When surviving Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor (John Deacon hung up his bass guitar for good in 1998) got together with legendary rock frontman Paul Rodgers for a one-off tour and companion live CD/DVD in 2005, the results were better than expected considering how diametrically opposed Rodgers' voice and style is from that of original Queen frontman, Freddy Mercury. Still, this awkward marriage had a very temporary feel to it.
Return Of The Champions was the first product of this collaboration and it exceeded all expectations. Not only did you get an incredible run through of Queen's greatest hits but you were also treated to some killer performances of a few classic Rodger's tunes from his Free and Bad Company days. Well, it turned out that this odd partnership would not be so "one-off" after all, as Queen + Paul Rodgers, as they called themselves, decided to give it another go in 2008 with not only a new world tour, but an album of new material to boot.
The Cosmos Rocks was released in September of 2008 and a world tour was set to follow that same month. Just weeks before the start of their Rock The Cosmos world tour, the band was approached by the Ukraine's Elena Franchuck ANTIAIDS Foundation to help promote AIDS awareness to the youth of that country. Although Queen was already scheduled to kick off their tour with a couple of shows at Moscow's SCO arena, they agreed to play a free concert at Kharkov, Ukraine's Freedom Square on September 12, 2008, which was attended by some 350,000 Ukrainians, and watched live on TV by over 10 million homes.
Live In Ukraine is the 2009 concert DVD that captured this momentous event and with it Queen + Paul Rodgers have scored another hit. The show gets off to an electrifying start via two of the band's heaviest tracks, "One Vision," and "Tie Your Mother Down," before settling into a hit laden set that was all too similar to the previous DVD. Seventeen of the 26 songs performed also appeared on Return Of The Champions.
Surprisingly the boys only played three songs, "Say It's Not True," "C-Lebrity," and "Cosmos Rockin'," from their new The Cosmos Rocks album, and that was probably not a bad idea. Although I always appreciate hearing fresh material on a new tour, this stuff was not quite up to par with the rest of the set. The ballad "Say It's Not True," sung by both Taylor and Rodgers, is pretty enough, and all, but it brings the show to a screeching halt midway through the set, and "C-Lebrity" is just a straightforward blues-rocker that sounded more like a lost Paul Rodgers solo album cut.
There were a few surprises this night including May's gorgeous performance of "Last Horizon," which comes from his 1993 solo album, Back To The Light, as well as the Innuendo track, "Bijou," where May played along to some old footage of Freddy Mercury singing it on the big screen. This made up for a pretty uninspired guitar solo that preceded them, where it sounded more like an exercise in how much delay effect May could use with without actually traveling back in time. "'39" sounded brilliant this night with May sitting at the front of the stage strumming an acoustic guitar and singing lead while Taylor sat to his right on the kick drum and tambourine. After a minute or so they bring out the rest of the support band to add some upright bass, accordion, and a second acoustic guitar to the mix.
I particularly enjoyed all of the Bad Company song performances on the DVD, as Rodgers can still belt it out with the best of them, and May handled the guitar parts superbly. The old Free classic, "All Right Now," is what really brought the house down though.