Freddie minus his trademark tache
Sunday Night seen the Queen Extravaganza arrive at the Newcastle Academy in the middle of a 15 date UK tour. It is the brain child of Queen drummer Roger Taylor who wanted to give his songs new life. The idea of a Queen tribute band is nothing original however this show is not designed to be a cheap second best. What marks this show apart from other tributes is that it is a tribute to the songs of queen rather than the individual members. It is an excellent group of musicians that were hand picked by Roger Taylor and they don’t let him down.
Tribute bands can easily make the mistake of parodying the music they love. It would have been easy for the lead singer to stick on a fake moustache or grow a real one if he absolutely had to (although this could be a hard look to pull off with the tour bus parked so close to the Bigg Market), throw on a yellow jacket or leotard/ballerina’s outfit and go through the motions that so many others have done before. Thankfully the Extravaganza were lead buy an excellent singer and musician in the form of Marc Martel from Montreal. Marc Martel doesn’t try to be anything other than himself and sing the songs the way they were meant to be sang.
The band line up features what you would expect drums, guitar, bass and keyboards however there is one surprise and this is in the form of a second singer, Jennifer Espinoza. Her addition to the band helps to get Roger’s message across that this band is more than a tribute and a unique show in its own right. Having a female vocalist helps not just with the harmonies (which are so important to the music of Queen) but in giving the show it’s originality. Some appeared sceptical in the crowd with the emergence of a female vocalist yet when she took to the centre of the stage she proved she had the voice and stage presence to carry it off. Some in the audience wanted Marc to sing every note others appeared to enjoy the fresh approach with her introduction. Jennifer’s introduction helped not just keep the show fresh but also highlighted the incredible similarities between Freddie and Marc’s voice.
The whole show was impressive and the band had the audience singing, swaying and clapping in unison. The band also surprised with the set-list playing songs such as ‘Lazing on a Sunday afternoon’ and ‘Stone Cold Crazy’, the latter song being a visual spectacle with the most intense strobe lighting accompaniment ever witnessed. The band excelled on Bohemian Rhapsody and the most difficult harmonies appeared to be performed with ease. The band themselves commented that part of their love for Queen was that they found them to be a band that were difficult to categorise due to their eclectic collection of material ranging from disco dance floor fillers such as ‘Another one bites the dust’ to Brian May’s folk space song ’39 . Marc Martel excelled on all songs yet when he tackled the slower ballads ‘Somebody to Love’ and ‘Love of my life’ he raised the bar and if you closed your eyes you could almost believe Freddie was in the room.
The Queen Extravaganza delivered everything you need from a rock show, great musicians and great songs. The band were hand picked yet nothing appeared manufactured about their performance and the chemistry between them was that of people who had played together all their lives. There can only ever be one Freddie and one Queen (sorry Elizabeth) but what makes this show a success is that they don’t worry about performing the songs like Queen they only worry about performing them well. If you are a fan of Queen’s music this show is a must just remember to leave the leotards at home.
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