Lose yourself in a bohemian rhapsody with Queen’s no. 1 tribute band
Joseph Lee Jackson, lead singer and Freddie Mercury impersonator for one of this year’s headline acts, Mercury, talks about getting the look and sound of one of rock music’s biggest bands just right
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – a sentiment that Joseph Lee Jackson can certainly relate to. As the front man of Queen tribute band Mercury, he has the mammoth task of capturing the charisma, showmanship and vocal heights of one of the most beloved and iconic lead singers in the history of rock and roll, Mr Freddie Mercury himself. No pressure there, then.
“Freddie’s shoes are always going to be big ones to fill!” he says. “From singer and songwriter to performer and musician, he was truly fantastic, hence there can only be one! He was a true legend, so as an actor, singer and performer, I try and get as close as possible to his live persona.”
Formed in October 1998, the ‘official UK no. 1 tribute to Queen’ is made up of an additional four members, comprising: Pat Coleman as Roger Taylor on drums; Lee Harvey as touring member Spike Edney; Mike Scrimshaw as bassist John Deacon; and of course, Glen Scrimshaw as legendary guitarist Brian May.
Back then, the band spent several months rehearsing and developing their show, before winning a contract to play in Majorca the following summer. Two decades on, they’re established as one of the world’s most authentic tributes to Freddie Mercury and Queen, playing theatres, festivals and high-profile gigs across the UK and Europe, including prestigious venues like Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
But even more impressive than their tour dates is their dynamic stage show, which fully emulates the distinctive, flamboyant appeal of the Queen experience. From the expertly crafted harmonies to the intricate guitar work, the quintet are forever perfecting their look and sound, faithfully recreating the image and atmosphere of their musical heroes, while also keeping things fresh and exciting.
“As a band, we work hard on arranging the songs to sound like the originals, but also give them that live feel”
“As a band, we work hard on arranging the songs to sound like the originals, but also give them that live feel,” continues Joseph. “We’ve worked hard on the harmonies, as all five members sing, along with the big guitar sound, for which Glen uses replica Brian May guitar pedals, as well as the amps that Brian uses.”
To mark 20 years together, it’s fitting that one of 2018’s sets will be played in front of 5,000 diehard fans at the three-day Ultimate Tribute & Music Festival, when it comes to Tunbridge Wells’ 500-acre Colebrook Park in June. Taking to the main stage for Sunday’s headline slot, Joseph and his band mates will be spoiled for choice when deciding which of Queen’s seemingly endless string of hits to perform.
“Queen’s catalogue is vast, so there really is a song for everyone,” Joseph reveals. “There are some big anthems, feel-good songs and tender, poignant numbers. Queen’s music spans so many age groups too; we have anything from five to 75-year-olds coming to our shows. We’ve been quite lucky that we’re able to do theatre shows and festivals, seeing everyone join in for songs like Radio Ga Ga, We Will Rock You and We Are the Champions.”
They shouldn’t have any problems getting the audience to sing along, as their efforts in the past have successfully impressed not only Brian May himself, but also Freddie Mercury’s family, when they were invited to perform at the unveiling of the late singer’s first memorial in Feltham in 2009. Indeed, it’s that level of tribute that they’re planning on pledging to their predecessors for another 20 years to come.
“The aim of Mercury is to recapture the look, sound and atmosphere of a Queen concert,” concludes Joseph. “Although on a smaller scale of what Queen did, we want to transport the audience back for two hours.”
To paraphrase Freddie’s own lyrics, don’t stop them now, ‘cause they’re having a good time!
Mercury will perform on The Ultimate Tribute & Music Festival’s main stage on Sunday June 24.
To find out more about the band, head to www.mercuryqueentribute.co.uk
Buy tickets HERE