The music of Queen continues to be nearly as popular today as it was when the original lineup with singer Freddie Mercury toured the world. Beyond the real band’s current team-up with Adam Lambert on vocals, you don’t have to look far to find some kind of production that honors the legendary group.
Leading that charge is Killer Queen, a Queen tribute touring band that aims to cover as much as possible about the band that rose to fame in the 1970s, from the music Queen played right down to the clothes the band members wore.
Singer Patrick Myers has been transforming himself into the iconic Freddie Mercury for nearly 30 years as leader of the successful tribute band, and, if his enthusiasm about his job is any indication, those who see the Killer Queen show Wednesday, July 6 at the Barnstable High School Performing Arts Center in Hyannis are in for a treat.
“What we do is a party, it’s a celebration,” says Myers on the phone from the United Kingdom. “It’s a rip-roaring fun time for everybody so we can all get together, put our phones away, and sing these amazing songs.”
The Hyannis concert is a benefit for Independence House and Cape Cod Synagogue after the band’s 2019 performance for the same causes sold out the 1,400-seat venue. Funds will go to Independence House’ direct services for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, and the synagogue’s free programming to help their members and the larger community, including social justice efforts, according to the organizations.
A tribute fit for a Queen
Almost three decades in, Killer Queen has earned a reputation forbeing a premier Queen tribute band, having performed around the world and on many of the same stages as the original group. It’s a passion project for Myers and all involved, one that was born of love and mourning from a life-changing occurrence.
Myers first got together with the rest of the band members when they were all students at the University of London, where he discovered his new friends shared two things in common.
“We’re just exchanging musical ground with each other and the common denominator with everybody was (fans of) Queen,” Myers says. The other “common denominator” was that they all wanted to see Queen on the band’s most recent tour at the time but had missed out.
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“We all chuckled about it because at the time Freddie was still alive and Queen was going to tour again at some point but just hadn’t yet for some reason,” Myers says. “This was 1991 and we were just blissfully ignorant about what the actual situation was, and (didn’t know) that Queen would never tour again with Freddie and that Freddie was weeks away from death.”
When the news broke that Mercury died, it hit Myers and his friends on multiple levels during what was a transformative time for them.
“We were just at a loss, we couldn’t believe it,” Myers says. “Our lives had changed so much just by moving away (to school) and then this thing that was like a bedrock of all our childhoods that we had in common was just destroyed.”
Not knowing that Mercury had been sick added to the grief for Myers, who loved Queen as a child and performed their songs on guitar in school assemblies. In his younger days, he had already started practicing being Mercury, mimicking the singer and putting it on a tape recorder.
Myers remembers walking through the residence halls at school following Mercury’s death and hearing everyone playing Queen songs. “We were all collectively mourning together, and that’s sort of how it started,” he says about the origin of Killer Queen.
Myers and his bandmates approached creating Killer Queen with the mindset of putting together what they would have liked to have seen at a live Queen show had any of them ever gone to one. They even got in touch with Freddie Mercury’s costume designer Natasha Korniloff, paying her a visit in South London.
“We had tea and talked about Freddie,” Myers says. He dismissed the idea that the visit was research and instead described it as a “mission” and a “labor of love.”
“We just felt very driven that we’ve got to do this, and we’ve got to do it right,” he says.
First gig and ‘a million yeses’
Despite their best efforts and practice, Myers admits that at the time the members of his young band “didn’t know how to get a gig.”
That all changed at the University of London’s annual “grand ball, a Cinderella-type thing” as Myers calls it. Usually, the school would hire a major artist to headline the show, but because it lost its entertainment license that year, it wasn’t allowed to host a professional band. Student bands, however, didn’t apply to this rule.
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Myers and Killer Queen, ready and waiting for a show to perform, jumped at the opportunity when asked.
“That was the first of a million yeses,” says Myers. There was plenty of trepidation, though, with that being their first concert and being what he considers likely the first tribute band anyone there in attendance had seen up to that point.
“‘Are they going to throw vegetables at us? Is this going to be humiliating or something else?’” Myers says he remembers wondering. “It was completely something else. What swept me off my feet was the wave of love and excitement and euphoria that filled the hall from the moment I set foot on stage because everyone wanted to see a Queen concert. They were all the same exact age as us and they might’ve all missed out (as well). We were all in that same situation of feeling that loss but wanting to celebrate, wanting to have that rite of passage of seeing Queen.”
Killer Queen was offered a tour that same night, based on that one performance, and Myers hasn’t looked back since.
“I’d been in bands and never had an experience like that before,” Myers says. “It was highly addictive and I wanted more of it.”
So just how does one become Freddie Mercury? For Myers, it started with growing facial hair and realizing he kind of looked like the singer if he “held (his) face a certain way.”
And even after all this time, there are still new things Myers picks up on when watching videos of Mercury performing.
“What you do is you just absorb them and then you don’t think about them,” he says. “You just let them come through the music. You just let it happen, flow through you.”
As for channeling Mercury’s standout voice, Myers says he will go through a series of vocal warmups throughout the day leading up to showtime – what he describes as “very basic things.”
There is more to simply rehashing these popular tunes, though. Myers suggests that a sense of understanding exactly what they are about and the emotion in them is just as important to the performance.
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“I see songs like architecture that you walk into with features and surprises and trap doors and light that comes in,” he says. “For me, it’s like exploring, like going on a mind map, when you do these songs and go through a set. These rooms are full of emotion and are not just passive things, not just static visuals. They’re rooms that have three dimensions and emotions in them. They’re sort of like magic rooms.”
Still a fan
For Myers, getting to play the music of Queen is a dream come true. Add to it that he’s played on many of the same stages as Queen – including Forest National arena in Belgiumand Wembley Arena in London — and the experiences take on a “pinch-me moment.”
“There are certain things where I can’t believe my life. I can’t believe what’s happened,” he says. “That’s what it’s like.”
It’s clearly a privilege for Myers, who still gushes about Queen when asked what it is he loves about the music. He recently saw the surviving members playing with Adam Lambert and describes the experience as “beautiful.”
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“If you listen to Queen in detail, and see how much they put into each record and how amazing their attention to detail is, it’s jaw-dropping,” Myers says. “The more you listen to them, the more you get out of it. It never diminishes, it only augments and it’s just lovely.”
Myers isn’t sure what tribute bands will look like in the future, speculating that maybe holograms of dead artists will replace their living doppelgängers. Either way, he says, he has been able to live a dream most don’t ever get a chance to and will continue to do so for as long as he can.
“I’m so pleased that I got to be here and share these songs with an audience live and have all that fun and travel the world,” he says. “It has been lovely and a total surprise.”
To see Killer Queen
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 6
Where: Barnstable High School Performing Arts Center, 744 W. Main St., Hyannis
Tickets: $45 advance, $55 at door
Reservations and information: https://killer-queen-cape-cod.brownpapertickets.com/; at the offices of Independence House at 160 Bassett Lane, Hyannis and Cape Cod Synagogue at 145 Winter St., Hyannis; and, on the day of the show, at Barnstable PAC’s box office at 744 West Main St., Hyannis