The Freddie Mercury biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” premieres in London in grand style on Tuesday, reflecting the enduring appeal of Queen and their legendary frontman 27 years on from his death.
Fans are set to watch the film in the 12,500-capacity Wembley Arena — opposite the stadium where the iconic British rock band staged a famous performance at the 1985 Live Aid concert.
Appreciation of the group’s legacy and Mercury’s unique talent has only grown since his death in 1991 of bronchial pneumonia, brought on by AIDS.
Among the world’s best-selling artist’s ever, most of the band’s sales have come since the singer’s passing at the age of 45.
And Queen guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, now 71 and 69, are still rocking arenas worldwide, resurgent as a live act propelled by the flamboyant US vocalist Adam Lambert.
Now hits including “We Will Rock You”, “Another One Bites The Dust” and “Don’t Stop Me Now” are set for a further lease of life through the movie.
In the pipeline for eight years, the film could deliver another smash hit, with Egyptian-American actor Rami Malek winning rave reviews for his performance as Mercury.
In interviews, Malek has talked about tackling a complex character — a publicly bombastic yet privately shy individual with a highly unusual path to stardom.
– Zanzibar to Wembley –
Born Farrokh Bulsara in 1946 to a Parsi Indian family living on the East African spice island of Zanzibar and educated at an English-style boarding school in India, he arrived in London when his family fled the 1964 Zanzibar revolution.
The movie follows Mercury’s rise to fame and complicated love life, from Queen’s formation in 1970 to the band’s stellar performance at the Live Aid concert.
Their 20-minute set at Wembley Stadium — opposite Wembley Arena — was the band’s finest hour, often cited as one of the greatest live performances ever.
Mercury’s demise seemed like the end for Queen — a band of four equal partners who each wrote chart-topping hits.
Bassist John Deacon retired in 1997 and has vanished from the public eye.
Assuming Queen was a chapter closed, May and Taylor tried to move on with solo careers.
However, they gradually came to embrace rather than resist the gravitational pull of their band’s legacy.
And Mercury’s legend only grows with time, yet to be eclipsed by a more captivating stadium showman.
Even during his lifetime, Mercury was stunned that nobody had written a hit to overtake “We Are The Champions”.
But 41 years on, his 1977 singalong anthem remains the go-to tune at sporting finales, and 1975’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” is still regularly voted the greatest rock song ever written.
– Concerts a celebration –
With Deacon’s blessing to carry on as Queen, May and Taylor joined forces with bluesy former Free singer Paul Rodgers from 2005 to 2008 and played sell-out concerts.
Afterwards, the pair assumed their revival was done.
Then in 2009, on the television show “American Idol”, they met Lambert — someone May describes as a “gift from God”.
Early brief performances snowballed into a European tour in 2012 and world tours in the years since.
May and Taylor are visibly rejuvenated by Lambert’s natural ability to handle Mercury’s dramatic range and camp touch.
Queen fans have embraced the 36-year-old, who does not try to mimic or replace their lost frontman.
Lambert acknowledges before audiences that he’s “no Freddie”, and asks their permission to celebrate Mercury with them by singing his lines.
Billed as Queen and Adam Lambert, they played 26 arena shows in North America and another 26 in Europe in 2017.
But such is the demand that they were back out again this year, touring Oceania and Europe and holding a residency in Las Vegas.
Concertgoers include those old enough to have seen Queen’s last tour with Mercury in 1986, but also younger generations thrilled at the chance to experience the band live.
“I keep thinking, ‘who could have thought it?’, and ‘how Freddie would love all this’,” May said Thursday on Instagram, in anticipation of the movie premiere.
“Hopefully he is somewhere close by, just one dimension away, with a naughty smile on his face.”