Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Or are Classic Albums Live actually brilliant enough to take on the mighty Queen? Yes, they are. I know, I’m as shocked as you are.
The group is no way short on talent, as anyone who has been to their concerts can attest. This year alone they’re taking on everything from The Eagles to Led Zeppelin to Pink Floyd’s The Wall, and they’ll do it all without even breaking a sweat. But even amongst these titans, Queen is a wholly different beast. From raw musical talent to absurdly brilliant songwriting and compositional skills, they embody an almost perfect group of musicians. Their 1975 album A Night at the Opera (the focus of the evening) puts all of it on display. This album is known mostly as “the one with ‘“Bohemian Rhapsody”’ on it,” but the rest of the album is just as astonishing as that behemoth of a hit.
It’s a tough act to follow, let alone replicate, but I closed my eyes in a few moments of the evening, and I was almost fooled into thinking that Queen itself stood before me. Classic Albums Live isn’t your local cover band at Open Mic Night; they’re the real deal, and they deliver like you wouldn’t believe.
No expense was spared; Classic Albums Live were aware of the mammoth task ahead of them, and they pulled out all the stops. Four guitarists were on stage at all times to recreate Brian May’s soaring lead guitar harmonies, and it was astonishing to see how rarely any two guitarists were sharing a part; every last note was accounted for, and their sound was so accurate that they may have actually been playing with shillings instead of guitar picks.
But of course, Queen simply wouldn’t be Queen without Freddie Mercury, one of the most enigmatic frontmen to ever grace the stage. It’s to the credit of Classic Albums Live that no attempt is made at impersonation. There was no bright yellow jacket or moustache on stage, there were only the musicians good enough to get the sound.
However, imagine how many singers it must take to cover Freddie’s vocals. Then, immediately stop imagining, because you definitely didn’t guess high enough. In addition to the male and female lead vocalists who handled the bulk of the content, a choir of 180 students of a local middle school supplied the intense, and carefully pieced together vocal harmonies across the whole album. There really wasn’t a single note missing compared to the album cut of the songs: even ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ which Queen themselves would usually use audio clips for at their own shows, was recreated perfectly.
One of the most surprising elements of the event to me is how dynamic and energetic it was. The dedication to recreating the album could have sapped some of the creative spirit out of the musicians, but this wasn’t the case at all. The entire building came alive with spirit and passion. There’s a reason why the performers received a standing ovation during the album closer, :God Save the Queen”; it’s because they damn well earned it.
The evening didn’t even stop with A Night at the Opera. After a brief intermission, we were treated to a collection of Queen’s most recognizable hits, each as meticulously arranged as the main event. They had the entire choir clap along to “We Will Rock You”; they had their pianist take to the synthesisers to recreate ‘Radio Gaga’; they even used bicycle bells for ‘Bicycle Race’! Truly, nothing was missing from this experience aside from the real band, but after a while, it became hard to tell the difference. Classic Albums Live have nailed one of the most challenging and brilliant albums out there, and no matter where your expectations are set, you won’t walk away disappointed.