Dr. Phillips Center Presents “One Night of Queen”

By T Michele Walker and Robert Ferrera

For over 20 years Gary Mullen & The Works have been performing their world-renowned “One Night of Queen” live concert. On Saturday, May 4, “they will rock you” as they take the stage at Dr. Phillips Centers Walt Disney Theater.

Gary Mullen & The Works (featuring Gary Mullen on vocals, David Brockett on guitar, Malcolm Gentles on keyboards, Jon Halliwell on drums and …TBC.. on bass) will have you dancing in the aisles during their show, while the band pays tribute to the stage theatrics, showmanship, and music of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees: Queen.

Central Florida Lifestyle Magazine spoke with the Scottish singer Gary Mullen about the show, the joy of bringing the iconic Freddie Mercury to life onstage, and how the music of Queen brings generations together.

 

Michele: How’s the tour going so far?

Gary: The shows have been going great! This year’s the 40th anniversary of Queen performing “The Works” tour, but they never came to America on that tour. So we do that show on this tour. We’re giving American audiences something they never got the chance to see when Queen was touring with Freddie. It’s a great show. We’ve put a lot of work and a lot of effort into making it completely different for anyone who’s seen the show before. We’re quite proud of the show, it’s a lot of fun to perform, and the audiences have a lot of fun watching and listening to it.

 

Michele: When you are off stage, do people mistake you for Freddie Mercury?

Gary: No, because I look completely different from how I look onstage. It’s reminiscent of KISS from the old days, when they wore the make-up, and no one knew what they looked like underneath. So I’ll actually do a show and go out for dinner, and they’ll be a person sitting at the next table with a Queen t-shirt talking about the show, and they’ll have no idea who I am. So it’s nice to have that anonymity, it’s nice to have a private life away from the stage.

 

Michele: It seems like you have the best of both worlds.

Gary: Absolutely. I mean people do sometimes recognize me and say, “You’re him!” And I’ll say, “Yeah, I suppose I am.” But most of the time I’ve got a bit of anonymity and it’s nice to just step away from it. Because the guy onstage and the guy offstage are different people. And it’s nice to have that separation between the sort of peacock-rock n roll-lunatic running around, and then the other guy, me, the actual me, who can just kind of blend into the background.

 

Michele: Which do you prefer?

Gary: I do talk a lot, I am high energy, and I suppose the guy onstage is just an amped up version of me. Someone from the tour told me it’s like being onstage with Sonic the Hedgehog, but you’ve got to be that guy. The energy levels have got to be there. That’s my job as a front man, to get the audience having as much fun as they can, and my energy can’t deplete. You can’t say, “I’m just gonna sit this one out.” It’s got to be two hours of running around and being on it. So, there’s a bit of him in me offstage, and there’s a lot of me in him onstage. It’s a kind of weird mix, but it works.

 

Michele: So tell me how you got started.

Gary: Well actually next year it’ll be 25 years, which is a terrifying thing to think of, but it was a tv show that started this whole other career. A tv show that my mom applied for on my behalf and kept it a secret in case the network didn’t call. They did call. I went on the show, won the whole thing, with the biggest vote ever in the show’s history. I was just like, “what’s going on?” And then from there, just sort of toured around with backing tracks for 18 months. Just kind of building a reputation, because you don’t want to be just a one-trick pony. People want to know you can do other things. So we built a small show and started doing theaters and clubs and things, and then at the end of 2001, we formed a band called “The Works.” Then we officially started the band tour in 2002. We were all young guys, not so young anymore, but we’re still doing it.

 

Michele: Do you think you’ll be like The Rolling Stones, doing this in another 25 years?

Gary: I don’t know. I said in my 20s I’d quit at 45, because that’s when Freddie passed away. But 45 came and went. I turned 50 last November and thought there’s still some life in the old dog yet. I still enjoy it, and I’ll keep going until either the audiences don’t want to see us anymore, or until I get bored. You can’t go onstage and be bored, you have to have energy. So one of those two things will have to happen.

 

Michele: What drew you to Freddie Mercury in particular?

Gary: I think at first it was the way he sang that obviously caught my attention. I just thought, “Wow, listen to that guy’s voice! How does he sing like that?” And then his whole persona. Freddie said it himself. He’d wear these outrageous costumes and people would make fun of him, but he said, “The jokes on me, and I’m in on the joke.” And that was his thing, you know, he’d wear painted fingernails and feathers and fur coats and stuff, and he said, “I look ridiculous darling, but I work.” And he’s right, he knew you had to look the part, like Liza Minelli or Elvis Presley.

He’s also incredible songwriter, just the body of work that he has is incredible. “Bohemian Rhapsody”—nobody had ever written a song like that, and people are still trying to figure out what it’s about and how he did it. But as far as I’m concerned, he’s one of the greatest, or the greatest front men of all time. I just think he had that absolute star quality.

 

Michele: And his work with Montserrat Caballé, the famous opera singer, showed the depth of his musicality, which, for you, I’m sure is so much fun to explore.

Gary: It is, and we’ve actually done “Barcelona” a couple of times and brought in a soprano to do it live, which was an absolute treat! We’re not doing it on this tour, but we have done it in the past.

Everyone always tried to pigeonhole Freddie, but after “Barcelona,” Freddie said, “Pigeonhole that darlings!” Because it’s a rock singer with an opera singer. How does that fit? Nobody had really done it before, and the “Barcelona” album in Europe went triple platinum. Nobody expected it, they expected it to bomb. But Freddie just said, “I’m doing opera now.” And everybody said, “Fair enough. Of course you are.” And nobody in the band was surprised when Freddie said, “I’m making an opera album.” When Freddie said he was doing something, the rest of the band was like “alright.” They weren’t surprised because he was such an outlandish character.

 

Michele: Being able to embody that every night must be an absolute thrill.

Gary: It is, it’s incredible. And we’ve found since the movie came out in 2018 that there’s a new generation of young fans who have discovered the band, which is incredible.

We had a kid a couple weeks ago who was in the front row with his grandmother and grandfather, who were generation-one Queen fans and who have apparently seen us nine times. They brought him for their tenth time to come and see us. And the kid had a t-shirt that was made that said, “This is my first ever gig.” I jumped offstage, and I got a photo with him and said, “Hey man, thanks for coming!” Just to see him, a ten-year-old, sing songs that were hits when his grandparents were teenagers, blew my mind. We even had a couple of deep cuts in the show that he was singing, and I’m watching this kid thinking, “This is incredible! You know all these songs!” It just shows this music is timeless and anthemic.

Our mantra is “Play every show like it’s your last” and you go out there and make people have fun. Hopefully, they take that fun and joy out into the world with them when they leave. We just say, whatever crap’s going on in your life, come in with us, close the doors, and let’s have a big rock’ n roll party.

 

Michele: I bet that just makes your heart sing.

Gary: It’s incredible because in this day and age when we’re all divided, and we’re told you’re “this” and we’re “that” and we’re different; well that’s nonsense. You go to a rock concert, and you see a couple thousand people, 10 thousand people, 20 thousand people, watching all under one roof. They don’t care. We’re all there for one thing and that’s to have a good time and listen to good music. Music touches people’s souls, it really does. If we took that feeling of what it’s like to be in an audience watching a show and carried that with us into our lives, we’d all be a bit happier.

PHOTO CREDITS: Brianna Griepentrog and Jay Baumgardner

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Written by T. Michele Walker

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