With only one night in London, we had to make the most of it.
Shooting straight to the top of the pops, blasting past all of the Mammas & Mias and Les’es & Mis’es, ditching the Wicked Witches and Masked Phantoms and Lion Kings, we grabbed the last two standing-room-only tickets for the Saturday showing of Queen: We Will Rock You.
We had no idea what it was all about. We were just there for the tunes.
Turns out the show was The Eschaton of Mercury and May: A nightmare future where a Killer Queen has assimilated the Ga-Ga youth and Talibanned all musical instruments. This Killer Queen controls the brainwashed with a platter of pre-approved tween cheese. (Akin to the love child of Zappa’s Joe’s Garage and the Disney Channel.)
Alas, there is one wrinkle in her plan of complete pop-cultural control. She didn’t count on the rise of The Bohemians, shepherds of the sacred texts prophesying the coming of Galileo and Scaramouche, and the irrepressible life-affirming urge to Rock.
And so it was that one young man from a poor family had the power to release the sacred guitar (Excalibur-style) from the ruins of Wembley Stadium. Messianic salvation by six-string. Thus were The Bohemians the champions, my friends.
Silly show. Great music. I expected a band, but I didn’t see one. Still, the speakers were filled with a spot-on re-creation of Brian May’s one-of-kind grind looping around adaptations of Queen’s already stage-ready theatrical hits. Surprise! During the third act they dropped the side curtains to reveal the most professional tribute band in London armed with Brian May guitars and we-nailed-it-again grins.
Fun crowd. Not a bunch of trampling tourists and arrogant Americans, but lit-up locals making an extra-pint night of it. Life-long fans looking for a lager-triggered flashback.
I thought I knew the records well, but a few of the songs were a mystery. At first I assumed that they were digging deep into the catalog for lost nuggets, but the natives seemed to know them word-for-word. Things must have charted a little differently in the mother country.
But as the curtains closed, there was one omission that broke my heart. Despite many, many opportunities, the stars didn’t sing our song. I couldn’t believe it. After two hours of classic Queen, where was My Best Friend?
Then I looked over. She was right beside me.