By MIKE CHAIKEN
If you talk to JJ Midnight, he makes it clear the choice was a no-brainer.
JJ Midnight, also known as Bristol’s Joe Archambeault, is the lead vocalist of Celebrating Queen, which pays musical tribute to the band… Queen. Celebrating Queen performs this Saturday at the Memorial Boulevard School auditorium on Saturday.
When interviewed via Facebook, Archambeault praised the timeless quality of the music of Queen—which in its heyday was manned by the late vocalist Freddie Mercury, guitarist Brian May, drummer Roger Taylor, and former bassist John Deacon (May and Taylor have been touring with former “American Idol” singer Adam Lambert taking over for Mercury.) “It doesn’t hurt when you write songs like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “We are the Champions,” “Somebody to Love,” Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” “Another One Bites the Dust.” I can go on and on…”
“You can’t even escape a stadium without hearing ‘We Will Rock You’ or ‘We Are The Champions,’” said Archambeault.
“(Queen’s songs) cross all kinds of genres, demographics,” said the lead singer of Celebrating Queen. “Plus, from the musical standpoint of modern music, how do you beat Queen?… Everybody walking the planet knows about Queen… We went to Europe a couple of years ago. I thought Queen was big in America. Now the newer Queen songs are the top stuff in Europe.”
“For 12 years,” said Archambeault, “they were the number one band in the world.
“Move over Beatles, here comes Queen.”
For Archambeault, Queen first came to his attention through their 1974 hit, “Killer Queen.”
“It was on all the radio stations,” said Archambeault. “I had no idea really anything about them except this guy sang like a girl, they had great harmonies… and it was a different kind of sound. It was their own sound. And you could sing along.”
The song still has a hold on Archambeault’s ears. “It was genius. Queen was known for a doing a lot of different types of music. But they had their own sound from the guitar orchestrations to the thick vocals… The music will live forever.”
As for his own take on the sounds of that British band, Archambeault said, “Celebrating Queen came together because I decided I was going to put together a great Queen band. A band that would pay tribute to the music of Queen.”
“We didn’t want to get into the impersonation business,” said Archambeault, “besides I look nothing like Freddie and I can’t find a guy who has Brian May’s hair.”
“That’s how we just made a decision to put together a great band that only played theaters, fairs, festivals, and that’s what we have today several years after— Celebrating Queen,” said Archambeault.
The band is now Archambeault, his brother Carl (dubbed CJ Midnight) on “Voicestravarius”; Jamie Moses, who played with Queen, on guitars and vocals; Tommy Williams, who played with the Hooters, on guitar, keyboards, and vocals; Shawn Fitzgerald on guitar and vocals; Chris Good on bass and vocals; and John Cappadona on drums and vocals.
When he was thinking of bands to pay tribute to, Archambeault said Queen came to mind because “I happen to have been gifted with this voice that replicates many of the tones and much of the power, and many of the intricacies of Freddie Mercury, right up to the falsetto.”
When Queen was making records and hitting the road, some of the recorded versions of their songs were nearly impossible to recreate on stage. On the band’s live album, “Live Killers,” liner notes explained that for the complicated vocal section in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the band opted to leave the stage as a recording handled that bit.
But, Archambeault said today’s technology has lessened the challenges for the band’s complicated arrangements. “We play some of the songs they never played live,” said Archambeault.
“When you come to the show I promise we’re going to play the hits of Queen. We’re going to put on a show,” said Archambeault.
“If you’re a Queen fan, you will do yourself a favor to see this,” said Archambeaut. “I call this ‘Celebrating Queen, The Extra Extravaganza.”
Celebrating Queen plays the Memorial Boulevard School theater on Saturday, April 11 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $29, $22 for students. Go to TicketLeap.com or visit Barley Vine, Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce, Hamelin & Sons, Edgewood Market, or City True Value Hardware Store for tickets.
Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver.