Music Review: “The Music of Queen: A Rock & Symphonic Spectacular”
Covers are always difficult. I have found that unless an artist truly makes it their own, it’s just attempting to achieve something that will never be as great as the original. The following sentiment applies when I saw “The Music of Queen: A Rock & Symphonic Spectacular” at the Landmark Theatre this past Saturday night.
The concept is that four singers, who were personally selected by surviving band member Brian May, are now touring the country partnering up with area symphonies to bring the music of Queen to the masses. Interspersed with some of the songs is commentary about the band and its history.
Whenever I go to concerts of any kind, especially when reviewing them, I often look at the audience’s reaction to see how they are enjoying it. I have to give singers Peter Eldridge, Julie Stark, Carly Thomas Smith, and Jason Wooten credit. For the first half of the show, I could tell the energy across the audience was low. Let’s just say that the well dressed, middle-aged symphony crowd perhaps weren’t initially prepared for a rock concert. However, the high energy of the performers really got them, and by the end a standing ovation ensued. (Pet peeve: Not every performance needs a standing ovation. It’s not required America, just a heads up.)
The singing is great, notably Smith. Whenever she opened her mouth, whether it was to belt one out or talk, it was as if a bright ball of sunshine illuminated the stage. Her version of “Somebody to Love” was a show stopper. My favorite part of the entire experience though were the lights. Producer Andrew Wyke really set the tone for an intense visual experience. However, I could have done without the bright floodlight that pointed out to the audience from time to time. It nearly blinded me. The Richmond Symphony also did what it did best, and played their instruments well and provided a suitable background. Although to be quite honest, they took a back seat to the singing, however the sound of Queen lent itself well to the music of the orchestra.
Here’s the problem: unfortunately, Freddy Mercury is no longer with us, may he R.I.P. While the singers tried their hardest to hit the mark, it’s an almost impossible task to take such an iconic and prolific band such as Queen and present their songs to the public. I know singers do covers all the time, but the really good ones have the ability to make it their own, or present it to us in a different way. Or in rare instances, their version is sometimes better than the original. Neither is the case here.
I can hear you shouting through the screen: “Well, Justin, that’s the concept of the show after all.” I recognize that, and the symphony did their best. However, as I said, the bar was set so high with Queen that it’s impossible to repeat. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed myself and if nothing else it was a great learning experience for someone from my generation to hear some songs that maybe I wasn’t as familiar with. And once the audience warmed up, they seemed to have a good time as well. The attempt was admirable, so I will give claps and recognition for that, but maybe some things are better left untouched.
Justin Lowenhagen is a local news anchor, reporter, and actor. He graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in Dec. 2011 with a B.S. in Broadcast Journalism.
Join the Richmond Symphony and guest conductor Jacques Houtmann for the fourth Altria Masterworks concert of the season on Saturday, January 14 at 8pm. The performance includes pieces by Wagner, Franck and Chopin, and features award-winning pianist Rémi Geniet, the Florence Robertson Givens Guest Artist. The concert will be held at the Carpenter Theatre, Dominion [...]January 3, 2017
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