“You can do anything with my legacy, you can do anything with my music, but never make me boring.” Those were Freddie Mercury’s instructions to his manager when they saw each other for the last time. So what would he think of Dios Salve A La Reina (DSR), the Argentinian four-piece who claim to have created “the most authentic Queen tribute ever”?
It’s a brave statement. Queen fans – not to mention their younger siblings and children – have certain images imprinted on their minds: Mercury in black silk leggings, thrusting at his microphone stand; Brian May’s curls bobbing as he blasts out the Bohemian Rhapsody solo. And as any lounge room guitar hero or shower soprano knows, these are by no means easy songs. Can a tribute band – who, by definition, have to recreate a musical experience as precisely as possible – even come close?
If one person has the answer to these questions, it’s Peter Freestone, who worked as Mercury’s personal assistant for 21 years. Freestone has seen plenty of valiant attempts to replicate Queen, but it’s DSR who now have his endorsement.
“At the start, I wouldn’t even go to performances by tribute acts,” Freestone admits. “Why should I? I had been at the real thing! But over the years, I mellowed, realising that the only way I was going to hear the music live was to be present at a live tribute act.”
Freestone’s first encounter with DSR was at the annual Freddie Mercury Memorial Day in Montreux, when the Queen – It’s A Kinda Magic tour was already well established. “I was struck by the singer’s resemblance to Freddie, and the overall sound was close to the real thing,” Freestone remembers. “After talking with the producer of Queen – It’s A Kinda Magic, and having accepted that the show – as popular as it was around the world – really needed a re-think, I was very happy with the thought of DSR taking over the mantle.”
Freestone confesses he did something of a double-take when he first saw Pablo Padin front the band. “I don’t use my spectacles very often, but they did come out to watch DSR,” he says. “[Pablo] has a way of turning his head to look at the others while at the keyboard that bares an uncanny resemblance to Freddie. It does take me back to the good times touring with Queen, bringing a smile to my face.”
DSR have certainly had the time to perfect their act, having performed as Queen since 1998. But with Freestone on board, they have someone to give the seal of authenticity. “I’m there for moral support and to give any help with regards to costumes and movement about the stage,” Freestone explains. “I will always tell the truth after a show – what might be better or what was very good. They accept that and it seems to work!”
As someone who was there for the real thing, Freestone can fully appreciate how timeless Queen’s music is. “Queen wrote interesting music and they always tried to make their music different,” he says. “Their music appeals to all ages because the music created today sounds the same. A great thing was when a ‘boy band’ recently covered We Will Rock You and all the young people loved this ‘new’ song, not realising it was actually 30 years old.”
So, if DSR have the perfect Freddie, along with the musical skill to convince someone who toured with Queen, they have just one more challenge to overcome: playing loud enough to drown out the sound of the audience singing along.
Queen – It’s A Kinda Magic is touring nationally from 22 September, 2011. Further details»