Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Queen Extragavanza

I saw the Queen Extravaganza the other night here in Houston. It was one of the best rock concerts I've ever seen -- great musicians, electric energy, spot-on performances.

 The nine-member tribute band -- including two lead guitarists and four main singers (plus a drummer who sings lead on one song) -- came about because Queen drummer Roger Taylor got tired of seeing poorly done tribute bands in England:
Why start your own Queen tribute band? After all, you and Brian May are still playing shows together as Queen.
I was in my hometown, which is down in the sticks in England, for a visit and saw a poster outside a local hall. It read, “Queen: Appearing Live on Tuesday night.” “Well,” I thought, “That’s putting it a little strong isn’t it?”
I traveled down the road ten miles to another town and discovered another poster that promised, “Queen Appearing Live Tonight.” That’s when I got the idea to do something that was a little closer to our production values.
Taylor called for Internet auditions, and was able to collect a stunning group of professional-quality musicians. Here's what he says about several of the singers, for example:
Q. Why are four singers necessary?
A. It enables us to cover the massive harmonies that Queen couldn’t cover live before, though we could in the studio. I have a fantastic rock performer in Jeff Scott Soto. He puts over the hard rock stuff great. There’s a girl, Jennifer Espinoza, who does the ballad stuff and has an incredibly low voice for a woman. She puts over some great stuff in a more melodic way. Yvan Pedneault is just a fantastic performer with a high, pure range in his voice. … We get to do “Bohemian Rhapsody” from beginning to end, which we would have never have been able to do before because we didn’t have enough singers.
But the main lead singer -- Marc Martel, of the Canadian band Downhere -- has caught everyone's eye. In Taylor's words:
We have Marc Martel singing with us, and the weird thing is you close your eyes, and Freddie Mercury is in the room. It’s an extraordinary and uncanny audio resemblance. That gives us a head start.
Indeed. Martel's singing in his original audition is so close to Freddie Mercury's that some people initially thought he was lip-syncing (he wasn't):


 Martel's previous performance of Bohemian Rhapsody was, if anything, even more uncannily reminiscent of Mercury:

 I didn't get any videos from the Houston (nor did many people, as the security people were very strict), but here are some samples of videos from the Queen Extravaganza performances in other cities.


In this classic love song, Marc Martel sounds even better than Freddie Mercury did when singing live (and he sings it in a higher key too).

"Under Pressure":


 "Don't Stop Me Now":


 "We Are the Champions":


 Amazingly, Martel's ability to mimic doesn't end with Freddie Mercury. He can do an eerily accurate rendition of Keith Green, for example:

His latest hobby is doing opera -- here he is singing Nessun Dorma:


All of that without ever having voice lessons. And as if that weren't enough, when I met Martel briefly after the concert, he said that he can also imitate Bono and George Michael! (He should put up some YouTube videos of that, just for the fun of it.) What an amazing talent.


Blogger Kelsey J said...

Martel doing Keith Green is amazing! I rarely talk to anyone who knows Keith Green, and then coincidentally I came across your blog with this video last Saturday, and then the pastor mentioned Keith Green on Sunday morning. Strange, eh?

11:01 PM  

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