — do you have any favorites in particular to perform that maybe aren’t as monolithic?
May: You know, there’s some stuff that we know would be very difficult — Roger mentioned “The Millionaire Waltz” once.
Taylor: [laughs] Oh yeah, I don’t know if we could pull that off.
May: But a lot of the stuff we do anyways is fairly complex — the key is you don’t play the record. We really play how we feel on the stage. It’s funny, some people would call that a bluff, but there’s a lot of multi-track guitar harmonies in a lot of our songs, and I don’t do that onstage and I don’t use trickery to achieve it. I play what I’m feeling, and people hear that and get a purely live version of the song. No extra frills, because to me, recording has always been different than performing live.
Taylor: Sometimes, the song gains a whole new dimension of excitement from that. But the live version will not be exactly the same as the record — that’s not what we’re about.
May: Some people will do that — they’ll have clicks and backing tracks and make everything sound perfect, but why do that? Why not do something that’s real and in the moment and ready to fall off the edge?
Lambert: As far as the setlist goes, I think we’re all aware of what the fan favorites are. But the most important thing here is that, sure, we need to have fun, but the audience is buying a ticket to see the show. This is about their evening and giving them a show that feels fresh. We are keenly aware of what the favorites are and we try to include the big hits every night — they have a lot of hits, so it’s a lot to choose from. But it’s a two-plus hour show, so we’ve got plenty of time to get those big hits.
Tickets for The Rhapsody Tour officially go on sale Friday, March 31 at 10 a.m. local time on LiveNation.com.