Former talent show TV star becomes Queen’s lead singer, recreating the stage theatrics of legend

One Night of Queen
8 p.m. Friday
Riverwind Casino
1544 W. State Highway 9, Norman

Twenty-five years before Lady Gaga, listeners heard “Radio Ga Ga” emanating from their speakers. Many remember the song’s video with scenes from Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis,” but audiences never heard Queen perform the hit live on American soil.

Queen’s last Oklahoma City concert was in 1982, when the band played the Myriad during its “Hot Space” tour.

If you never saw the group perform live, Riverwind Casino hosts a Queen tribute band at 8 p.m. Friday.

One Night of Queen, headed by front man Gary Mullen performing as Freddie Mercury, is supported by The Works, a backing band named after the 1984 album that contained “Radio Ga Ga.”

The tribute act borrows heavily from Queen’s ’80s-era performances, complete with a light show that emulates those used by the group from 1980 to 1986. One Night of Queen, which performed for 45,000 fans in September at Hyde Park in London, has shared the stage with Andrea Bocelli and Simply Red.

But the comparisons end there. The tribute band isn’t as highly educated as the original Queen members, who boasted baccalaureates on their résumés.

“No, we don’t have degrees” only from the University of Life, and the School of Hard Knocks,” Mullen said.

Mullen, who won the grand final performing as Mercury on the British TV show “Stars in Their Eyes” in 2000, gigged for two years as a solo act with backing tracks before forming the band in 2002.

“It feels a lot more authentic having a real band,” he said. “The dynamics are better, and you have other people to feed off onstage.”

His improvisational performances uncannily mimic the live persona of Mercury, details that are accurate down to vocal runs and the occasional “day oh.” Queen guitarist Brian May has said Mullen bears a remarkable resemblance to Freddie’s stage presence and vocal style.

Tribute band guitarist Davie Brocket might not use a hand-built guitar like May, but he does play a genuine replica of May’s famous “Red Special.” And while Mullen doesn’t tickle the ivories live like Mercury; musician Malcolm Gentle handles the keyboards. Bassist Billy Moffat and drummer Jonathan Evans round out the tribute act.

“We try to recreate the Queen sound as much as we can, so the synth sounds on certain songs have been recreated from original recordings, or from live shows,” Mullen said.

He said “The Show Must Go On” is most challenging song to perform live. The final track from Queen’s 1991 “Innuendo” album was released just six weeks before Mercury died at age 45 from bronchial pneumonia brought on by AIDS.

“(The song) has to be delivered with both power and emotion every night,” Mullen said.

Rob Collins

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