With the Freddie Mercury-focused biopic Bohemian Rhapsody due in theatres in a few weeks, the timing feels right for Queen Extravaganza to hit Surrey.
The “official” Queen tribute band – created by the band’s real-deal drummer Roger Taylor and guitarist Brian May – will play all the hits at the Bell Performing Arts Centre on Sunday, Oct. 21. At last check, only a few dozen of the concert tickets remain for sale on the Ticketmaster website.
The band’s bass player, François-Olivier Doyon, is the lone Canadian among the five players. The Now-Leader recently talked to him on the phone from Kitchener, Ontario, one of 30 stops on the band’s current North American tour, which ends with a show in the theatre at Sullivan Heights Secondary.
Asked if he’s seen the new Queen movie yet, Doyon said no.
“After the show in Surrey,” he said, “we fly to Ireland to start a U.K. run back there, and I guess whenever we land there, it’s going to be premiere night (for Bohemian Rhapsody), or close to it, and we’ll see it then, around Oct. 24, and it comes out in North America on Nov. 2.… I don’t have any inside scoop for you, unfortunately, but yeah, I’m very excited to see it though.”
Doyon, originally from Quebec City, got the gig with Queen Extravaganza in 2011, when he heard word of an online audition orchestrated by Taylor.
“He was looking for any instrumentalists that could complete a Queen tribute band, so on a whim I decided to send in an audition video, and apparently whatever he saw, he liked, because he took me to the second round, which was a Youtube-like thing where people could vote for their favourites, and I made it through that as well,” Doyon recalled.
After that, the third and final round was held at the Foo Fighters’ studio in Los Angeles, he said.
“That audition was in front of Roger Taylor and Spike Edney, who was Queen’s keyboard player since the mid-’80s,” Doyon explained. “There were a bunch of people there and they made these, like, small bands of different instrumentalists, a mix and match thing, and we would just play for, like, an entire day, different songs, and they would look at the chemistry and how it all worked between different band members, and that’s how it happened. I got a phone call, if I remember correctly, on Dec. 8, 2011, that I had the part as the bass player, so it was exciting.”
— Queen Extravaganza (@QueenExtrava) October 2, 2018
Doyon, who had previously toured through Europe and North America with Cavalia’s circus show, wasn’t the world’s biggest Queen fan before he got involved in Queen Extravaganza.
“I mean, to be honest, I was a casual fan of their music,” he admitted. “I knew the hits but I wasn’t like some of the guys who auditioned in L.A., where I met some diehard fans who knew all the music, inside and out, and I was like, ‘What the hell am I doing here?’ So I knew those hits, and John Deacon, is obviously an influence because he’s so good, he’s mesmerizing, and people often don’t realize how good of a bass player he really was until you sit down and analyze those songs. It’s like whoa, something’s going on here.”
Queen Extravaganza’s current touring band features Brazilian Alirio Netto on vocals, not Marc Martel, the Montreal-born singer who sang Freddie Mercury’s parts since the start.
“Alirio is just mind-blowing, just awesome,” Doyon noted, “and as for Marc, I just chatted with him recently and he’s still very much a part of this project, he’s still in the picture, it’s just that this year he had other things to attend and couldn’t make it for the North American and the UK tour, because we’re going to be out for three months straight, and he had other gigs he had committed to, so no bad blood at all.”
— Queen (@QueenWillRock) July 17, 2018
Apparently Martel’s pipes will also be heard in the Bohemian Rhapsody movie, which stars Rami Malek as Mercury.
“But Marc said even he doesn’t know to what extent they’ll be using his vocals, because he recorded a bunch of stuff,” Doyon said. “But who knows what will be used, right. He might be in there often, his voice, but we’ll have to see.”
As for Queen Extravaganza, or “QuEx,” Doyon said the band draws a mixed crowd of both young and old concert-goers, with renditions of “Another One Bites the Dust,” “Killer Queen,” “Somebody to Love,” “Under Pressure” and other pop songs.
“We’ve played Vancouver before but not Surrey, so that’s something new for us,” he said. “The show, it’s very close to two hours. This time around, it’s kind of a smaller tour, and in the first couple of tours we had a lot of video going on, and this time we’re not using the video but we have an amazing lighting guy, Jason Hyne, and he makes up for the lack of video (production) this time, for sure. We’re five people on stage, very dynamic and exciting, and we’re performing all the hits this time around. On previous tours we did things like perform entire albums and stuff like that, but this time around it’s all the hits, the entire night. Everything is there, and people are going to love it, for sure.”