The Queen Extravaganza

May 2012, Grand Théâtre de Québec, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

The Canadian locations for The Queen Extravaganza tour consisted of the usual suspects—Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton—and one outlier: Québec City.

The Queen Extravaganza is a project of Roger Taylor of Queen. He held an online competition to find, essentially, the ultimate Queen tribute band. And of the nine winners, a full third are from Québec: Québec City native son Francois-Olivier Doyon on bass, Yvan Pednault—familiar to many from his long run starring in Toronto’s We Will Rock—on vocals, and Marc Martel, YouTube sensation for his uncanny physical and aural resemblance to Freddie Mercury, also on vocals.

Yvan Pednault
Yvan Pednault, apparently not yet tired of singing Queen songs for a living

So odd a choice as Québec City might have seemed for tour opener, it was probably a wise choice. The show sold out (trying to get my two tickets that opening day was a challenge, let me tell you), and the crowd was super-enthusiastic.

And yes, I was there. Naturally, Toronto would have been closer and easier—but it was on a Tuesday, and we hadn’t been to Québec in a while, so there we were. In Québec for the Queen Extravaganza.

Now despite the presence of Marc Martel and drummer Tyler Warren, a cutie like Roger who also sounded so much like him I though Mr. Taylor had surreptitiously snuck on stage when Tyler first sang lead, the idea wasn’t for this band to pretend it was Queen, as some tribute bands do. It was just to have musicians capable of excelling on the songs, and the size of the band: four lead singers, two guitarist, a keyboardist, bass player, and drummer—all of whom also sang backup—allowed for them to be performed with full harmonies and layered guitar sounds.

Lead vocal duties seemed to follow a pattern of Jeff Scott Soto taking the heavy numbers (Stone Cold Crazy, We Will Rock You, I Want It All), Martel handling the most complex, Freddie-esque pieces (Somebody to Love, BoRhap, Show Must Go On, We Are the Champions), and Yvan Pednault doing everything in between (which was a lot)—except for the few Jennifer Espinoza sang lead on, which were often more obscure numbers.

… Which I have to say were my personal favorites. While it’s always nice to hear the hits—and I was struck during the show by just how many hits the band has had (the show was a good 2.5 hours; tons of songs included)—I have never heard anyone (including Queen) do the song “March of the Black Queen” from Queen II live. Wow. I equally enjoyed Dragon Attack, Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon, and Lap of the Gods: Parts I and II.

Jennifer singing
Jennifer likely singing a Queen song you don’t know. But you should.

There were no obvious opening night glitches, though there was a certain tension, I think, in the first few numbers, until Martel took over and addressed the crowd. It should be noted that all night only Martel and Pednault did any of the speaking, and it was all entirely in French. I am supposing that dynamic may be different in other cities.

Photo of Under Pressure
Under Pressure. Guess which one did Freddie, which Bowie.

A surprise, though probably a wise one, was ending the first half with “Bohemian Rhapsody” (in its entirety, of course), rather than leaving it as the expected finale. That one done, then we didn’t spend the rest of the show anticipating it. The band really seemed to find a groove in the second half, when the light show also became more dramatic and the large back screens were used, sometimes to project images of Queen, and sometimes of the crowd. Who spent much of this portion on their feet. (They also rose regularly in the first half, it has to be said. And sang and clapped along all the way through. Fun crowd, for sure. Of all ages.)

The big screen
The big screen showing a Queen crowd—I think on We Are the Champions

So the show finale was the afore-mentioned “Show Must Go On” (huh. Is that ironic?). Then the band headed out to the lobby to meet with the crowd, garnering more cheers as they walked by everyone.

Related: A night at the opera