Thursday, February 9, 2012

Calgary concert review – Part 3

Media Moment: Calgary Herald newspaper
Queen-related: Concert review from 1975

So we’ve discussed how the student-run newspaper at Mount Royal College reviewed Queen’s first Calgary show back on April 3, 1975. What about the mainstream media in town? How did they react to the same show? Well, a little digging at the local public library unearthed the following Calgary Herald review from the same show that Gord and Lynne attended:

Here’s the readable version:

The Calgary Herald
Friday, April 4, 1975 
Rock groups Queen it down at the Corral 
By Randy Hutton (Herald Staff Writer)  
     The lights are dimmed . . . the crowd goes wild . . . suddenly the arena looks like it’s been invaded by a plague of fireflies.
     Yes. The light-a-candle-for-the-rock-group-heroes syndrome strikes again.
     A moving, sincere gesture that comes straight from the heart, in tribute to only the greatest of artists. After all, you wouldn't take a chance on singeing your thumb for just anyone, would you?
     At any rate, many of the more than two thousand people who went to the Stampede Corral Thursday night to see Queen and Kansas made this offering.
     Queen, who emerges from a stage flooded with smoke, is apparently trying to be as nasty as the monsters from a ’30s horror flick.
     Had the group appeared in a real ’30s movie, the gimmick might have worked.
     The show’s the thing with Queen. Able to make only the most rudimentary variations in sound, the quartet relies on the stage antics of the lead singer and a fancy lighting job, to remind you you’re at a concert.
     Leaping about, flinging his arms open, playing the mike-stand like a guitar, the lead singer does more to give the impression that something is going on than the sound does.
     Not that the band isn’t versatile. Oh no, they played both hard rockers and ballads. Well, a ballad, anyway. It was a ballad because it didn't begin and end with a crashing guitar chord and an earthquake drum roll.
     Another device Queen uses to supplement its basic mix of guitar, bass, drums and occasional (when the singer isn’t playing lead mike-stand) electric piano is the tape loop.
     This repeats what was played a few seconds previously, so that the player can jam with himself. Musicians such as Terry Riley, Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix have put this to good effect, building on the repetition and subtly creating multi-rhythmic layers of sound.
     Queen’s guitarist had a long solo bout with the recorder and later three members of the band sand to themselves singing to themselves.
     All they proved was that doubling something does not make it twice as good.
     At least Queen has its style down pat. The encore consisted of “Hey, Big Spender” and “Jailhouse Rock” (that was the rock and roll Queen had been promising for over an hour), but you wouldn’t have known it if you hadn't heard the words.
     Dorothy Fields and Elvis Presley might have cried and it would not be grateful tears of nostalgia.
     The opening act, Kansas, had its priorities reversed from those of Queen.
     Though they number six, the members of Kansas emphasized their music, not their visuals, which is just a shift of pretentiousness.
     Synthesizer, electric piano, two guitars, violin, bass and drums are the instruments played by Kansas.
     At times the group sounds like a zillion other hard rock groups you can hear on the radio, then the violinist will take over and it sounds as though a station playing some cheesy classical music has barged in on the rock station’s signal.
     Sometimes it even sounds like both stations are playing at once. (Gosh, there’s that ol’ versatility again!)
     Kansas’ drummer, in his solos, showed that he can play his licks equally well at 33 or 78. He should learn 45, too, because the group is missing out on a lot of uptempo Elizabethan blues.
A few things come to mind when I read this:

  • The writer is obviously not a fan of either Queen nor Kansas. The sarcasm in his writing style is profound.
  • No where are the band members referred to by their names. Apparently, the only label they deserve to get is what instrument they play.
  • The headline is confusing. Is the term “Queen it down” meant to be a verb? Maybe it’s a colloquialism from the ’70s that I’m not aware of. Or maybe the writer just made it up.

Maybe I should track down Mr. Hutton to see if he’d be open to the same interrogation I gave Gord over his review 37 years ago.

As for the other mainstream newspaper in Calgary at the time, The Albertan (an early moniker of The Calgary Sun), there was no concert review around this time that I could find. It was a much smaller paper compared to the Herald so either their review didn’t find space in the entertainment section or they didn’t have anyone on staff to cover it.


1 comment:

  1. Yes please find him that would be a hoot!