Adam Lambert was 10 years old when he heard Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" during the hilarious segment in the first "Wayne's World" film.
"As a kid, I think that's the first time hearing something and wanting to know more about it," Lambert, 32, recalls. "I thought, 'What is this song? It's so cool.' And my dad said, 'Here, son, this is Queen' and let Lambert hear even more from the band's catalog.
More than two decades later Lambert is doing more than listening to Queen; he's singing for the long-lived British group, using the multi-octave voice that made him "American Idol's" 2009 runner-up (to Kris Allen) to rekindle the late Freddie Mercury on hits such as "Killer Queen," "We Are the Champions," "Another One Bites the Dust" and more with founding members Brian May and Roger Taylor. The association dates back to the "Idol" finale, when Lambert first sang with Queen, and continued for the 2011 MTV Europe Music Awards and a handful of shows the following year in Britain and Europe and at the 2013 iHeartRadio Music Festival.
This year Queen + Adam Lambert are touring North America, which the singer -- who's released two Top 5 albums and landed a recurring role on "Glee" since his "Idol" stint -- calls "so surreal. If someone had said to me, 'By the way, you're gonna be on stage at Madison Square Garden with them in five years, I would've laughed in their face...It's an honor. I'm very humbled and very lucky I get to do this."
Queen + Adam Lambert is hardly May and Taylor's first Queen venture since Mercury's death in 1991 (bassist John Deacon remains an inactive partner in all things band-related). The two were full participants in the award-winning "We Will Rock You" stage musical that opened in 2002 and have also overseen a wealth of catalog releases during the past two decades, including an estimated 300 million albums sold worldwide. They toured and also recorded an album with former Bad Company and Free singer Paul Rodgers between 2004-2009, played at the closing ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and launched a tribute show called "The Queen Extravaganza" in 2013.
Playing with Lambert, however, ranks as one of if not THE favorite post-Mercury project May and Taylor have done.
"He's sensational," says Taylor, 64. "I describe him as almost a camp Elvis (Presley). He has this unbelievable range, 'cause Freddie had a great range. Adam can really cover it. He's an extraordinary singer and a real talent. I feel he fits into our sort of theatricality. It was very comfortable."
May, 66, adds that, "One of the greatest things about Adam is that he's never an imitator. He finds his own way with the songs, and that's what we all want. We want our music to be alive and dangerous and still open to change. Freddie in particular would hate to have things reproduced the way they were. We take it to different places -- that's exciting, and I don't think we'd be doing it if we didn't think we were actually going into new territory."
The guitarist -- who also holds a PhD in astrophysics (and is, therefore, a bona fide rocket scientist) -- acknowledges there are those who ask, "Is this really Queen without Freddie?" but says this incarnation of the group is serving a demand.
"People want to hear Queen music," he explains. "They want to hear it done great, and they want to have Roger and I play and we love to play. Neither Roger or I are desperate to go out and do what we did, because we did it. It's not like we're always looking for someone to sing for us. Organically, this happened with Adam. We just felt good about it, and we wouldn't be here if we didn't feel it was right and natural.
"So having this opportunity is great for me. We're still alive, thank God, and we're still healthy enough to go out and treat the boards one more time."
Neither May, Taylor nor Lambert are speculating about their future beyond the summer; the North American tour wraps July 28 in Toronto, and the group will play four shows in Australia at the end of the summer. Lambert is working on his third solo album, while, in May and Taylor are also involved in a Mercury biopic and a possible film adaptation of the "We Will Rock You" musical, as well as "Queen Forever," an album of unreleased material with Mercury that's due out this fall.
But they're happy to be playing together for the moment -- and so is Lambert's father, who introduced him to Queen's music more than two decades ago.
"He's like, 'Holy s***! You're on stage with Queen! I can't believe it!' " Lambert says with a laugh.
Queen + Adam Lambert
8 p.m. Saturday, July 12
The Palace of Auburn Hills, Lapeer Road at I-75
Some tickets are still available at $35-$85
Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com
Send your thoughts and comments to