The Roger Taylor Outsider tour has only happened because Covid delayed Queen + Adam Lambert’s world tour. With this in mind, I don’t think anyone was expecting a gig of such power, energy and emotion from Taylor’s stopgap sojourn back into solo touring – his first for 20 years.
From opener Strange Frontier, it was clear this was a band who were here to play. The sound was huge, with all six on stage contributing harmony vocals. The effortless ease of their individual and group playing made the combined effect of their brilliant musicianship all the more startling.
Taylor, out from behind the kit for most of the night, displayed a voice as strong and assured as it ever has been. The occasional concession to live arrangements saw a change in the melody but he saved up the big notes for the big numbers. And there were big numbers: A Kind Of Magic, Under Pressure and I’m In Love With My Car blew everyone away. (The intro to the latter was so huge I involuntarily shouted, “holy shit,” but nobody heard me.)
Even the lesser-known solo Taylor material was a joy for the uninitiated. Many of the new songs from this month’s Outsider album were genuinely moving, and More Kicks was transformed into a band showpiece that ended in what we were all waiting for since walking in and seeing the two-kit setup: a drum battle.
Taylor and Tyler Warren traded their best fills and most complicated beats until the Queen man ended the exchange with an impossibly well-controlled snare roll which expanded out to the whole kit. By the end of the night, though, everyone including Taylor was a Tyler Warren fan. Not only did he recreate Taylor’s original parts with his own signature energy and style, Warren sung many of Freddie’s lines too – the most incredible of which was when Taylor, and longterm collaborator Spike Edney, left the stage to let the rest of the band run through Rock It (Prime Jive) on their own.
I will confess to a sudden attack of tears in These Are The Days Of Our Lives with the emotion of the song, and the memory of Freddie’s final video, unspoken but acknowledged by all. And when Radio GaGa closed the main set, I wondered what it would have been like to see Freddie perform the song in the flesh, in his prime, if this performance by its writer, now 72, could elicit such an incredible response from singer, band and audience.
The encores, Led Zep’s Rock And Roll and Bowie’s Heroes, were brilliant, surprise choices that said a lot about Taylor’s respect for Bonzo as well as his own drummer, and his love for another dear departed friend. Much was made of the intimacy of this tour, and it’s true that St David’s Hall is a small venue for stadium songs – but every note was as big as Queen and Taylor deserved.
St David’s Hall, Cardiff, Wed 6 Oct
words JOHN-PAUL DAVIES photos GARETH GRIFFITHS
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