Killer Queen - 'Dazzling band and Mercury-like singer wow Hershey audience'

Killer Queen - Dazzling band and Mercury-like singer wow Hershey audience


You could call them a tribute band - and technically you'd be correct - but it doesn't seem to do them justice.

Because the six young and brilliant musician/singers who are playing the music of legendary British rock band Queen before sold out audiences deserve a bigger and better title.

Like Queen Extravaganza.

As a Hershey Theatre crowd happily discovered last week, it's a fitting title for a band that is recreating the unique Queen sound during a newly launched 2013 concert tour. For almost two hours, the enthusiastic Hershey audience rocked along with all of Queen's classic hits, faithfully played by the six-member band, and other cuts from '70s albums.

The band members were picked during an online talent search in 2011.

Two original Queen members, drummer Roger Taylor and guitarist Brian May, were involved with the formation of the band and gave the concept their blessing. Taylor is producing the current tour.

The Queen Extravaganza got its first big exposure on national TV by appearing on "American Idol" last year. The group has its own channel on YouTube, where lead singer Marc Martel's "Somebody to Love" audition has generated 7.5 million hits.

Martel was the perfect choice to front the band because he sounds remarkably like the late Freddie Mercury. During the Hershey show, Martel soared through the Queen setlist with a strong, unwavering voice and the ability to hit the high notes when needed.

Martel said in an interview last year that he doesn't do one show where several fans approach him afterwards and tell him how much he sounds like Mercury. The Hershey concert was no different as, early on, a buzz circulated around the theatre about Martel's uncanny likeness to the legendary Mercury.

It doesn't hurt that Martel has a wonderful supporting cast. Jennifer Espinoza is a novel twist: a woman in a Queen tribute. But she makes it work with a strong set of pipes. Espinoza took the lead on a few songs and performed a duet with Martel on others.

Brian Gresh, a young dude from Tulsa, Okla., was a revelation on guitar. Some of Queen's intricate guitar riffs cannot be easy to master. But Gresh pulls it off, playing everything flawlessly, from the distinct riffs of "Killer Queen" early in the show to the famed guitar solos in "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions."

Equally skilled are keyboardist and musical director Brandon Ethridge, drummer Tyler Warren and the ever-smiling bass player, Francois-Olivier Doyon of Quebec.

The band opened the show with "We Will Rock You" - a shorter and faster version of the original - with drummer Warren providing lead vocals. That selection was a nice lead-in to the '70s hit "Killer Queen" as Martel and Espinoza made their stage entrance.

The first set also included the catchy hit "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" and a series of Queen covers that didn't chart in the U.S. but are familiar to die-hard Queen fans, like "Love of My Life," "Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon," "Don't Stop Me Now" and "I'm in Love with my Car."

The first set ended with a nice tribute: The giant screen at the back of the stage flashed the original music video of Queen singing the rock opera "Bohemian Rhapsody." A few lines into the song, Queen Extravaganza took over and performed it live. The '70s-era video and live performance were interspersed throughout.

After a brief intermission, the second set opened with an excellent version of "Under Pressure," the hit that Queen shared with David Bowie. That was followed by "A Kind of Magic" and another '70s mega-hit, "You're My Best Friend." Warren followed with a rocking drum solo, and the band returned with "Stone Cold Crazy" and the hit "Another One Bites the Dust."

Two songs that charted in the U.S. but didn't climb too far followed: "Radio Ga Ga" and "Fat Bottomed Girls." With the show reaching its climax and the crowd really into it, the band put its all into "Somebody to Love" and left the stage to a standing ovation.

Of course, there is only one way to end a Queen show, and the band obliged by returning and performing a very true version of the anthem "We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions," with Martel on the piano and Gresh shredding the guitar solo.

For a tribute, it was an extravaganza.

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