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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 6 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 27
Queen tribute band missing one essential element
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Queen tribute band missing one essential element

by Jessica Price - SGN A&E Writer

QUEEN EXTRAVAGANZA
SHOWBOX SODO
June 28


Nostalgia acts and tribute bands are unnervingly common circa 2012, but whether that's a joyous development is open to debate. Tours by the likes of Sade or Madonna aren't really nostalgia - those women are still making original music. Roger Waters performing The Wall Live doesn't seem nostalgic either. But seeing a legendary band without their original vocalist somehow never feels right. In the case of Queen Extravaganza, nine incredibly talented musicians did an admirable job of resurrecting the music of Queen - possibly the best job imaginable, in fact - but without Freddie Mercury, it just felt & weird.

One of the biggest regrets of my life is that I never saw Queen in their 1970s-80s heyday - I was just too young, and the incomparable Mercury died of AIDS at age 45 in 1991. As a little girl I listened to News of the World on my parents' eight-track player. The cover art (depicting a giant robot holding the bleeding bodies of the band) frightened me a little, but Freddie's voice was warm and soaring, his four-octave range blowing my young mind, as did his penchant for capes and flashy stage gear. Freddie's enthusiasm was catching and made a lasting impression. There isn't a person alive who could match Freddie's blend of heart, soul, incredible vocals, and charisma.

Knowing this, why did I bother to see Queen Extravaganza? The answer is simple, but it turned out to be elusive: vocalist Marc Martel. Hailing from Canada and currently living in Nashville, Martel sent a video of himself casually singing 'Somebody to Love' to Queen's drummer Roger Taylor, who was conducting a search for the perfect singer to front a concert tour designed to capture the essence of Queen. Martel's audition video was uncanny. His effortless vocals weren't delivered like an impersonator, but were a near-perfect, entirely natural-sounding replication of Freddie's voice. Posted on YouTube, the video garnered more than 6,000,000 views. It also earned Martel a spot on the 2012 Queen Extravaganza tour (as well as an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show).

Unfortunately, over the course of a two-hour, 30-plus-song set, Martel's mind-bendingly good vocals weren't showcased often enough. It felt as though the talented (but somewhat lackluster) other vocalists alternating vocal duties were bait to get to the one naked talent on board. Jennifer Espinoza, the lone female in the bunch, was interesting and energetic, but the rest of the group, while they played and sang their hearts out, appeared awkward and stiff. The set-list was a dream come true: 'We Will Rock You,' 'Tie Your Mother Down,' 'Killer Queen,' 'Bicycle Race,' 'I Want to Break Free,' 'Save Me,' Crazy Little Thing Called Love,' 'Bohemian Rhapsody,' 'Under Pressure,' 'You're My Best Friend,' 'We Are the Champions,' 'Fat Bottomed Girls,' and more.

Queen Extravaganza present a fun tribute concert that covers every Queen song you ever dreamed of seeing live. Yet unlike many lesser bands, Queen's music really can't be replicated or even approximated. The essence of Queen - its heart and soul - was the tremendous spark that came to life when Freddie Mercury took his place next to his bandmates and sang from the depths of his being. No tribute band, no matter how talented or technically proficient, will ever reproduce that spark.

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