Can a tribute act ever be as good as the real thing? There is any number of tribute acts to bands that have either stopped performing due to break-up or death. But what about bands where the main performer has died, but other members of the band carry on?
Queen continue to perform as Queen + Adam Lambert, an admission that Adam Lambert isn’t really part of the group. But with only the guitarist and drummer, are Queen really Queen? Freddie Mercury was, of course, the flamboyant front man, but both Brian May and Roger Taylor are noted performers and solo artists in their own right. (John Deacon has not performed with the rest of Queen, other than the tribute concert in 1992.)
But there are numerous Queen tribute acts doing the rounds. One, an Australian outfit styling themselves Queen: It’s A Kinda Magic, are currently touring New Zealand. I was in two minds about whether to go…but then an offer came up for cut-price tickets on GrabOne, so I bought them.
The main premise of their act is to recreate the 1986 Magic Tour. As you may know, I went to two concerts on this tour, at Knebworth Park and Wembley Stadium, so I am uniquely placed to judge their performance.
But first, dinner. We’ve not been to Jano Bistro in a while, so as the show wasn’t starting until 8pm, we thought we’d take it in. Jano specialise in offering a very short menu (usually 3 entrées and 4 mains), and then do the main ingredient in as many ways as possible. We shared the entrée platter (a taste of each of the three entrées – rabbit roulade, smoked eel and goat cheese with beetroot) before choosing the duck and king salmon mains. I’m pleased to report that the quality remains as high as ever – the nut-encrusted salmon was cooked sous-vide and was delicious. We considered the desserts but frankly, we were too full, so skipped straight to coffee and tea before making our way to the Opera House.
“I hope you’re not going to spend the whole evening carping at the historical inaccuracies” said Nicola, so let me get all the carping out at the beginning. OK, it’s not an exact recreation of the Queen concert…firstly, because they only have 2 hours to do it in, where the original was substantially longer. They’ve changed up the order, and left out all the non-Queen songs, natch. They also put in two songs which weren’t recorded at that time – Headlong and I Want It All, from The Miracle – presumably because they just like those songs. Oh, the historical inaccuracy!
Other than that, though, they did a passable imitation of Queen. The main man, Giles Taylor, was convincing as Mercury, and the other musicians were also competent, if not exactly the spit of the original members. Giles Taylor has put in a lot of work with Peter Freestone, long-time friend of Freddie Mercury, into getting the stage movements and gestures just right.
The next problem facing them was that the Opera House is a sit-down venue. He was successful at getting everyone standing and singing along for most of the anthemic stadium-rock songs. It is a feature of Queen concerts that the fans do know the words to all of the songs, and will happily sing along – even when they try and confuse us by delving deep into the back catalogue and offer up an album track from Sheer Heart Attack.
At the end of the show, they all came to the front of the stage (Roger with a footpedal bass drum) to perform ’39, and Don’t Stop Me Now, before ending with the obligatory God Save The Queen. Overall, a very good show. It’s not Queen, but is it the next best thing?