Singer Tony Vincent
The Music of Queen
The Louisville Orchestra
Martin Herman, conductor
Tony Vincent – vocals, Bart Kuebler – keyboards, Danny Miranda – bass, Steve Zukowsky – guitar and Bob Habib – drums
Review by Annette Skaggs
Entire contents are copyright © 2019 Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.
There is no denying that the allure of the rock group Queen has gained some momentum since the release of Bohemian Rhapsody. The movie gave us the history and the struggles of the band and its legendary singer, Freddy Mercury. Having garnered box office gold and a few Oscar wins, there is no doubt that the power and allure that is the music of Queen is still alive and well.
Some of that magic was shared with us through our Louisville Orchestra as they presented the Music of Queen, featuring Broadway veteran Tony Vincent and internationally known conductor Martin Herman.
The challenge for these that shows that merge a full orchestral arrangement to songs written for a four or five piece rock band is that sometimes the original music can get a little muddled. There were some moments where instrumentation got lost in the haze of performance. For instance, while I am sure that Danny Miranda is a great bass player like original Queen bassist John Deacon, his playing was hard to distinguish among the other 50+ instruments on the stage, which is a shame because there are some great bass lines in those Queen songs.
For this evening’s performance, I was happy to hear and see that a majority of the Queen songs were enhanced more with the lower strings, brass, and winds than with the more common use of violins. And of course, while drummer Bob Habib rocked our socks off like Roger Taylor would, especially with his solo work on “Stone Cold Crazy”, you have to appreciate how orchestra percussionists John Pedroja and Mark Tate, and timpanist James Rago punctuated some of the best instrumental points found in Queen’s music. Closing out “Bohemian Rhapsody” just wouldn’t sound the same tapping on a high hat; you need the full impact of the gong.
The evening was full of Queen’s greatest hits, such as “Tie Your Mother Down”, “Killer Queen” and “Fat Bottomed Girls”. As much as I love the iconic hits I was appreciative of diving deeper into the catalog with lesser-known songs like “My Melancholy Blues” and “Hammer to Fall”. Judging from the sound of the latter song, it was quite obvious that guitarist Steve Zukowsky studied the Brian May technique. During his little solo session, I may have heard other influences too: Eric Clapton, Eddie Van Halen, Stevie Van Zandt, and perhaps a little Prince thrown in. Speaking of soloing, keyboardist Bart Keubler was given a spotlight and successfully channeled Elton John, Billy Joel, and Gershwin. I even liked the bluesy beginning given to “Somebody to Love”. As I appreciate the convenience of an electronic keyboard, I missed the sound that is produced from a traditional grand piano that was often found onstage at Queen’s concerts.
I think that we can all agree that finding someone with the vocal range and prowess of Freddie Mercury is like finding a needle in a haystack, but I’d say Tony Vincent did quite a fantastic job. It is no secret that because of Freddie and his abilities Queen’s songs are often hard to duplicate in their original key structure, and for the most part, there was little variation here. There were some songs that imaginatively strayed from the original words; often times the lyrics were misplaced or sounded re-written all together. A little confusing when you are an audience member wanting to sing along to songs that you’ve known all your life. Another downside to the evening is that some of the tight harmonies often associated with these songs were just not there.
Wanting to churn some more energy into a sold-out crowd in Whitney Hall, Mr. Vincent allowed the audience to participate in a rondo with the chorus of “Another One Bites the Dust”. Our vocalist also shared with us stories and memories as it pertained to his time working directly with the surviving members of Queen, including performing for Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II. Included with those stories was how Queen and David Bowie got together to create “Under Pressure”. As I alluded before, there is some tremendous vocal acrobatics in Queen songs and “Under Pressure” is no exception. Tucked in behind Mr. Zukowsky and Mr. Habib was a lovely female back-up/double-up singer who’s contribution to the sounds on stage was delicious, especially in her upper register. Unfortunately, she was not introduced nor was her name in the playbill.
No Queen concert, orchestrated or otherwise, can end without hearing the anthem of pride and accomplishment head all over the world: “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions”. While the heart-pounding tempo and stomp don’t sound the same in the performance hall, as it does on the bleachers of your local high school, the exuberance never waivers.
I truly appreciate when an artist can imagine the orchestra playing such a role in popular music. Luckily, Freddie’s genius had already placed those thoughts in motion and because of his work with other fantastically gifted musicians, Queen’s music will live on forever. And as Freddie so famously sings “The Show Must Go On”. And so it does and so it did and so it will.
The Music of Queen
March 23, 2019
Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts
501 W. Main St
Louisville, KY 40202
Annette Skaggs is heavily involved as an Arts Advocate here in Louisville. She is a freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe and in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career, she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York City Opera, and Northwestern University. Her knowledge and expertise have developed over the course of 25+ years’ experience in the classical arts.
2019 Arts-Louisville/Broadway World Theatre Award Sponsorship provided by