Queen Nation is coming to Palmdale on Saturday
By JULIE DRAKE
Valley Press Staff Writer
Queen Nation, a tribute to the music of Queen, will return to the Palmdale Amphitheater at 8 p.m., July 20, with Joey Riedel’s Elton John Experience.
The tribute band maintained a robust tour schedule, playing more than 100 shows a year for the past couple of years. So the band, which formed in 2004, was already a popular draw when the Academy Award-winning film “Bohemian Rhapsody” came out last year.
The biographical drama follows the life of magnetic lead singer Freddie Mercury from when he joined the rock band, up to their legendary performance in 1985, at Live Aid.
“What we’re seeing now is the crowds are getting bigger and the age group is a lot wider … The age group is 5 to 75 now,” Queen Nation’s guitarist Mike McManus said in a telephone interview.
Queen Nation features McManus on guitar as Brian May, Greg Finsley on vocals and keyboards as Freddie Mercury, Peter Burke on drums as Roger Taylor and Parker Combs on bass as John Deacon.
“We look the part as well as play the same instruments,” McManus said.
The original Queen stopped touring in the United States after 1982. Mercury died in 1991, so there are at least a couple of generations of fans who got a chance to see Queen perform live with Mercury.
“That’s kind of what we’re trying to do, give those people a chance to appreciate what I got a chance to see back when I was a kid,” McManus said.
He saw Queen live twice, in 1980 and 1982, in his hometown of Boston.
“It changed my life,” McManus said.
The music, he said, is timeless.
“People will be singing ‘We are the Champions’ long after we’re gone,” McManus said.
He is an original member of Queen Nation.
“They have always been my favorite band,” McManus said. “But I never sat down to learn the music. After my quest for rock and roll fame doing my own thing, it just kind of fell in my lap.”
A songwriter and guitarist, he toured and released three critically acclaimed albums with his hard rock band EGODOG when he got the call to join Queen Nation. He gained a new respect for Brian May, his favorite guitarist, when he set out to learn Queen’s music.
“It took me months and months and months of just sitting in my room going over the stuff over and over and over again,” McManus said. “But this time, I didn’t have to do it with the needle and the turntable.”
For the more complicated parts, he turned to the Internet.
“For some things that I was having a really difficult time figuring out on my own, there’s always somebody on YouTube that has done the homework for you,” McManus said.
Queen Nation is about halfway through its 60 concerts in 100 days tour. They just celebrated their 15th anniversary in April.
“We didn’t think we’d last a couple of years,” McManus said.
They went from performing in small clubs to playing in front of thousands of people — most recently in the Midwest.
Their 90-minute live show covers Queen’s greatest hits including songs such as “We Will Rock You,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “We Are The Champions,” “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” “You’re My Best Friend” and “Another One Bites The Dust.”
“My favorite song is always the one audiences react to the most,” McManus said. “You can’t go wrong with ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’ First of all, it’s extremely difficult to play. Second of all, during the operatic part, we play the music and we have the audience sing the operatic part.”
McManus said they enjoy the audience participation.
“We never want to give the audience an excuse to go to the bathroom,” he said. “We want them to be part of the show.”
VIP concert floor admission costs $20 (standing room only at front of stage, no chairs) and general admission is $10 (bring your own low back chair or blanket). Children 12 and younger are admitted free with a paid adult, but free children’s tickets must be ordered online.
Tickets are available at www.PalmdaleAmphitheater.com
Parking is free. Gates, concessions, beer and wine open at 6 p.m. and happy hour specials will be offered until 7 p.m.