Brian Gresh (left) and Tristan Avakian get extravagant.(photo by Jimmy Leslie) Ever
since I first heard about the auditions for the Queen Extravaganza, a
Queen-sanctioned tribute band whose players were selected by Roger
Taylor himself, I’ve been anxious to catch the show. I got my chance
last night when the Extravaganza rolled into SF to play the Regency. I
showed up early, got a great parking spot, and had walked about half a
block down the street when I heard the strange sound of a runaway
dumpster careening into my car, obliterating my driver’s side mirror.
Great. I’m not exactly in love with my car, but you wouldn’t wish this
on any vehicle. Oh yeah...the gig.
So, I get inside and meet the two guitarists of the band, Brian Gresh
and Tristan Avakian. They graciously filmed some video, answering
questions about their gear and the setlist. Tristan even let me try his
rig, which consists of a BMG signature guitar, a Greg Fryer Treble
Booster, a Tech 21 Boost Chorus, TC Flanger, and Xotic RC Booster, all
into a Vox AC30 that he says is up “about 80%.” Brian "Backflip" Gresh
plays an EVH guitar as well as a Strat, because he was unable to obtain a
lefty Brian May model.
The full band took the stage and opened with the fast version of “We
Will Rock You,” and I instantly recognize the first singer as one Jeff
Scott Soto, whom you might remember from such gigs as Yngwie J.
Malmsteen and Journey. He’s a great rock singer and killed the tune.
Avakian and Gresh sounded great, with nice tones and sweet solos that
struck a nice balance between note-for-note Brian May parts and their
own things. One thing both guitarists were able to nail in impressive
fashion is the trademark Brian May vibrato, not an easy feat. That
maintained a proper level of Queeniness even when they were improvising
The set, not surprisingly, is
chock-full of hits, and those were all awesome. “Killer Queen,” with the
incredible Marc Martel on lead vocals, was a beauty, with Gresh and
Avakian creating the guitar solo harmonies and counterpoint in real
time.A slightly truncated version of “Save Me” was huge and powerful, as
was “I Want It All.” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which they used to close the
first set, was a stunning, jaw-dropping show stopper. The guitars were
amazing and spot on, but the vocal arrangement was out of this world and
far beyond anything the real Queen ever attempted in concert.
The hits were all great, but the few surprises they threw in were super
cool. “Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon” was a delight, with the guitar guys
nailing the tight, harmonized solo. “The March of the Black Queen” was
heavy and dark, and “In the Lap of the Gods” was majestic.
I absolutely recommend this show to anyone who has ever heard Queen,
which is everyone. This is a huge undertaking that shows a tremendous
amount of respect for the material, massive musicianship, and great
showmanship. It’s a jollification as a matter of fact, so tres charmant,
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