They Are the Champions • One Night of QUEEN

The World’s #1 Queen Tribute Band Lands at Midland Center for the Arts for a Special Performance on November 11th

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, National Music, Artist Feature,   By: Robert E Martin

17th October, 2022     0

The drawing power and proliferation of popular ‘Tribute Bands’ performing the works of Legacy Artists such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Nirvana has grown considerable over the past decade, which is both a testament to the impact these groups have held and also a commentary on the state of modern contemporary music to strike an enduring impact within the public consciousness.

So when vocalist Gary Mullen takes to the stage at Midland Center for the Arts with his band The Works on Friday, November 11th to perform a song such as We Are the Champions, he can render it with a confidence that is true to the words of the song itself, especially considering that his band’s One Night of QUEEN live concert performance has reached a level of success as equally phenomenal in its own way as the success of the original band itself.

Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of their world-renowned 2-hour Queen Tribute show, the group has performed to sold-out audiences around the world, playing more than 2,500 live shows to audiences in over 20 countries around the globe. The group which consists of vocalist Mullen, David Brockett on guitar, Billy Moffat on bass, Malcolm Gentles on keyboards, and Jon Halliwell on drums, collectively is able to harness all the theatrics, showmanship, and music of one of the most enduring inductees in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

It all started back in 2000, when Gary Mullen won the Granada TV program Stars in Their Eyes with his performance as Queen’s lead singer, Freddie Mercury. His faithful embodiment of Mercury resulted in him gaining 864,838 votes in the show’s Live Grand Final, with the number of fans voting for Mullen more than double that of the runner-up, which set an all-time record for votes in the history of the program.

Since then their One Night Of Queen show has played many of the same venues that Queen has performed at around the world. Their two performances at London’s Hyde Park as a featured attraction during the prestigious BBC Proms concert series was played live in front of over 40,000 people along with an additional 16 million watching on television.

According to Mullen, his life-altering performance on Stars in Their Eyes is what got the ball rolling and changed his life forever. “Ironically, my wife applied for me to appear on that show and when I went on to win the entire show, everything took off from there,” he explains. “I’d been in bands as a teenager doing Beatles and other cover material, but winning top honors on a show like that changes things to another level. I’m also perfecting my craft and feel that 20-plus years later I’m still becoming a professional musician.”

Given that Mercury & Queen assembled such a diverse body of work over the expanse of their career, does the band focus mainly upon their big hits, or do they throw some of Queen’s deeper lesser known musical compositions into the show? 

“We try to mix it up,” he quickly responds. “Back around 2008 we discovered a lot of kids had been discovering Queen and some of their deeper tracks, plus a lot of older diehard Queen fans were coming out to the shows, so the audience is constantly evolving. Every year we go back to the drawing board and ask what can we do this year to create a new set-list. We might sequence four popular songs together and then segue into a couple people might not know to keep everybody happy. This way everyone has something to grab onto and it keeps the show fresh and exciting for us.”

When asked what distinguished Queen the most within the lexicon of classic rock music that made them such a transformative band, Mullen places their songwriting ability at the top of the list. “The thing they really had going for them was they had four individual songwriters in the band. With bands like The Beatles the songs were written mostly by Lennon & McCartney, Led Zeppelin was mainly Page & Plant, but with Queen every single member wrote a song that made it to the Top 20, so each member brought something dynamic to the table.”

“Freddie had such an operatic voice, bassist John Deacon has a soulful R&B Stevie Wonder quality to his playing, drummer Roger Taylor had this punky rock approach, and Brian May was this quiet member who spoke in a flamboyant language with his guitar, so you had these four guys bringing this Jekel & Hyde music to the table that consisted of great rock & roll, sometimes mixed with a little vaudeville here and a little rockabilly there, and were similar musically to a Laurel & Hardy movie the same as The Beatles were in that sense.”

“They knocked off these great timeless songs - I mean, if you go to any major sporting event you’ll hear We Are the Champions, and with a song like Bohemian Rhapsody, what in the hell is that about?  That is writing music that just doesn’t age over the decades”

Because Queen performances blended the theatrical with the musical so seamlessly, Mullen says the band focuses on both elements with their live performances. “I spoke to many people who saw Queen perform live many times and they all said the group was very ‘in your face’. You had Roger the silent volcano on drums who would blow your ears out, Brian the quiet guy with the soaring screaming guitar, and then you had Freddie reaching for the heart & soul of the audience, so we hold ourselves to a very high bar because we have to. We summon all the talents and tricks we can to make a connection with the audience, because as soon as they don’t enjoy, it’s done.”

Mullen says the most challenging component involved with crafting this show and making it come alive  with that same passionate spark that Mercury brought to the stage is convincing an audience it is their show. 

“The most difficult challenge is finding that connection where an audience can come alive,” he reflects. “This isn’t a pastiche and our show is not a parody. We’re trying to recreate a moment in time you’ll never see again. Like a good Elvis show or any Tribute band on the road, the very good ones create and replicate that same moment and energy that the original band had.” 

“Queen were an exciting live band, so it’s a difficult equation. When they performed they were giving 120 percent, so on day number 48 of a tour you have be as special and strong as you were when you performed on day 1 of the tour.  The show is the show and each one requires everything you’ve got. If someone comes and do not enjoy the show, well I'm sorry - we gave you everything we had.”

Mullen says the group performed eight shows in ten days last Spring and by the end of this year will have clocked approximately 180 performances, which considering there are 365 days in a year is truly an arduous performance schedule. When asked if this isn’t hard on his voice, Mullen laughs and responds: “Oh my god, yes. But wearing tight underwear helps!”

Over the expanse of the past two decades Mullen says the group has been fortunate to experience many memorable moments. 

“We performed for the BBC twice at Hyde Park in London in front of 45,000 people while 16 million people watched on television; and then we did a show in America starting our tour in 2008 where we performed in Times Square, which was another marquee moment. I would say since 2003 every year something happens that’s so special you go, ‘That’s one for the record book.’”

‘One Night of Queen’ will take place on Friday, November 11th at the Midland Center for the Arts, 1801 W. St. Andrews Street in Midland at 7:30 PM.  Tickets are available at midlandcenter.org or by phoning the box office at 989.631.8250.

 

 

 

 

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