British rock band Queen is preparing for its first tour in 18 years, but fans are already complaining that the show couldn't go on without flamboyant gay front man Freddie Mercury. Mercury died of complications from AIDS in 1991, and there are also doubts over whether bass guitarist John Deacon will join the aging rockers in Europe next spring. The 2005 tour will be the first time the hugely successful group has played since it performed with Mercury in front of more than 100,000 fans at Knebworth in England in 1986. Paul Rodgers--vocalist on Free's 1970 classic "All Right Now" and former lead singer for fellow '70s hard-rock band Bad Company--takes Mercury's place alongside guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor. Deacon has been invited to play but has yet to make up his mind.
Promoters are aware that Queen devotees insist that filling Mercury's often outrageous platform shoes is impossible. "It's a Queen tour with Paul Rodgers, and planned for the spring, although no dates have yet been confirmed," said band agent Phil Symes. "It's not a case of Paul joining the band. The band would say that Freddie is irreplaceable, but Brian felt there was a chemistry with Paul."
Queen, with hits including "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "We Are the Champions," is one of Britain's top bands, selling more than 150 million records worldwide since the early 1970s. Despite Mercury's death its success has continued with compilations and prizes and the popular tribute musical We Will Rock You, which has wowed London audiences for over two years. Whether the tour can match that reception is unclear. "Huge Queen fan here--but no Freddie, no show," said one anonymous contributor to an Internet chat page, adding that to tour without Mercury was akin to the Doors' attempts to resurrect themselves long after the death of Jim Morrison. "How can it be Queen if not only Freddie is missing but also John Deacon?" wrote another. "Brian and Roger need to accept that Queen is dead and move on." Age, however, need not be a problem for the surviving band members, who are all in their 50s. Mick Jagger completed a world tour last year when he was 60, although David Bowie, who is 57, underwent emergency heart surgery and cut short a European tour earlier this year.