Monday 18 December 2017

Review Brian May and Kerry Ellis

Ed Power

Ed Power

brian may &kerry ellis

olympia, dublin

Won't somebody please think of the badgers? Evidently former Queen guitarist Brian May has been doing little else lately. At the merchandise stall for his night of duets with West End-belter Kerry Ellis, you can buy 'Save the Badgers' t-shirts, while the performance is preceded by three shrill, laboured videos in which the audience is invited to join a protest against ... well, one gathers it has something to do with a contentious cull of the animals in the UK.

Although it is undoubtedly an important and worthy cause, clearly one close to May's heart, this laboured proselytising risks going over the top.

It is hardly disrespectful or dismissive to point out that British badger laws are of very little interest or relevance to Irish people.

By banging on about it, May (65) is surely in danger of alienating the room there to hear him perform before a note is strummed.

Given the preachy preliminaries, it's almost a surprise that neither May nor Ellis has turned up actually dressed as a badger (you hope the black and grey flecks adorning May's famous frizzy mop are coincidence rather than a stab at solidarity).

Still, the gig is not without its awkward junctures. The performers twice make reference to this being the final date on their "UK tour" and several of May's anecdotes threaten to spiral into mini-lectures (he has a PhD in astrophysics and is not afraid to use it).

Nonetheless, May and Ellis are excellent at balancing the crowd's desire for all the Queen smashes they can handle and their own quite understandable determination not to turn the performance into a glorified karaoke session.

Alongside joyous, respectful reprisals of Queen tunes both beloved ('Crazy Little Thing Called Love') and obscure ('39') there are many covers. Here, their selections are often inspired: George Harrison's 'Something' is reimagined as a lazy, country strum-along; Ellis invests Barbra Streisand's 'The Way We Were' with a pathos missing from the blowsy original.

The concert's take-off moment occurs when Ellis steps into the wings and May straps on an electric guitar.

As the screen projects a glittering starfield, he plunges into the ten-minute prog instrumental, 'Last Horizon'. This is merely a precursor to a foot stomping rendition of 'We Will Rock You', surely the closest any rock band has come to capturing the chest-thumping thrill of a football terrace chant. It is a glorious revisiting – more than enough to banish memories of the strained banter and May and his long-suffering badgers.

Irish Independent

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