Reviews

SALT LAKE CITY, USA

Mullen brought legendary Queen front man Freddie Mercury back to life in a two-hour energy-filled concert that had toddlers to grandparents dancing in the aisles.

Those who don't believe in reincarnation should have spent Thursday night inside a packed Kingsbury Hall watching Gary Mullen and The Works impersonate Queen. Wearing tight white pants, some ancient Adidas sneakers and often little else, Mullen brought legendary Queen front man Freddie Mercury back to life in a two-hour energy-filled concert that had toddlers to grandparents dancing in the aisles. The shirtless Mercury - or was it Mullen? - busted some moves that would have shocked Chris Buttars. Of course, he was playing on the University of Utah campus, that bastion of Salt Lake liberalism, where no one seemed to mind his strutting, posturing and preening.

Fans know Queen classics such as "Bohemian Rhapsody", "We Will Rock You," "Killer Queen," "Fat Bottomed Girls" and "Another One Bites the Dust" so well that these tunes are almost rock cliches. But since few were able see Mercury, one of rock's legendary front men, in person before he died of complications due to AIDs in 1991, the chance to watch someone as talented as Mullen bring him back to life was a genuine treat.

This was no cheesy Vegas stage show. Mullen, backed by a crack four-piece band, uses sophisticated lighting and an uncanny ability to connect with an audience to almost fool folks into thinking he's the real deal. After the first song, Mullen shocked an audience used to fairly tight security, especially in a place such as the venerable Kingsbury Hall, by inviting folks to come into the orchestra pit. At least 100 obliged, adding a clapping, dancing, writhing, interactive element to the show. But that wasn't enough for Mullen, who told the crowd that "this would be the most fun you can have with your clothes on" and then delivered.

By the time he told the audience to get off their asses, stand up and dance, the strutting front man had nearly everyone involved. They were dancing in the aisles, rocking in the balcony and generally having a great time. This was only the second night of what will be a seven-week tour for a show that is called "One Night of Queen" but the professionalism of the band shined. Mullen's uncanny ability to reincarnate Mercury - from using the half-broken microphone as a prop to wrapping himself in a huge American flag at the show's finale which featured "We Will Rock You," "Friends Will be Friends" and "We Are the Champions." - made the audience actually believe it was watching the real thing.

The fact that Mullen has an incredible voice range and was wise enough to crank up the amps loud enough to be effective but not loud enough to hurt your ears added to the pleasure of an enjoyable evening. Everyone, of course, has a favorite Queen song. But one I didn't expect to be at the top of my list was "Fat Bottomed Girls," a rousing rock anthem that, like many songs on this night, had everyone singing along. Add to that Elvis' "Jailhouse Rock" and most of Queen's classics and this was a night to remember. Indeed, for one night only, Queen and Freddie Mercury came back to life.


CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND

It was clear that the crowd were in the palm of his hand by the time he got to Under Pressure.

Freddie Mercury rocked a packed house at the Westpac Centre in Christchurch at least his spirit did because the moustachioed man performing on stage was in fact Freddie Mercury Impersonator and Stars in their Eyes winner Gary Mullen.

That made little difference to the audience that Mullen had clapping along a few songs into the performance. It was clear that the crowd were in the palm of his hand by the time he got to Under Pressure. The fast set ended with an amazing guitar solo by Brian May-alike David Brockett, whose talent as a guitarist is at least equal to Mullen’s vocal skill. In the pantheon of rock guitar players May ranks alongside the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Jimmy Page. Brockett has done his homework and does a good imitation of May’s guitar sound during a performance punctuated by many good solos and some classic riffs.

Set two of the show started with some of Queen’s harder numbers, including a speeded-up version of We Will Rock You and Stone Cold Crazy as well as an impressive drum solo, before slowing down on an acoustic Love Of My Life. Killer Queen was a highlight, as was Queen’s best known song Bohemian Rhapsody. Clearly this song must be hellishly difficult to play live.

Last night I would probably have believed that the band performing were the real Queen and that Mullen was the real Freddie Mercury if I had not been aware that he died in 1991.