Saturday, June 16, 2012

Diamond Jubilee Concert

Media Moment: CBC coverage of The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert
Queen-related: Brian May sighting

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation aired the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert the other night and for the hell of it I PVRed the program wondering if Brian and Roger would show up.

There was no sign of Roger, unfortunately, but within five minutes of the start of the program, Brian was shown sitting in the Royalty Box next to Anita. That was strange, I thought. What was he doing in the audience when he should be on stage? Maybe he was just wasting time until he’s called up to play some guitar as part of the backing band or something.

It turns out he wasn’t part of the concert at all, which was a 180-degree turn from his castle-topping guitar solo from the Queen’s Golden Jubilee ten years ago. Well if he wasn’t going to be in the show, they must have a stellar lineup of musicians planned since Brian took the time out to be a spectator instead of a participant.

Nonetheless, Peter Mansbridge, the news anchor who was covering the broadcast on behalf of the CBC, actually mentioned Brian May and his rooftop performance of GSTQ at the Golden Jubilee 10 years ago; but it was merely a segue into announcing that Madness would be performing on top of Buckingham Palace this time for a performance of Our House

As I watched each artist do their thing, I was constantly reminded of how much Queen should have been on the stage. As a matter of fact, I didn’t have to look far to find connections between a lot of the musical guests and Queen:

Robbie Williams – His cover of We Are the Champions in 2001 for A Knight’s Tale prompted rumours of him replacing Freddie. His performance of Let Me Entertain You at tonight’s concert didn’t help distance him from the Queen catalogue either.
Sir Cliff Richard – had a longstanding friendship with Freddie.
Annie Lennox – remember her duet with Bowie at the FMT concert?
Rolf Harris – If I remember correctly, he did an interesting cover of Bohemian Rhapsody back in the early ’90s.
Dame Shirley Bassey – She recorded The Show Must Go On in ’96.
Sir Elton John – Close friendship with Freddie.
Sir Paul McCartney – Not sure how close he was with the band members but I do recall he knows them well enough to comment on them in The Magic Years videos.
Prince Charles – Brian’s participated in the Prince’s Trust Concerts for years.
God Save the QueenInextricably linked to the Queen catalogue, not to mention this is what Brian performed at the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.

Come to think of it, if I hadn’t seen the “The” in the event name, it could have easily have been mistaken as a Queen tribute concert instead. The branding between the band Queen and The Queen seemed to borrow from each other.

Case in point, this beefeater’s outfit looks suspiciously like a Queen t-shirt design or something with the elongated tail of the Q and the crown above. Since when did Queen Elizabeth use a single letter Q to represent her?

The one performer that I thought was curiously out of place was Stevie Wonder. Wasn’t he the only performer from a non-Commonwealth country? What was an American doing paying tribute to the reign of a British monarch? Perhaps The Queen is a die hard fan of Mr. Wonder and requested his participation? He did a great job, mind you, but I’m struggling to find the rationale for him being there.

Back to Brian . . .

It was great to see him almost every time the camera panned across the Royalty Box. And when he was on his feet during McCartney’s performance of Magical Mystery Tour, that was unexpected. Rarely is he shown as a member of an audience enjoying the show in front of him.

And what about the spectators in the Royalty Box that were seated around him and Anita? What warrants them to be amongst such distinguished company? I’m sure they have impeccable peerages or have been acknowledged for their contributions to British culture — like Brian, I suppose — but were they aware of who they were seated next to?

I still left wondering . . . why wasn’t Brian and Roger asked to perform?

For an interesting article on what songs should have been played at The Queen’s Jubilee Concert, click here. Queen, the band, makes an appearance there, too.

Jubilee logo:


Friday, June 15, 2012

Jump for Queen

Well, the Queen promise that was made in the Jump for Glee promo last month came true last night. Both Under Pressure and Somebody to Love were performed — quite well, I might add.

Apart from the entry level production values of the show itself, the vocal abilities of the cast members were commendable; the famous high notes in the songs, however, were suspiciously absent from their live versions last night.

