Concert Reviews

Concert Review: Marc Martel Brings A Kinda Of Magic to Auckland

Where: ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre Auckland, NZ
When: 30 Aug 2019
Roger Bowie

I’ve never seen Queen since Freddie Mercury died. Countless opportunities. Many options. But no-one can sing like Freddie. NO-ONE.

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But then came Bohemian Rhapsody, the movie, and a whole new generation of Queen fans emerge. Kids. On the way to school, my daughter commandeers my phone and it’s nothing but Queen. For at least eight weeks.

We have taken Nicole to the Bowie Tributes which Liberty Stage have promoted over the past four years. So when Simone (Williams) from Liberty Stage invites Nicole to see Marc Martel, my fate is sealed. She’s also bringing her brood of grandchildren along! I’ve never seen so many kids doing us oldies a favour by reducing the average age. And even Marc Martel himself, a little way into the show, comments how his audiences have “Benjamin Buttonised” since the release of the movie.

But when the lights go down and the music introduction starts, it’s not Queen but Baba O’Riley which blares out…..are we at the right gig?

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All is well, the band come on, and launch into Tie Your Mother Down, but the kids are alright, they don’t get the deep and dark implications. Don’t Stop Me Now, and we start to get a sense of it all. This guy can sing, he has a great voice, there’s more than a passing resemblance to the great man, he has all the moves, and the songs are rendered by the band note-for-note perfect. Like being at a Queen concert. (Did I say that?)

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You’re My Best Friend... (forever). The kids know this concept. They get a new one every day. Killer Queen. “C’mon all you Kiwis”, Marc shouts.

Ah but there’s the problem. We’re kiwis. We’re shy. We don’t dance, or sing, or fly, not this early in the gig. Kiwis eat roots, shoots and leaves... .but wait a minute, not sure about the eating bit, but that’s what Freddie did so well. Might have been his downfall. Might have been that Freddie wasn’t a Parsi after all. Global scoop!

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Behave yourself, Bowie... we’re having a ball, waiting for the Hammer To Fall. Brian May song, explains Marc, as he also brings attention to the fact that the band don’t dress up like Queen, just wear the T-shirts. They’re fans too. We’re all in this together.

Under Pressure. Nicole screams with pleasure. After all, that’s Uncle Dave’s song.

Marc goes to the piano for Play The Game. Talks about the impact of the movie on his new audience. The Benjamin Button reference. And his own awakening to Queen through the headbanging sequence in Wayne’s World. Wow, completely forgotten about that. Another movie from the archives for our young music fans. Talks about his own journey to the point he gets intrigued by people telling him he sounds like that guy Eddie Murray and enters a talent quest sponsored by Queen themselves determined to launch a tribute band. Wait a minute, that’s a bit pretentious innit? Is there money in organising a tribute band?

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Don’t be cynical, otherwise we wouldn’t be here tonight... Yeah, alright, put those thoughts away, because here is Marc doing Freddie doing opera, and here is drummer Jason getting his phone torch on, and we kiwis can respond to that, cos we’re nocturnal, and here we are segueing into the most unusual hit single of all time, well, maybe not of all time, and maybe not the most unusual, but probably braver than Hey Jude, because it goes to so many places, and was rejected by the record company as “bollocks”, or words to that effect, and was doomed to ignominy before Kenny Everett, with a sly wink to his mate Freddie, played it, all six minutes, and it took off like a rat down a drainpipe (where did that come from?). Probably Bohemia. Nicole’s been there.

And then it’s over. Band stops. Stage empties. Nicole quickly recites at least 8 songs she hasn’t heard yet. Thank goodness it’s just the interval.

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Part two soon comes around, and it feels like anthem time. One Vision, written for the corporate world. I Want It All, written for me. A Crazy Little Thing Called Love, written for Elvis. But man, this band from the Ultimate Queen Celebration is good. But it’s not hard to do, is it, playing Queen songs? Yeah, right... 

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On drums we have Jason Gianni, Mike Cohen plays bass. Brandon Etheridge plays keys, and Tristan Avakian plays Brian May, Doctor, if you may, of Astrophysics. You need to know a little about planets to keep up with Freddie, who was off most of them. And, of course, Marc Martel, as Freddie, who totally, absolutely, proves me wrong.

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Next up they play Fat Bottomed Girls (the song, not the instrument), followed by Another One Bites the Dust. I follow Nicole up to the front, just to hear how well the sound blasts out from the monitors. And Marc singles her out, and she is fulfilled. There is no-one else in the room... 
Except, all of a sudden, just Tristan, playing an astrophysical guitar solo. My ears pierce. I thought Doctors did no harm.

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But, despite my infirmity, The Show Must Go On, and the next tune Love Of My Life, played solo by Marc on the piano, sounds like a bridge from Bohemian Rhapsody, but isn’t.

On with the anthems: Radio Gaga. By now, so are the audience, and the kids are dancing in the aisles. Somebody To Love, and yes, this is when he talks about the YouTube video he posts to respond to the Tribute Band opportunity. I know I mentioned this earlier, but as a writer I have licence ok? But 5 million hits is quite impressive. It’s not just me who thinks he sounds like Freddie.

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We Will Rock You. Because they did. We Are the Champions. Because they were...

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Fantastic light work from Jack the Hooper. Magnificent sound from Jimmy Foster.

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Kinda Magic. But Kinda not. They didn’t play my favourite Queen song.
Bugger.

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Radio 13 thanks and credits Ivan Karczewski for all the photos featured in this article. 

Marc Martel's setlist in Auckland

  1. Tie Your Mother Down
  2. Don’t Stop Me Now
  3. You’re My Best Friend
  4. Killer Queen
  5. Hammer to Fall
  6. Under Pressure
  7. Play the Game
  8. I Want to Break Free
  9. Save Me
  10. Ave Maria
  11. Bohemian Rhapsody
  12. One Vision
  13. I Want It All
  14. Crazy Little Thing Called Love
  15. Fat Bottomed Girls
  16. Another One Bites the Dust
  17. An Astrophysicists Guide to the Galaxy (name I have invented for the guitar solo)
  18. The Show Must Go On
  19. Love of My Life
  20. Radio Ga Ga
  21. Somebody to Love
  22. We will Rock You
  23. We Are the Champions
Written By: Roger Bowie Roger Bowie has been collecting music since 1964, starting with 45 rpm singles, and then building an LP and CD collection from 1970. 1.8 per week since then. Not a vast collection, but eclectic and occasionally obscure. Roger is a big Americana fan, and regularly attends AmericanaFest in Nashville, held every September. Also, he once played golf with Alice Cooper...

What people are saying

  • Jana Jones - 22 days ago

    Glad you loved the UQC show!!! They are an amazing group of guys no doubt!
    I'm equally thrilled you seem to now love my friend (lol feels that way at least, I've met him 3 times after his shows with Black Jacket Symphony) Marc Martel. Talk about God given talent wrapped up in the most HUMBLE person I've been blessed to meet!