Friday, 19 February 2010

Too much love will kill you


Queen was my first rock love. Aged 10 I was given their Greatest Hits. The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert at Wembley was my first gig (on TV). It rocked. I abandoned MJ, acquired the entire Queen back catalogue and devoured biographies of the greatest band ever. Brian May loved his guitar so much he bought it a seat next to him on Concorde. He’d made it himself out of a fireplace and he has a Phd in astronomy. Freddie was born in Zanzibar. Queen were cool: at massive 80s parties dwarves circulated with bowls of Bolivian marching powder strapped to their heads.

As a teenager I realised that ‘Queen’ were actually quite gay. This put me off but you never forget your first love.

A decade later ‘We Will Rock You’ written by Ben Elton (of Blackadder genius) premiered at the Dominion Theatre. I was excited but disheartened by the terrible reviews. The Guardian reviewer said “'it wasn't just bad, it was traumatising'. The Times said it was unlikely to last more than a few weeks.

Ten years on and it’s still sold out most nights. The gold statue of Freddie on Tottenham Court Road has always beckoned but I couldn’t bring myself to pay to see something so embarrassing uncool.

So when Dad phoned and asked whether I’d go with him I agreed, provided we didn’t tell anyone. It started badly. The plot was appalling: a musical set in a distant future where music had been banned yet everyone sang; a rant against the commercialisation of rock music which charged 60 pounds for a ticket, 4.60 for a beer and produced terrible covers of ‘Somebody to Love’ and ‘Under Pressure’. At over 2 hours it felt an hour too long.

In the interval I considered leaving. Especially after a bag of Galaxy Minstrals cost me 3.50 and I remembered half way through I had decided to give up chocolate for Lent. The crowd was old and mostly English (everyone laughed loudly about Northern Rock and blow jobs).

“Who are all these people? Is anyone sitting next to you?” Dad asked a large Northern woman. He’d bought the cheapest standing tickets and we’d already been moved on by the Japanese tourists whose seats we’d borrowed in the first half.

“No love, help yourself. It’s better from close up, especially the second half”.

“You’ve seen it before then? How many times? Isn’t it the best musical score in London?” he gushed.

“Oh yes” she replied, “I can’t remember it’s been that many times. The story’s not great though and I reckon the music in Hairspray and Avenue Q’s better”.

Somehow an uplifting last half hour (helped by being in the second row and the dancing girls in fishnets and PVC bikinis singing ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ waving pink feather dusters) sent everyone home happy. Bohemian Rhapsody was the inevitable encore. It followed the discovery of the world’s last electric guitar in the rubble of Wembley Stadium by Scaramouche and Gallileo Figaro, thus resurrecting Cliff Richard and the rest of Heartbreak Hotel while destroying the Evil Killer Queen in the Seven Seas of Rye. Sadly Britney Spears died before the interval in order to save rock’n’roll.

We Will Rock You mostly served to show how extraordinary Freddie’s vocals really were. Even without him the songs still have power. I love Queen.