A NIGHT OF QUEEN
By Gary Murray
Of all the performers I never had a chance to see, Queen was at the top of the list. The Freddy Mercury fronted band was one of those staples of the radio, making hit after hit for a few decades. Their Live Aid performance was both a US comeback and the single biggest highlight of the festival. The passing of Mercury in the 1991 gave the hope of seeing the band wispy dream.
With Beatle-mania, the concept of the cover band came to the forefront. The idea is surprisingly simple. Take on the moves and music of a single band and mimic them. Soon we had tribute bands from Kiss to Elvis all the way down to the Beach Boys and Bob Seger. Some are amazingly exact, right down to the banter with the audience. One such group is Gary Mullen and the Works, the Queen Tribute band. Their show is entitled A Night of Queen
The group won the UK Stars in Their Eyes 2000 show, breaking a record by the number of votes for a single act. Since then, they have toured the world and recently appeared at The Music Hall in Fair Park.
The show opens with purple lights that split the darkened theater. The backing band takes the stage with “Tie Your Mother Down”, blasting power cords to the back walls. Then out comes Gary Mullen in tight white spandex with black thunderbolts running down his legs. His costume looks straight out of the Flash Gordon era of the band. He carries the mike with just half the stand, using it as a conductor’s baton, faux guitar and comedic prop. At times he is the splitting image of the young Mr. Mercury, with all the poses and posturing the singer was known for.
During the two hour performance, Gary Mullen and the Works tore through all the old songs from “Fat Bottom Girls” to “Under Pressure” to “Somebody to Love” while throwing in some lesser known songs. He takes the ballad “Save Me” and truly makes it his own, using his vocal instrument to rattle the rafters. Later in the show he does the same thing again with “Love of my Life”.
Gary does interact with the audience, prompting them to get up and dance and by the end of the show; there were couples dancing and the isles and girls jumping on the stage. At times he had the audience in his hands and pushing pandemonium. I have seen original acts who could not master an audience with the same vibrato shown by Mullen. By the time he gets to “We Will Rock You/We are the Champions” everyone, even those in the upper balcony were on the feet, cheering.
In between songs, he bantered with the audience, making jokes and telling stories such as when Gov. Perry made him an honorary Texan. As the show went on, Mullen lost bits of his costume. At the end, he and the band adorned a Texas Rangers T-shirts, much to excitement of the crowd.
Of the backing band, guitarist Davie Brockett has to be given the highest praises. Some of the Brian May solos are disarmingly technical and he handles them with the ease seldom seen on stage. The only fault one can find with the backing band is that they do not look like their actual counterparts but like guys in a grunge band. It would have made the experience that much more if everyone had put the effort in costumes and mannerisms that Gary Mullen does.
I do have a problem with the entire tribute band phenomena, wanting to hear the actual band and not just a bunch of copy-cats. I’d rather hear an artist do what is in his heart and not just his interpretation of what is in another heart. But if we did that, then no classical pieces would be played after the death of the composer.
Putting this thought in a more modern era, AC/DC would have stopped after the death of Bon Scott. The Rolling Stones, REM and REO Speed-wagon would have been stopped time and time again because of losing original members. Pink Floyd tours without Roger Waters and Journey goes around the world without Steve Perry (also not an original member) but with a sound-alike vocal. The entire thought process of just what makes up an original band makes one weary. A cover band is just another way to present music that people love to an audience.
The audience didn’t seem to mind that it wasn’t ‘the real thing’. They just wanted to hear the old songs one more time, getting the live feel of one of their favorite bands. The audience got what it paid for, a night of nostalgia with a modern twist. A Night of Queen does nothing more than deliver on that promise.