BRISTOL, CONNECTICUT — All hail the Queen. Or in this case the Queen celebration as a piece of rock royalty and a Queen tribute band featuring Bristol natives rocked Memorial Boulevard Theatre Saturday night for the first concert of its kind at the refurbished theater.
Anglo-American guitarist Jamie Moses started playing with Queen’s surviving members like Brian May the year after Freddie Mercury died in 1992. After touring with the band for several years, he was back playing the iconic rock music when he collaborated with internationally touring tribute band Celebrating Queen and Tommy Williams of The Hooters, who has played with Bob Dylan.
Bristol natives Shawn Fitzgerald and brothers Joe “JJ Midnight” Archambeault and Carl “CJ Midnight” Archambeault are members of Celebrating Queen. Joe Archambeault, the front man and lead singer for the tribute band, said it was special to be back performing at Memorial Boulevard, where he attended seventh grade.
Queen favorites like “Another One Bites the Dust,” “Don’t Stop Me Now,” “I Want It All,” “Fat-Bottomed Girls” and “This Thing Called Love” reverberated through the auditorium of the nearly sold out house from the floor to the balcony. Archambeault worked the crowd, roaming the aisles and engaging the audience.
Love filled the theater for one of the most memorable moments in the show — “Somebody to Love.” But instead of taking the lead for the whole thing, Archambeault came down to the audience’s level and invited everyone to sing the opening, pointing the microphone to the crowd. He sang with Bristol pride, not forgetting his roots. His stutter step dancing during the “Got no feel, I got no rhythm/I just keep losing my beat” line brought priceless, humorous storytelling to the song. And with sweat trickling down his face by the end, his stage presence never lost energy.
Moses blended in with the band, producing guitar backing on par with the real Queen, perhaps because he was one of them, and sometimes singing harmonies. But Celebrating Queen also made sure to give him his featured moments and recognition as he stepped forward for impressive, impassioned guitar solos, including one of the best guitar solos of all time, in my opinion, in “Somebody to Love.”
And you can’t have a Queen concert without “Bohemian Rhapsody,” so, of course, that’s what Celebrating Queen closed with before singing “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions” for the encore. “Bohemian Rhapsody” was the song that got me hooked on Queen. The first time I heard it, I was confused what message the band was trying to get across (and I still don’t entirely know!) and thought it was strange. But then, my sister, Jamie, who has a knack for comedy whether she intends to or not, sang it a cappella in the dark, only lit by flashlight, once when we lost power at our Farmington house to entertain us and had me almost on the floor laughing. Then I started listening to more and more Queen and was hooked, mesmerized by the complicated, layered guitar riffs and the range of the vocals and harmonies. It became my favorite band. I even saw Queen’s “We Will Rock You” musical in London, which is the only musical I’ve ever seen get the audience on its feet dancing like it was a concert. “Bohemian” has since become my go-to karaoke song, which certainly gives you a lot of floor time because it’s about eight minutes long, but it doesn’t get boring or repetitive because it has so many diverse parts to it. If they hadn’t played it, I would have been disappointed, but this band doesn’t disappoint regardless and they came through to close out a fantastic night of rock in Bristol.
It was Memorial Boulevard Theatre’s first rock concert, so the show had more meaning than simply celebrating Queen. The concert celebrated art as the theater group works to bring more plays, concerts and shows to the town-owned former middle school to help bring thriving art to Bristol and this portion of Connecticut. When you start with royalty that sets the bar high, but it leaves no doubt there are great things to come from this growing theater initiative.
For more information about Celebrating Queen, you can visit their Facebook page, YouTube channel, My Space page, Reverb Nation page and on ustream.com. Jamie Moses and Tommy Williams also have personal websites. More information about Memorial Boulevard Theatre is available on the organization’s website, http://www.memorialboulevardatc.org and on Facebook under Memorial Boulevard Arts & Technology Center.