Perennial favorite Black Jacket Symphony returns to the Historic Ritz Theatre in Talladega next week with two performances of Queen’s “A Night at the Opera.”
Marc Martel will provide the vocals of iconic lead singer Freddie Mercury. Martel also provided some vocals for the new movie “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a biographical film about Mercury starring Rami Malek.
The Black Jacket Symphony concert will be staged at 7 p.m. on Jan. 4 and 5. With the Jan. 5 show almost sold out, best availability is for the Jan. 4 performance, according to George Culver, the theater’s executive director. Call 256-315-0000 or visit www.ritztalladega.com for ticket information.
The Black Jacket Symphony will perform songs from Queen’s 1975 album “A Night at the Opera,” which includes the British rock band’s best-known single, “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Martel, a native of Canada, has toured for several years with The Queen Extravaganza (the official Queen tribute band). Described by Rolling Stone magazine as having a “striking” vocal resemblance to Mercury, Martel has been a full-time musician since 2001 (“straight out of college”) and fronted the award-winning Christian rock band Downhere. He spoke by phone from Nashville about his upcoming performance in Talladega.
Q: Do audience members have to be longtime Queen fans to enjoy the show?
A: Absolutely not. One of the main things I hear people say after these shows is, “I didn’t realize how many Queen songs I know.” Because Queen produced so many different sounds, people don’t always identify a song as theirs.
Q: Are you a Queen fan?
A: I am now, that’s for sure, but I didn’t grow up listening to them. I started to as people started telling me I sounded like Freddie Mercury.
Q: What are your favorite Queen songs?
A: It’s hard to beat “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but “Love of My Life,” “Under Pressure” and “Someone to Love” are among my favorites.
Q: What can the audience expect from the performance?
A: Something that’s halfway between a true tribute show and what you might see and hear at a symphony. It’s more refined than a traditional rock show, but there’s still a lot of engagement with the audience. Our aim is to recreate the sound as closely as possible while performing with the energy Queen’s music deserves. It’s a really entertaining show.
Q: What accounts for Queen’s enduring popularity?
A: Amazing songwriting creativity combined with the sound they could produce. I believe it’s the only band ever to have each of its four leads to be credited with a No. 1 hit. Not even The Beatles did that. Their quirkiness, their campiness, not taking themselves too seriously and never succumbing to the musical fads of the day. They were not always a critical success, but they were able to connect with people, which is a lot more important in the long run. They produced rock anthems that are singable even in large venues like stadiums. And the fact that they had the greatest frontman of all time didn’t hurt either.
Q: How do you approach your tribute performances?
A: It’s a fine line I try to walk. I have never sat down and examined Freddie Mercury’s performances in a studious manner, and when I perform Queen, I never pretend I’m Freddie Mercury. I never use a half microphone stand or wear a yellow jacket. I do move around a lot on stage — I can’t stand still when singing Queen — and I may use an iconic move he was known for doing, but I try to pay tribute to him by a vocal performance worthy of him.