The band played Another One Bites the Dust and still the audience appeared as if they were watching a Shakespeare tragedy. Except for a boy on the third row, who stood up and allowed his tiny frame be taken over by the music.
The guy holding the microphone, sweating like a pig as he did his best Freddie Mercury impression, took notice: “Are your bottoms glued to the seat?” he asked the crowd, then gave a shout out to the boy who knew how to rock and roll. When the band performed I Want To Break Free, the same boy jumped up and down to the beat, his arms raised to form a V throughout song.
Queen frontman and songwriter Freddie Mercury passed away in 1991, way before that kid was born. And to that young concert-goer, as well as to those who sat comfortably at Solaire Theater last Oct. 24, watching Gary Mullen & The Works — regarded as “the world’s premier Queen tribute band” — might be the closest they could ever get to experiencing a Queen live concert.
You come into this kind of show with reservation, worrying that someone will bastardize your rock god. Garry Mullen, despite the voice, costume and antics, is no Freddie Mercury. You shiver with excitement upon hearing the intro to Bicycle Race, but feel something’s not right when the singer’s not extending the word “bicycle” into four syllables the way Freddie does in the chorus.
Yet you’re at fault for expecting to see the late great Freddie in another person. Not even Mullen is convinced that he sounded like the Queen vocalist. “I just hear my own my voice,” he said. For him, the impersonation is all about being an eight-year-old again, singing in his bedroom. It’s all about being a fan and continuing the fun that Queen set in motion. “Music is ageless,” mused Mullen. “I love introducing music to a whole generation of fans.”
It was the cushioned chairs and the low temperature. And people not quite knowing what to expect. Mullen’s sense of humor — and persistence — warmed up the crowd. He eventually got them on their feet and clogging the aisles to get closer to the stage. Finally, some rule-breaking. He made the Queen fans let go of their inhibitions. The next thing you know, everyone was high-fiving and taking selfies with him. More importantly, the show turned out to be the sing-along party it was meant to be.
Bohemian Rhapsody, We Will Rock You, We Are The Champions, Radio Ga Ga, I Want It All. Queen classics deserve no less than passionate, never mind if out-of-tune, communal singing with fist pumping. And you want to belt out these anthems with fellow die-hard fans. With people who know and love the band’s obscure songs. People who understand — like the gang in the balcony (who are always the loudest and happiest), like the boy on the third row, like Gary Mullen & The Works.
—Originally published on GIST.PH