Mercury – Baths Hall, Scunthorpe, 20/07/2019
Celebrating their 20th anniversary this year, Mercury have been touring longer than Queen did with the late Freddie Mercury, quite an achievement, and testament to five virtuosos who take an audience of all ages through a vast catalogue of music spanning three decades.
The expectations were high, as was the stage, tiered to allow Freddie (Joseph Lee Jackson) room to strut around and connect with the eager sell-out crowd. The lights went out, followed by the pounding backing of Flash Gordon to open the show, a nod to a great live era of Queen in the early 80s.
The band whizzed through a few of the many classics, Seven Seas of Rhye from Queen’s early days was a nice surprise, effortlessly performed by Lee Harvey on piano, followed by the bass driven hits Under Pressure and Another One Bites The Dust, ably led by the flawless John Deacon (Mike Scrimshaw) on bass guitar.
All good so far, the crowd were loving it, people were up dancing despite it being an all-seater. Joseph had the crowd in his hand, and went through some fun vocal scaling and call and response “day-oh’s!” which Freddie so famously performed to a global audience of a billion people at Live Aid some 34 years ago. Much of the audience witnessed that day, but many were not even born, giving a demonstration of just how much the band has transcended the generations, and are perhaps more appreciated and relevant now than ever. One of the songs not at Live Aid was expertly recreated in the mould of Queen Rock Montreal, one of Queen’s greatest concerts, 10 years to the day before Mercury’s untimely passing. This song was the gospel inspired ‘Somebody To Love’. Close your eyes and you would genuinely think this was the real thing.
The show was not without a couple of hiccups of course, the sound system played up at the start of a couple of songs, and it was left to Roger Taylor (Pat Coleman) on the drums to provide the reassurance the band required, and then some, exploding into powerful double-bass pedalling in I Want It All.
The amps were turned down for a wonderful middle segment showing off Brian May (Glenn Scrimshaw’s) range, performing the instrumental Last Horizon from 1992 (the most recent piece in the 31 song set) and masterfully playing the 12 string guitar on the crowd favourite Love Of My Life.
Ending the first act with Bohemian Rhapsody, Mercury performed what even Queen dare not do, and performed the entire operetta section with great technical chops, before exploding back into life with the crowd headbanging, reminiscent of Wayne’s World. This is what sets Mercury apart from many of the other tribute bands out there, they are not afraid to take on the near-impossible, and they do it justice.
With a sense of disappointment in the air that it was over, but happy to have seen a great show, the crowd shuffled out after a fantastic 75 minutes. There were enough dedicated Queenies around though to ensure word got round that there was more to come, an unbelievable 11 more songs in fact. If anything, the show got even better, Brian May would raise a jealous smile at Glenn’s ability to perform his multi-layered solos with such intricacy and speed. Musically nothing really seemed a problem, granted a few songs had their key dropped, but there is no shame in that if it maximises the delivery.
Emotions were raised when Queen’s final number 1 from 1991, These Are The Days of Our Lives echoed throughout the arena, followed by The Show Must Go On.
Indeed it must, and it will for this fine band from the midlands, Scunthorpe is one of some 100 shows Mercury are performing up and down the country in 2019. To close, the ever-present finale at every Queen gig, We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions.
Mercury were every bit the champions this Summer evening, and I was delighted to catch up with the guys after the show. It is clear the passion is still there as much as it was all those years ago. “We all love music and performing. With Queen’s music it is not just like turning up, plug in and play. With the theatre show it is more of an event.” This is true, and requires a team of people behind the scenes, including Jon the lighting designer and engineer who “is crucial to developing the performance to its maximum potential.”
In addition to Mercury, Joseph performs the odd solo gig as Freddie, Lee teaches musical theatre at Lincoln College, and the others, well, they “take it easy!” The lads are planning on not taking it easy however, and are keen on developing the band further, visiting some of the deeper album cuts which is sure to whet the appetite of fans from Queen’s classic era.
It became apparent the down-to-Earth rockers live and breathe their art, noted by Brian May and Roger Taylor themselves, Brian watched the band perform at the unveiling of Freddie Mercury’s memorial star (the performance was requested by Freddie’s family no less), and Roger Taylor joined the band to play in Majorca.
So how long can the band keep going? 20 years is a long time. Joseph says “As long as we’re still enjoying it and fit enough, we’ll go on as long as we can.” Music to our ears and many other fans too! Catch Mercury while you can, coming to a venue near you.
Music to our ears and many other fans too! Catch Mercury while you can, coming to a venue near you.
Tour dates can be found here.
Guest Review courtesy of Charley Grace Eddy & Alex Blatherwick