September 5, 2013 — Thursday night at The Rebecca Cohn, The Queen Extravaganza returned to Halifax for the second time. Unlike the freezing cold and icy winter conditions that welcomed the band on their first visit back in February, this time things were much more comfortable. The Cohn quickly filled up as we waited for the show to start.
The Queen Extravaganza is the only “official” Queen tribute band, and was put together by none other then Queen’s drummer Roger Taylor. He hand picked all the musicians so that people today could revisit the music of Queen the way it was meant to be. I grew up on the music of bands like Queen, and to cover Queen’s material would be no easy task. Unlike many rock bands, Queen’s music relied heavily on polished harmonies throughout their repertoire making it that much more difficult to cover.
Montreal native, Marc Martel had the unenviable task of filling the role of Freddy Mercury. Martel’s performance more then met my expectations. He is the real deal and even though I had seen footage of the band on YouTube, he blew me away live on stage. Martel captured all aspects of a Freddie Mercury live performance providing amazing vocals and a stage presence second to none.
The other primary vocalist of The Queen Extravaganza is Jennifer Espinoza. Espinoza hails from San Antonio, Texas. They say all things are big in Texas but Espinoza probably weighs in under 120 lbs. I know if this estimate is high I’m toast but for now I will take my chances. When it comes to her vocal abilities the Texas saying all starts to make sense. Espinoza has a very powerful voice that leaves you wondering how that much power comes from such a petite young lady.
Canada’s second contribution to The Queen Extravaganza is bassist Francois-Olivier Doyon, also from Quebec. His hometown is Saint-Georges, but he is currently calling Quebec City his home. Doyon did an excellent job looking after the bass playing and worked extremely well with drummer Tyler Warren. These two kept the beat solid and tight all night long. Doyton also held his own vocally, providing backing vocals throughout the show.
Queen has a very distinct sound thanks to the guitar wizardry of Brian May. His sound is unmistakable but Brian Gresh of The Queen Extravaganza came as close as one could hope. Gresh looked like he could play these licks in his sleep while managing to produce the sound people relate to when they think of Brian May.
Nashville, TN native Tyler Warren takes care of Roger Taylor’s duties in the show. His excellent vocal ability paired with his skill behind the drum kit fill the role of Roger Taylor extremely well. It’s easy to see why he was chosen for this spot in The Queen Extravaganza.
Last but not least is keyboardist and musical director Brandon Ethridge who’s hometown is Maize, Kansas. Before Ethrige joined The Queen Extravaganza he was the musical director for the US version of Rock of Ages.
The evening started with drummer Warren singing a powerful in your face rendition of We Will Rock. Martel then took center stage for the 1974 classic Killer Queen. The crowd at The Rebecca Cohn erupted with applause welcoming the boys to the stage. After Martell addresses the audience for the first time, the band flawlessly performs the 80’s hit song I Want to Break Free. Martell has the all moves and caries himself in a way that would have made Mercury proud.
After only 3 songs it was clear that Martel had the Halifax audiences undivided attention. That’s when Martel turns things up a notch by introducing the lovely and talented Texan, vocalist Espinoza. This young lady would prove to be an essential component of the band. Not only did she contribute to the bands fabulous harmonies, she also took over the lead vocals for a number of songs starting with an unforgettable version of Dragon Attack. This led the band right into the 1980 hit song Crazy Little Thing Called Love. Multi-talented Martel dawned the acoustic guitar for the first time for this 80’s hit and the Halifax crowd joined in, hands in the air, and singing along word for word.
The band continued with hit after hit like Love of My Life, Don’t Stop Me Now and I’m In Love With My Car before performing what is probably the most recognized Queen song of all time, Bohemian Rhapsody. The crowd was all on their feet, screaming and clapping in appreciation of a masterful rendition by Martel and company. That takes us to the intermission and allows time to dart out for a smoke or a drink.
The first half of the show went by in a flash and after the intermission, Martel and Espinoza instantly regained our attention with a cool version of Under Pressure. For this 1981 hit, Mercury teamed up with David Bowie, releasing a song which is still in rotation on many classic rock FM stations today.
The next song really focused of the bands vocal ability. I Want It All is loaded with rich harmonies and once again the crowd was singing along at the top of their lungs. Espinoza then takes control of the stage for You’re My Best Friend which was released back in 1975.
The remainder of the second half of the show was every bit as consistent as the first half and the classic Queen numbers kept on coming. Queen Extravaganza made sure not to miss the fan favorites, Another One Bites The Dust, where Martel, Espinoza and drummer Warren all collaborate on the vocal parts. And let’s not forget one of my personal favorites, The Show must Go On which once again shows off the bands tight harmonies. Radio Gaga, Fat Bottom Girls followed before the set wound down with the song Somebody.
If you are anywhere near a city that is among their tour dates and love Queen as much as I do, you really need to check this band out. I have never personally seen Queen perform live so I can’t make a fair comparison. I can however say the The Queen Extravaganza took me on a journey through the Queen catalog that left me wanting more.
Visit my Facebook page to view more images from the show.