Freddie Mercury’s former assistant Peter Freestone says the singer would be astonished that musicians are performing tributes to Queen more than two decades after his death.
“I think he would be amazed that people thought he was good enough to copy,” says Freestone, who is in Australia as a consultant for the touring production Queen – It’s a Kinda Magic.
“He had two people on a pedestal – Elvis Presley and John Lennon. They were two people he thought worthy of really sincere regard and he never equated himself with them.”
Freestone was running the wardrobe department of England’s Royal Ballet when he met Mercury in 1977 and he began working for Queen two years later, travelling with Mercury as his personal assistant from 1980 until his death in 1991.
While the charismatic frontman was known for his powerful voice and flamboyant performances, Freestone says that off stage, he was quiet and much less confident: “He could not walk into a room of strangers on his own.”
Freestone’s experience with Queen, and the fact that he saw so many of their live shows, saw him employed as a consultant when the first It’s a Kinda Magic show was produced around 10 years ago, and then he was brought on board again for the new version, which will play at the Adelaide Festival Centre next week.
It’s a Kinda Magic, which stars singer and pianist Giles Taylor as Freddie Mercury, is based on Queen’s 1986 We Will Rock You tour, but also features popular songs that were recorded afterwards, as well as some that were never performed live. The track list includes hits such as “Killer Queen”, “We Will Rock You”, “I Want It All” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”.
Freestone says Taylor is excellent as Mercury.
“Just with a look, just with a twist of the head, he has the audience cheering – for me, that is very, very impressive, because other than him it was only Freddie I knew who could do that.”
He says Mercury always believed a rock show should be a big performance, not just “four guys going on in jeans and singing their songs”.
“It didn’t matter if there were a thousand people in the audience or 249,000 in the audience, like there was in Rio, every person in that audience could believe he was singing to them.”
Part of Freestone’s role is to ensure the authenticity of the tribute performance, including details such as the gestures and movements of the individual musicians: Taylor as Mercury, Richie Baker as guitar player Brian May, James Childs as bass player John Deacon, and Kyle Thompson as drummer Roger Taylor.
“For me this show has to revive memories in people who actually saw Queen performing with Freddie and also to show the younger generation, who never had that chance, what us oldies are going on about.”
Queen – It’s a Kinda Magic will play at the Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, on October 1.
Your support will help us continue the important work of InReview in publishing free professional journalism that celebrates, interrogates and amplifies arts and culture in South Australia.Donate Here