An “American Idol” finalist might not seem like the most likely candidate to front a band like Queen.
But Adam Lambert’s association with the legendary British rock group, taking the place of the late iconic Freddie Mercury, has been rocking us for eight years of sold-out arenas and stadiums around the world — and playing to rave reviews.
Clearly there’s a kind of magic to this association, too.
“I love working with them,” Lambert, the 2009 “Idol” runner-up, says by phone. “They are classy and inspiring. They’ve given me a lot of freedom within the music, which I’m very grateful for. I’m very humbled and very lucky I get to do this.”
The feeling is mutual from the Queen side.
“He’s sensational,” says drummer and co-founder Roger Taylor, 67. “I describe him as almost a camp Elvis (Presley). He has this unbelievable range, because 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.”
The Indiana-born Lambert, 35, was introduced to Queen by his father and remembers hearing the group’s opus “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the first “Wayne’s World” film when he was 10 years old.
“As a kid, I think that’s the first time hearing something and wanting to know more about it — like, ‘What is this song? It’s so cool!’” Lambert recalls. “And my dad said, ‘Here, son, this is Queen ...’”
After Lambert performed a Queen song during his “Idol” run, Taylor and guitarist Brian May — who had worked with Free/Bad Company frontman Paul Rodgers from 2004-09 — joined him for the show’s finale, then invited him to play with them at the 2011 MTV Europe Music Awards. That led to touring the following year in Europe, and the troupe has played in North and South America, Asia, Australia and New Zealand since then and released a live album last year from concerts in Japan.
Lambert acknowledges it’s daunting to fill in for Mercury, who died in 1991 due to complications from AIDS at the age of 45, but he’s confident he’s doing justice to the singer’s legacy.
“It’s exciting because it really came down to me just having to prove it, that I had the right to be there,” Lambert says. “That’s good. I like a challenge. It’s easy to write off somebody from a TV show talent competition. It’s VERY easy to do that. Knowing that just fired me up to be as great as I could be.”
Queen + Adam Lambert has not yet worked on new material, and the singer says “there’s no talk of that; I think at this point it’s a live collaboration.”
He’s maintained his own career as well, releasing an album, “The Original High,” during 2015 that features May on the track “Lucy.” Last month Lambert released a new single, “Two Fux,” and he’s finding that Queen fans are joining the Glamberts who supported him on “Idol” for these endeavors.
“That’s the most interesting thing about being out on tour with them is that I see such a cross-section of different ages, races and genders,” Lambert says. “It’s very broad, the audience, and that’s sort of similar to what I see at my show. I see kids, I see their parents, I see their parent’s parents. It’s very cool to be able to do that. I’m lucky to have that audience, and I’m very thankful that people are listening.”
• If You Go: Queen + Adam Lambert performs at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 20, at The Palace, Lapeer Road at I-75, Auburn Hills. Tickets are $49.50-$175. Call 248-377-0100 or visit palacenet.com.
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