Line Up: SAS Band / Brian May / Chris Thompson / Kerry Ellis / Madeline Bell / Patti Russo / Tony Vincent / FABBA Girls
It was time again for another Queen Fan Club event, the occasion was a big one of course…remembering Freddie Mercury's passing twenty years ago. I remember hearing of his death early on the Monday morning on breakfast news as I was on my way to school. Shocked and deeply upset by it I remember really not wanting to go that day. I had grown up listening to Queen’s music so it was like losing a member of the family. Indeed my love of music as a whole came from Queen. They were never fashionable, they were never cool, but they outlasted most of their peers and let’s face it, would still be the biggest band on the planet if Freddie was alive now.
These events are planned by the fan club and without fail are always fun even though no one really knows quite what to expect. For the uninitiated the ‘SAS’ in SAS Band stands for ‘Spike's All Stars’ (http://www.sasband.com) and encompasses pretty much anyone that feels like turning up to sing with Spike Edney’s band. People as wide ranging as Chris Thompson, Mark Shaw, Kiki Dee, Tony Hadley and Paul Young have all appeared to sing a song or two over the years. Ten years ago we had gathered to remember Freddie on his tenth anniversary in London’s Ocean club. On that occasion we had both Brian May and Roger Taylor there to help celebrate in style (not forgetting a certain Bruce Dickinson singing I Want To Break Free which wasmost surreal).
I had, for the first time, managed to persuade the wife to finally come to a 'Queen' event. To be honest though I think she was only happy to tag along with me and fellow Queen fan, Mark as it meant she got a weekend in London and a meal at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant (that was the deal I had to accept, like it or not). We made our way into the glorious Clapham Grand (which was a surprisingly grand old venue) and we saw lots of familiar faces…all at the bar. The beer then started to flow and all was good.
Jacky Smith came on stage and introduced the SAS Band around 8pm…They took to the stage led by Spike of course and backed by the fantastic FABBA Girls. Kerry Ellis was first up to sing and she started with No One But You....then from out of the corner of the stage appeared Dr. Brian May himself, looking humble and slightly overwhelmed by the response he got. The Clapham Grand went in to overdrive and the cheers nearly drowned out Kerry. A powerful Somebody To Love was next and then Brian's signature guitar riff started up and Tie Your Mother Down rocked the Grand. Brilliant. Superb. Fantastic. I, like everyone in the building was delighted to see Brian there; it was great that he made the effort. He said he would see us again soon and off he and Kerry went.
Next up was Chris Thompson singing three songs including the wonderful Blinded By The Light and Davy's On The Road Again. They have almost become Queen songs over the years, with the crowd singing back the chorus in full voice. Indeed the crowd was in great form now and good job as next on stage was the rather delightful Patti Russo. To say that the girl has some set of lungs on her is an understatement. What a powerful voice (and that while being jet lagged). Singing a storming Don't Stop Me Now, Chain Of Fools and Another One Bites The Dust....that chick can sing.
Up to this point the FABBA Girls had been providing backing singing, but now it was their turn to take centre stage. These ladies are highly entertaining and always fun. Singing Mamma Mia, Dancing Queen and a stomping Fat Bottomed Girls was a fabulous way to take us into the interval……in fact they did a fantastic job all night and were possibly the hardest working people on stage.
After the short break, Galileo himself, Tony Vincent came on stage and belted out Now I'm Here, I Want It All (with Chris Thompson) and Hammer To Fall. He has a massive stage presence and certainly has the rock star look about him. Good luck to him in his career as he deserves a wider audience. Tonight he sang all songs with vigour and was highly impressive.
American singer Madeline Bell was next up and here was another woman with a fabulous voice on her. I Want To Break Free, Natural Woman and I Heard It Through The Grapevine were all delivered with panache. Someone in the crowd told me she is 69....no way. She looks absolutely amazing and would put most singers these days to shame. I Want To Break Free was especially brilliant and I would love to see her perform again.
Chris Thompson was back up, this time singing Crazy Little Thing Called Love, which apparently he had very little time to learn (Spike apparently only telling him he was going to sing it at 4am). He did a superb job though and the crowd helped him through when needed. Spike then got the all-important bit of gaffer tape out (it is usually best not to ask Spike about such things) to enable them to play an emotional These Are The Days and a rocking The Show Must Go On.Kerry Elliscame back on to sing Under Pressure with Chris and then everyone came on for the usual We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions. Chris led everyone with a rousing The Voice and Patti Russo and all finished with a raucous With A Little Help From My Friends including the famous Spike scream.
As you can it is a random line up, and a random set list, yet that is the way of the SAS Band and Queen fan club concerts. On paper it looks strange but experienced live it really works. The mood is always good at these gigs and tonight was no exception. A fabulous evening was had. Well done to all involved but in particular Jacky Smith who runs the Fan Club (she always has, or at least for as long as I can remember). They have put on multiple events over the years with the biggest being the annual convention. All are welcomed and highly appreciated.
A wonderful evening and a great way to remember Fred.
Footnote: Not familiar with some of the names mentioned? Here’s a brief roundup:
- Spike Edney: Age 60…nearly. Has worked with many bands such as Duran Duran, Boomtown Rats and Bucks Fizz (!) but he has worked with Queen since 1984 and continues to be involved to this day
- Chris Thompson: Age 64. Has also worked with many artists over the years but maybe best remembered as lead vocalist of Manfred Mann's Earth Band in the 1970’s
- Kerry Ellis: Age 32. Best known as a musical performer in both the West End and Broadway, she has appeared in Wicked, We Will Rock You, Oliver and many more shows. Recorded the album Anthems with Brian May in 2010
- Madeline Bell: Age 69. Hailing from Newark in New Jersey, she is a singer, songwriter who released her debut album in 1967
- Patti Russo: Age 47.Also from New Jersey she is most famous for her work with Meatloaf and has sang on numerous albums and toured with the big man
- Tony Vincent: Age 38. Like Kerry Ellis he is best known as a musical performer and has worked on Broadway and the West End in Rent, Jesus Christ Superstar, American Idiot and was the original ‘Galileo Figaro’ in We Will Rock You
Ticket: November 25th 2011
Ticket Price: £25.00 (Fan Club Price)