I saw Queen last night! They played! They sang! They, er, didn't look anything like Queen, and there were only three of them! Horrah! Anyway, enough sarcasm: last night I accompanied my mother to a gig by a tribute band to Queen, Ga-Ga, who, if their publicity is to believed, are the best Queen tribute band in the UK.
The Manor Pavilion, better known for its amateur drama, summer rep season and children's ballet recitals, is an odd choice for a rock band, but presumably the lack of anywhere else resembling a venue in Sidmouth meant it was there or nothing. The Sidmouth audience certainly weren't put off, as the Pavilion was respectably full, and there was an interesting mix of ages, ranging from people nudging 60 to 10 year olds humouring their parents. The stage was adorned with a painted backdrop depicting Queen in the Bohemian Rhapsody video, with had a practical use during the part of the song the band didn't play. Presumably they thought they couldn't really top the 'I see a little silhouette of a man' section, which was fair enough, I suppose.
The group consists of a drummer, a bass guitarist, and a lead singer/guitarist, who, it's fair to say, is the main reason why the band are actually pretty good. He's got a decent, strong voice, is fairly near the standard of Brian May when playing the guitar, and has a reasonable amount of charisma, which comes in useful when getting the crowd to sing along and to take part in the call/return exchanges that Freddie was so famous for. They did all the old favourites (essentially the first Greatest Hits album), as well as a few later songs such as 'I Want It All', 'Headlong' and the acoustic 'Love of My Life'. I thought they missed a trick there, actually, as in my opinion, 'Days of Our Lives' is a much better song, especially as this was dedicated to Freddie (no big surprise, really).
Overall, this was fun, and the audience certainly went for it, singing (when they knew the words) and generally having fun. My mother in particular took the opportunity to sing along in her own unique fashion, which either means her singing the wrong lyrics or gamely humming/yelling in a close approximation to the tune. I was grateful for the fact that we were sitting near some large speakers, not least because it drowned out my stifled giggles.
The only real problem Ga-Ga have is that being a lead singer and guitarist is a tall order when you're intending to emulate a band who had such a charismatic lead. He does his best, but trying to engage an audience when you're also trying to concentrate on the next chord change is difficult, and it shows in the slightly flat performance. I appreciate that leads in the mould of Mercury are practically impossible to find, and the whole ethos of the band is to celebrate the actual music, not to simply look like Queen, but the absence of an energetic lead did mean that I didn't have as much fun as I could have done. Still, it was a decent attempt to capture the sound of one of the best rock bands ever, and they deserved the warm reception.
If you're interested in Ga-Ga's latest tour dates, their (surprisingly well designed site) is here: http://www.gagaonline.co.uk/