A million years ago I was a huge Queen fan. Before Nelson, before London, before Harry Potter, I loved Queen with all the passion a sixteen year-old heart could muster. As time passed that got diffused somewhat, but I still own all their albums, and I can still sing along to “A Kind of Magic” without missing a beat. But when I saw an ad in the paper for “One Night of Queen” by a tribute band called The Works, I was a little skeptical. That’s the bad thing about being a Queen fan—there’s no possibility of ever hearing them live. Granted, Brian and Roger tour occasionally with other people, but let’s face it, without Freddie Mercury, something is missing. I took a poll, however, and my 26 year old self was outvoted by my 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 20 year old self, so off I went to the Meyer Theatre.
I’m so glad I went. The concert was A-MAY-ZING. The band was fronted by a man named Gary Mullen who—I swear to God—sounded exactly like Freddie Mercury. And even better—because Gary wasn’t tired or overworked he could hit all those glorious high notes. Mika, eat your heart out. I had caught a brief interview on the telly earlier in the day, and the man there looked thirty-five-ish, balding, quiet, odd northern London accent, but the man onstage was clearly channeling his hero. How odd that a freak chance gave this man the same vocal cords as Freddie Mercury, and the gumption to use them—and use them he did. Every note, every flourish, if you shut your eyes, you’d be hard pressed to hear the difference. Backing him up was a solid band, incredibly talented musicians who ROCKED OUT on Queen songs. Songs that were never meant to be confined to cassettes and CDs.
The audience was largely middle-aged people, politely wearing slacks, turtlenecks and sweaters (occasionally all at once), although some people brought their children. And random groups of teenagers. Cognitive dissonance occurred once when Gary stole someone’s cellphone and snapped a picture of the audience, prompting me to lean over to the woman next to me and say “I never thought I’d see Freddie Mercury holding a camera phone!” A few seconds later the guy next to me, who had been sipping on Bud Light all night, leaned over and said “So is that guy a fairy?” I had to take a second and think “wait, does he mean the singer? Or Freddie? Wait—“ so I said “Well, Freddie Mercury was gay, but I don’t know about that guy.” And the man said “What do you mean?” And I said “That’s an impersonator. Freddie Mercury died in 1991.” And the man said “So that’s a different guy singing with Queen?” At which point I had to restrain myself from hitting the guy in the manner of a V-8 commercial.
Oddly, the experience made me a little nostalgic. Most of the audience was very appreciative, but they didn’t understand some of the really Queen-y stuff, like singing along with “Freddie” or clapping in time to “Radio GaGa.” And several teenagers were wearing homemade Gary Mullen & The Works t-shirts, which made me sad that they were fans of the tribute band, instead of the original. But then again—the original is gone, and the tribute band is here, and they are amazing. They have an incredible respect for the music and they play it well, and they left me with an adrenaline rush and an urge to go out and make a yellow coat with buckles on it.
And they played “Fat Bottomed Girls” which is my anthem and I didn’t think they would.
Most people have favourite songs. I have an ANTHEM.
Queen lives! And if you ever get the chance to go see Gary & THE WORKS, do it. You won’t regret it.