In the summer of 1976, I was a miserable, transplanted teenager. My family had been transferred from the only home I knew, just outside of Chicago, to a rural area in Connecticut, due to a job transfer for my father. I was heading into my freshman year of high school, lonely and sad. Music literally saved me.
My beloved grandmother, left behind in Chicago, had given me a set of headphones with a built-in radio. I can remember long nights, twisted in my bed to get the best reception, trying to pick up FM stations out of New York City. This long, lonely, hot summer was when I first heard Queen’s anthem, Bohemian Rhapsody. That’s when my long love affair with this band-of-my-heart started. Since the 1970s, when asked who my favorite band is…always Queen.
On August 20, 1980 I attended my first Queen show – The News of the World Tour, with Freddie Mercury singing lead. Hartford Civic Center setlist I had just graduated from high school, and was getting ready to go off to college. It was a dream come true, and I remember everything like it was yesterday, a magical evening all around.
On November 24, 1991, my “friend”, Freddie Mercury, was taken from us too soon. He died of AIDS, at home, only 45 years old. I grieved. I still light a candle for Freddie, on this day, and on his birthday. He will never know what he has meant to me all these years, and for all the years I have left.
A side story – 25 years later, I was back at the Hartford Civic Center, to see Green Day, with my teenage children – my second wave of music. Prior to Green Day coming out, Bohemian Rhapsody played on the PA system – and the crowd sang along – pop punk rockers belting out operatic lyrics in unison- what a moment! The Green Day setlist is here. Note the encores – one of which was “We Are the Champions”. Billie Joe Armstrong channeled his best Ayyee-ohhh Freddie, and I was moved to tears at the homage.
In July of 2014, I saw Queen + Adam Lambert at Mohegan Sun. My niece Christine was a Mohegan Sun usher, and shortly after the show started she whisked us to a standing room only area with a great view. Seeing Roger and Brian again, and the respectful way Adam Lambert handled the role of filling in for Freddie was fantastic, overwhelming, emotional, and amazing. I was so grateful to be able to see them again!
Flash forward to – now. I never in a million years thought I would get the opportunity to see my old friends perform live again. Sir Brian May is 76 years old, last year he had a health scare with a heart attack that nearly took his life. Roger Taylor is 74 years old, Brian and Roger have been friends since 1968. And Adam Lambert – what a story! A lot of people have forgotten that Adam did NOT win American Idol – he was first runner up. And if you’ve forgotten his audition –
Yep. Adam Lambert sang an acapella version of Bohemian Rhapsody for his American Idol audition. And yes, he was theatrical even then.
Which brings us to this incredible, magical night – October 30, 2023 – at the United Center, in my beloved city of Chicago, Illinois…
Already excited to be in Chicago with my favorite daughter Suzy, was I in for a shocker. Suzy got us FRONT ROW SEATS!!!!
Brian did his traditional “Love of My Life” duet, with the image of Freddie, and the voices of 20,000 people singing along. Yeah, I cried a little. To be expected.
I have loved Sir Brian May since I was 13 years old. His songs have been a comfort to me my entire adult life. When our eyes met, and he smiled at me, I hope I was able to convey all the love and gratitude in my heart – what a moment. I’ll never forget it.
Freddie would have absolutely adored Adam Lambert. That’s all that needs to be said on that topic.
To be able to hear these songs again live, with thousands of like-minded people, was simply the best. Thank you SUZY! I love you!
I spent a couple of wonderful days downtown, while Suzy was at work. To see some random Chicago observations, visit this cross-post.
For more on my Chicago family history, visit my Leonetti page. Better buckle up.