I think I was 14 or 15 when it happened. I had grown up on a steady diet of pop and disco music spit out over WZYP or heard at the skating rink. “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” was the thing at the time. The alternate was being forced to listen to Conway Twitty and Waylon Jennings on the 3+ hour drive to grandma’s house for Christmas.
We moved. Just from one area of town to another, but it made something possible. I met new friends. They were all tall and thin and had long hair. However, this was one of the mostly highly respected neighborhoods in town. These were the smartest people in the room at the time. They loved rock and roll. A lot of prog rock. A bit of metal. Something else called jazz fusion. They introduced me to Kansas, Rush, Alan Parsons Project, Pink Floyd, Blue Oyster Cult, etc. I had heard Queen songs on the radio but my world changed when my friend Mike dropped the needle on “Ogre Battle” from Queen II.
Unfortunately, I don’t think Queen ever toured our city. Never came close enough when I was able to drive. My only experience of seeing them live is probably like many others – Live Aid or their great Montreal concert video.
It would only be the short time of a decade passing when we lost Freddie. And that’s when all new meaning was born to lines such as, “Goodbye everybody, I’ve got to go, got to leave you all behind and face the truth,” or “Who wants to live forever?”
Flash forward to this day of Idol and over-baked Glee-style remakes and we are a classic rock mass urning for something that does not suck. Something that reminds us of that time when we could bask in the comforting glory of highly skilled and intelligent musicians who seemed to pull artistry out of thin air.
Enter Queen Extravaganza. Ok, without Brian and Roger on stage (the only 2 remnants of the band since John decided to take permanent hiatus) this is little more than a tribute band. However, the joy of reveling in the music helps to wash away most of the cute factor.
My exposure to this project probably came along like many others. The viral video of Mark Martel singing “Somebody to Love.” The collective, “oh my god this is Freddie Mercury reincarnated!” experience was born. Millions of us believed that Queen would reform and make this guy their front man and head off on a global tour.
Instead we got a mash up of a dude that looks like he belongs in Danzig and 2 ADHD guitar players. But they rock it pretty well. All of the instrumentation is solid and the total sonic recreation of the records is pulled off by “what resembles a baseball team,” as Martel would say. The lead vocals take turns between 4 different people. That part of the show is a little like bad karaoke as Simon Cowell might suggest. But in the end it was mostly appropriate. I’m sure it’s a challenge for Jennifer Espinoza to fight for attention in the middle of a classic rock sausage fest, but she managed to hold her own.
In the end, the guys from Queen actually came off looking pretty smart. They put together an amazingly talented group from what amounted to an online talent search.
Wishing the originals were on stage? Of course.
Walking away in a good mood humming “Killer Queen” the rest of the night. Of course.
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