Queen’s Brian May and Roger Taylor Perform at Taylor Hawkins Tribute
The second to last scheduled performance of the Wembley Stadium extravaganza opened with film footage of Hawkins’ well-known love for Queen and drummer Taylor in particular. It led directly into the actual performance, with an on-screen Taylor counting the band into “We Will Rock You,” sung by Struts frontman Luke Spiller.
Taylor, who was wearing a shirt bearing Hawkins’ bird logo, then turned over his drum set to his son Rufus, a member of the Darkness, before leading May and the Foos on vocals through “I’m in Love with My Car.” Rufus' bandmate Justin Hawkins returned to duet with Taylor Sr. on “Under Pressure," with the latter also returning to his drum duties.
Next, Dave Grohl told the crowd: “We have a very special guest tonight who you may not expect – we didn’t.” He added that Taylor Sr. had suggested the singer in question for the song in question: Sam Ryder, the British TikTok phenomenon who represented the nation at the Eurovision Song Contest. He delivered “Somebody to Love” and seemed blown away to be part of the experience.
Finally, May went to the end of the catwalk and told the audience: “What an amazing evening of love and music – thank you for being here and for sharing all this stuff.” Introducing Freddie Mercury’s ballad “Love of My Life” he explained: “In 1986 we were on this exact spot, singing this song together, and in 1992, 30 years ago, we said goodbye to Freddie in a style similar to this. So I know Freddie would be happy to share this song in the memory of Taylor Hawkins. But here’s the deal: I don’t sing this song. We sing this song together. Alright?”
The crowd provided all the support they could, accompanied by May on an acoustic guitar as he encouraged them by calling their work “beautiful” and “wonderful,” then asking: “What do you think if every one of us uses our light? … Let’s light up Wembley Stadium for Taylor Hawkins.” After an explosion of white, the set ended as May bowed, waved and made his way back up the catwalk.
Hawkins was a huge fan of Queen, regularly pointing to a concert he attended at the age of 10 as a defining moment in his life.
“After that concert, I don’t think I slept for three days,” he recalled during a 2021 conversation with Kerrang! “It changed everything, and I was never the same because of it. It was the beginning of my obsession with rock ’n’ roll, and I knew that I wanted to be in a huge rock band after seeing Queen. I was just starting to get into the drums, and Roger Taylor became my hero.”
The late drummer connected with his idols even before joining Foo Fighters. Hawkins was touring with Alanis Morissette when he met May for the first time and the two “instantly bonded.” "Taylor has been the best publicist for Queen ever. He's been so good for our image because he kind of regarded us as cool, whereas a lot of people at that time didn't," May recalled during a 2022 interview with SiriusXM (via People).
Hawkins maintained a relationship with the Queen musicians over the years. In 1998, May recruited the Foo Fighters drummer to play on "Cyborg," a track on the guitarist’s solo album Another World. Soon afterward, May joined Foo Fighters to record a cover of Pink Floyd's "Have a Cigar."
Even as Hawkins became a star, he remained a proud Queen fan. The drummer consistently covered the classic rockers in his cover band Chevy Metal and even regularly took lead vocals at Foo Fighters shows to perform a Queen cover (most often “Somebody to Love” or “Tie Your Mother Down”).
In 2001, Grohl and Hawkins inducted Queen into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, another experience the drummer always reflected upon glowingly. “If you watch my face on that Hall of Fame thing, I'm just smiling the entire time," Hawkins confessed to Rhythm magazine in 2002, admitting he still viewed Taylor as a “mythical superhero” even after the two became friends.
After Hawkins' death earlier this year, both May and Taylor spoke eloquently about their late friend.
“My whole family and his whole family were very close,” the Queen drummer explained while dedicating his OBE honor to Hawkins. “He was, [as] my wife called him, sunshine in human form. He was the most wonderful man and I can’t quite believe that I’m not going to see him again.”
"Taylor was very close to us, and he's been in my studio a few times and in my life, I talked to him often," May recalled. "I talked to him just a week ago from when we lost him, talking about stuff, talking about Dave, talking about what it's like and Taylor's joys and frustrations and whatever. … Taylor was like family to us, he really was."