The Queen Extravaganza – Concert Review by a Hardcore Queenie
I want to say right off the bat, I am a hardcore, lifelong Queen fan. NO ONE has EVER done their music justice in my eyes... until now.
Queen's Roger Taylor is a sheer genius. Growing weary of the plethora of Queen tribute bands out there, most of whom were less than desirable, Taylor had this little idea – more like one vision – to create his OWN tribute band, with musicians hand-picked from the internet. And with some help from Dr. Brian May and Spike Edney, he molded this group of talent into what he felt a tribute band should be. So, from this seemingly crazy idea, a phenomenon was born... The Queen Extravaganza.
When Taylor selected his band members, he didn't get just singers, ax-men and drummers – he got true musicians – each multi-talented. Overnight internet sensation Marc Martel not only sings with Mercurial luster, he plays keyboards and guitar. Everyone in the band can sing, right down to the very energetic, Taylor-esque drummer, Tyler Warren.
We had the distinct pleasure of catching the Queen Extravaganza show at the Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie, Texas on June 19. The crowd demographic was all over the charts... from the very young to the very old, all there for that one purpose – the love of Queen. To put it in perspective, Queen fans are a different kind of crowd than you see at most rock concerts. Queen events are like pilgrimages, where people travel hundreds of miles and perfect strangers are instant family. Get a bunch together like this, and you have one helluva rockin' family reunion!
The show began, and the crowd went wild as the band commanded the stage with near-flawless performances. QE digs deep into the Queen catalog, playing fan-loved songs that never hit an airwave, in addition to the hits everyone knows, and teasings of the tidbits in between. The songs were divided out among the five vocalists according to their range and “fit” to each song. Yes, five vocalists, because one cannot leave out Tyler Warren's dead-on handling of both drums and lead vocals on I'm In Love With My Car.
Veteran frontman/vocalist Jeff Scott Soto (a big Queen fan himself) commanded the power and grit of such fast-movers as Tie Your Mother Down and Stone Cold Crazy, while Yvan Pedneault very aptly took on some of the softer, but no less intense side of the catalog. The lone female of the group, Texan Jennifer Espinoza was the perfect choice to lead March of the Black Queen and Who Wants to Live Forever. For the songs when no one other than the fabulous Freddie Mercury would (or could) do, those slippers were filled almost flawlessly by Marc Martel. There were many, many times during his performances when you could simply close your eyes and swear Freddie was right there, on-stage. At certain points during his performance, there was barely a dry eye in the house. The duets and choral performances allowed us to see and hear things never before done on stage – such as Bohemian Rhapsody in it's entirety. Now that's talent.
Musically, this band is dead-on at capturing the sound and essence of Queen. Having to have two guitarists to replicate the sound of one Brian May should give you an indication this was no easy feat. Tristan Avakian and Brian Gresh were excellent selections to pull it off and keep it interesting with on-stage dueling. Bass player Francois-Olivier Doyon, much like John Deacon, kept mostly to the shadows, but the booming riffs were almost as good as the legendary bassman. Perhaps a little too booming at times, but this is something the sound engineers need to deal with. The addition of keyboardist and music manager Brandon Ethridge added that extra finesse – the cherry on top, if you will.
All in all, this card was well-played, and this band is worth it's weight in gold and platinum. I hope someone was smart enough to film for a DVD release (hint hint, Roger).
Has the success gone to the band mates' heads? Not a bit. We got a chance to relax and talk with them after the show was over and the public had gone. These guys are happy, soft-spoken and humble. They enjoy what they're doing and are seemingly a little bewildered by it all. Speaking briefly with Marc, we mentioned his sensational You Tube video audition that went viral overnight, to which he humbly replied with a shy smile, “Yeah, that still amazes me.”
This may be a brief, whirlwind tour for now, but I don't expect it to stop there. The Queen Extravaganza is a worthy sensation, and this group in particular needs to carry on, carry on.