My only criticism of the songs’ inclusion in the theatre production was that they both were opening numbers that kickstarted Acts II and III, so there was no real storytelling reason to have them in the plot. They struck me more as filler tunes with a literal connection to the TV show instead of being integral to the characters’ situations.

Hold on, though . . .

There was a surprising moment of dialogue when Sue Stallone actually mentions “Queen” in her address to the students a few minutes after their performance of Under Pressure. She was chastising them for “…taking a classic and ruined it. Come on, people . . . it’s Queen! You took a Queen classic and made it worse than nails on a chalkboard!”

None of the other songs got a narrative mention last night so for whatever reason, the writer of this show opted to single out Queen from the pack yet again. So not only were they the only group to have two songs in the show, the band gets mentioned briefly in the show.

To top it off, between acts there was piped music coming in to the dinner theatre that at first listen sounded like the Glee TV show song covers. To my delight, Fat Bottomed Girls was played but it was not the same version that Puck sang on the show, so I’m at a loss as to who performed it.

The setup at Jubilations was unique in the sense that the cast members actually interacted with the audience before the show and between acts. For example, Flint Hudson (played by Tenaj Williams), actually escorted us to our table after we presented out tickets at the theatre door. Before he left us to help another guests, I asked if he would sign the cover of my playbill, which he generously did. So with one autograph completed, I made a point of getting the other cast members to sign the cover as the night went on.

For a formal review of the show, read about it here at the Calgary Musical site.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

San Diego sightings

Sorry for the silence, folks. We just got back from 12 days in sunny – but occasionally overcast – San Diego. With a four-year-old in the clan, what better destination to visit than a city which boasts LegoLand, SeaWorld, the Zoo, Safari Park, and the USS Midway? And it’s in close proximity to Tijuana (just kidding).

While I didn’t intend to make this trip a Queen hunt, I did keep my eyes and ears open for whatever Queen sightings San Diego had to offer.

On the first night in our rented condo, there was a television promo for VH1’s Friday Night Rock Block program which featured a Queen segment. (Although I wasn’t going to be around when the actual program aired on VH1, it was nice to see the promo nonetheless.)

On the second night, I stumbled upon Freddie Mercury: The Untold Story which was airing on a channel I can’t remember. Although I have seen this program before, I opted to watch it again as it was more palatable to my wife than the cheesy zombie movie I was intending to watch at that time.

I caught a television commercial for Google+ which featured Under Pressure.

I stumbled upon this t-shirt at one of the Premium Outlet stores near the Mexican border and picked it up as one of the few shopping trophies of the trip:

I was wearing it at the San Diego airport prior to our return flight home and while I was wasting time walking through the maze of people at Gate 22, a TSA agent who was on break asked me if I was old enough to know when that song came out. (At least that was a more benign question than what I got from the TSA agents on the flight down!)

Finally, our second visit to LegoLand took us to those areas of the park that we missed the first time through six days before.

As I was watching our little guy in the playground area, I kept hearing a looped recording of two songs from a spot that was behind some bushes from where I was sitting. The two songs, from what I could tell, were We Will Rock You and Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye (presumably because these rocks were located near the exit to the park.)

The two songs were not the originals but were versions specific to the park. And the fact that they were looped continuously, I figured they had to be part of a ride that was just around the corner. I made a point of coming back to that spot before we left the park for the day to make a recording of the songs.

Here it is as best as my point-and-shoot camera could capture it given the ambient noise in the park at that time:

A quick YouTube search yielded a few results for this particular “rock band” at LegoLand in California, like this one:

This one — from LegoLand in Windsor, England — features the Easter Island stone heads doing WWRY:

Frankly, I think the Easter Island idea is more interesting than a nameless collection of stones doing the songs. I wonder why the California park didn’t follow this model? Is the whole Easter Island phenomenon less appealing in North America?

What else did Queen leave behind in San Diego? Well, how about five concerts:

• March 12, 1976 (Sports Arena)
• March 5, 1977 (Sports Arena)
• December 16, 1977 (Sports Arena)
• July 5, 1980 (Sports Arena)
• April 1, 2006 (Queen + Paul Rodgers at the Cox Arena)

Adam Lambert is also San Diego-raised. If he and the boys tour North America maybe we can add a sixth concert to the list.