I have always wanted to see Queen live. I have been a fan of Queen since I was just a skinny lad at five. The next closest thing, Queen Extravaganza, was and is the next best thing.
On June 9th, 2012 at the Oakdale Theater in Wallingford, Connecticut, I was transported to all the great gigs of Queen’s historic past it seemed. I was bombarded by lights and sound that only Queen could have produced. In all cases, the tribute band’s renditions were just as good or even better than Queen’s elaborate studio versions. This was especially true for their rendition of the more complex tracks with multi-layered vocals like “In the Lap of the Gods and Lap of the Gods… Revisited”, “Bicycle Race”, and “Somebody to Love”. Even the vocal dueling in “Under Pressure” was fantastically delivered on that night’s performance. “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Dragon Attack”, “Radio Ga Ga”, and “Fat Bottomed Girls” were the band’s biggest highlights in a show that was non-stop perfection! Yet there were just so many highlights!
Queen Extravaganza explored every era of Queen’s music history, delving from early Queen tracks like “March of the Black Queen” and “In the Lap of the Gods” to Queen’s blistering hits like “Tie Your Mother Down”, “Fat Bottomed Girls”, and “Another One Bites the Dust”. Every song was given so much passion and energy and I knew that this band loved Queen as much as their fans and that made the difference for me. The band knew exactly what Queen was about– lights, stage presence, fan interaction, and putting on only the best show they could possibly give. It had to meet or exceed expectations and I think they knew that and really tapped into the spirit of Queen, providing a fun experience for all and just delivering a constant “standing ovation only” kind of performance.
The band on the 2012 tour were: Marc Martel, who by all accounts is without question, the next Freddie Mercury. His voice and his showmanship were dead-on. He was humble but stellar in his delivery of such powerful songs as “Somebody to Love” and “The Show Must Go On” and “Killer Queen”. Jennifer Espinoza, who gave an incredible performance for “March of the Black Queen”, and is an incredibly passionate vocalist with a sweet voice. She gives a very edgy rock performance yet she also sings with a tenderness that easily wins over the crowd. Brandon Ethridge was on keyboards and was incredibly gifted at capturing the virtuosity of Freddie on piano and performed brilliantly. Brian Gresh and Tristan Avakian were the dynamic duo providing the almost orchestral sounds that Queen’s guitarist, Brian May is known for. They had the crowd practically eating out of their hands and never missed a riff or a note and just excelled at making Queen Extravaganza as much Queen as it was their own interpretations and nuanced performances of Queen. Jeff Scott Soto was Marc Martel’s vocal partner providing the heavier vocals and weighty sounds of rock–especially in “Fat Bottomed Girls”. He was an endless supply of enthusiasm for the crowd.
I rather like the fact that while it might have been Brian Gresh and Tristan Avakian’s job to emulate or really reproduce the Brian May sound to each performance, they brought their own energy and unique guitar sounds to the performance as well. As a die-hard Queen fan., I could see that they really took on the challenge of bringing Brian May’s signature sound to the show. They were an impressive duo that really kept the crowd on their feet. Yvan Pedneault also provided depth to the show’s vocals with Marc Martel and Jeff Scott Soto and his energy was most present in the 2nd Act.. Jennifer Espinoza was a supernova of energy to Mr. Farenheight, Marc Martel in “Don’t Stop Me Now”. You also saw just how complex Queen can be but how well the Queen Extravaganza ensemble blended and worked off each other especially in “Bicycle Race” and in the band’s big gospel sound in “Somebody to Love”. Yvan Pednault and Jeff Scott Soto were as much the perfect showmen as Marc Martel and served as perfect partners and supporting vocals in leading the audience down Memory Lane with Jennifer Espinoza adding spunk and personality that one must have to present Queen..
On drums was Tyler Warren, who was solid throughout and provided a lot of the fuel and power behind Queen Extravaganza’s rhythm section and heart pounding anthems like “We Are the Champions” and “We Will Rock You” as well as hits like “Tie Your Mother Down” and “Radio Ga Ga”. He was non-stop energy. On bass was Francois-Oliver Doyan, I believe, who was just as adept at bass as John Deacon, capturing the walking bass lines and the subtle but complicated bass lines, and just the smooth rhythms of songs like “Dragon Attack”, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “Killer Queen”. He was especially noteworthy in “Radio Ga Ga” and “Under Pressure”.
In all, the atmosphere in the near sell-out, or definitely sold-out performance was electric, and as each song brought me back, the atmosphere seemed to build constantly. The theater was packed and every fan was singing along and joining in with incredible enthusiasm. It was a concert that was party and reunion in one. The band fed off the fans as much as the fans fed off the passion and energy of this incredible ensemble. This was a Queen concert in my mind. It was everything I hoped it would be and I hope to see this band again in tours to come. For a bonus, the band met with fans after the show to sign autographs, chat about Queen, and to socialize for a while– every fan that waited got autographs! Every fan came away with something magical. It was a wonderful experience I don’t think I would ever forget!
You can stay up to date with all of Queen Extravaganza’s tour highlights both past and present and keep up with band news, ticket information, tour dates, photos, and band member info on their Facebook page at Queen Extravaganza!