Queen - It's a Kind of Magic

Date 5 November 2006, 8pm Venue Red Robinson Show Theatre

Performers Craig Pesco, vocals; Travis Hair, lead guitar; David Christopher, bass; Brett Millican, drums

Reviewer John Jane

Craig Pesco as Freddie Mercury
Craig Pesco as Freddie Mercury

Though Queen’s 18 recorded albums sold (and continue to sell) in the millions; Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon are best known for their over-the-top live performances. Combining flashy theatrical panoply with over-blown rock arias, they filled stadiums and sports arenas all over the world.

When Freddie Mercury, their flamboyant frontman passed away in 1991 at the wastefully young age of forty-five, many felt the music would die with him. Well, they were wrong. Since Mercury’s death fifteen years ago, a couple of phenomena have come about. The use of eighties rock music on movie soundtracks, and the emergence of the tribute artists have led to the music of Queen being just as relevant in the 21st century.

Complete with programmed lighting and huge banks of loudspeakers, Queen – It’s a Kind of Magic sets out to simulate a stadium rock concert that the original band might perform. These musicians bear little physical resemblance to their counterparts in the authentic line-up. Australian Craig Pesco takes on the role of the charismatic lead-singer. He certainly struts out most of Mercury’s moves and gay-macho poses to be convincing, and works hard to get the audience to buy into his innocuous subterfuge. He largely succeeds, save for the slightly annoying propensity to constantly blurt out “Vancouver” as if he needed to remind himself which city he was playing.

In contrast, Pesco’s younger band-mates were pedestrian. Talented musicians certainly, but their performance was much less impassioned than their leader. Looking to be in their mid-twenties, it’s unlikely any of them invested much time learning ‘Queen’s’ music before taking on this gig.

While Pesco goes through four or five costume changes, he spends roughly half of the show performing shirtless, belting out rock anthems, occasionally accompanying himself on piano. Not surprisingly, the opening song was “It's A Kind Of Magic,” a Roger Taylor composition, played at maximum volume. Other Queen classics followed, “Radio Ga Ga,” “Another One Bites the Dust” and “We are the Champions” and with each favourite song resurrected, the audience became less inhibited, some couples taking to dancing at the edge of the stage without any hindrance from security staff.

The predictable encore brought about the obligatory rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody” which had the crowd singing along and waving their arms in unison.

Freddie Mercury was a unique artist and a consumate showman whose legend still looms large. Craig Pesco is correct when he says there isn’t anyone with his charisma around any more.

Red Robinson was first on stage to introduce the band, tell a couple of good-natured jokes and acknowledge the honour of having this brand new theatre named after him.

© 2006 John Jane