It would be easy to expect the Queen Extravaganza to be like any other of the many tribute bands out there, it would be easy to expect the star of this show to be Marc Martel, and it would be easy to think that this is a show built around a good impersonation of the late great Freddie Mercury. Over the course of close to two hours last weekend though, this handpicked five piece proved all of those preconceived ideas to be woefully wide of the mark. Yes this is essentially a tribute band, but it’s a tribute band built by Roger Taylor and Brian May, a tribute band handpicked by Queen themselves and planned by Spike Edney, Queen’s own musical survivor. Yes it would be easy to pick Marc Martel as the star but that would be to detract from the other four musicians on stage who not only bring Queen’s music back to life but breathe their own young enthusiasm back into this incredible material. And yes it would be easy to think that this is a show built around an impersonation but that would only go a small way to describe the way Marc Martel brings not only the vocal magic of Freddie Mercury to life but also his every move and affectation and the joy he had in live performance.
The last time I saw a lot of this material was at Wembley watching Queen on their ‘Magic’ tour and so I was naturally a little sceptical about the evening but all my fears were allayed over the course of the show where ‘The Queen Extravaganza’ not only played ‘Night at the Opera’ in its entirety but also played near on an hour of greatest hits to an adoring Hammersmith Apollo who felt that they had stepped into the time tunnel.
Marc Martel, Tyler Warren, Francois-Olivier Doyon, Darren Reeves and Nick Radcliffe were accompanied by an incredible light show on stage and introduced by Spike Edney and Roger Taylor, and their musicianship was incredible throughout the night. At times, if you closed your eyes, you might have just believed Brian May was back on stage such was the majesty of some of the lead guitar work.
‘A Night at the Opera’ and all its variations from the stunning ‘Prophet Song’ to the sublime ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ demands musicians at the top of their game, and it speaks volumes that the first sixty minutes of the evening as the album was brought to life flew by and was greeted with huge applause from the entire crowd. However, when the guys moved on to another hour of classics the party really began and to see the raised arm clapping during ‘Radio Ga Ga’ was just like being back at Wembley. Each old friend was greeted with joy and warmth as ‘The Queen Extravaganza’ nailed song after song with consummate professionalism and a huge amount of enjoyment.
The back drop of the stage show is rare footage of Queen being shown on the vast screen behind the band and this, accompanied by the faultless music, adds to the nostalgia of the evening and means that despite the all seated nature of the venue, everyone was on their feet from beginning to end.
I was sceptical at the start of the evening but I can’t recommend this act highly enough, not just for fans of the original Queen but for anyone wanting to hear great music played by great musicians. I will be first in the queue when they next come to town.