On February 25th, 2016 I went to the National Arts Centre for We Are The Champions; The Music Of Queen. It was part of their annual Pops series and despite the title of the show I knew exactly what I was in for, and it wasn’t the stuff of champions. This was another in an endless string of concerts featuring a guest conductor presiding over the wonderful National Arts Centre Orchestra and a group of highly trained touring vocalists who take turns at the featured artist’s material.
I’ve seen a bunch of these sorts of concerts at the NAC. The Led Zeppelin one was actually pretty rockin’, mainly because Zeppelin has a whole lot of cool orchestra parts in their songs anyway and it was great to hear all of those orchestrated pieces played live. The Motown Christmas show was great too, but I find that when they give an artist I really respect the Muzak treatment my interest in the show tends to plummet. And this was such a concert.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the orchestra. They’re great players, they’re great people, and they play amazingly well together. But standing in front of them was one Broadway-style singer after another, each with a soaring voice and flailing vibrato, shiny eyes and a Hollywood smile…”I want to ride my bicyclllllllle!!!!!” And with my seat in the second row there was nowhere to hide.
Late in the first set one of the vocalists descended into the crowd, walking amongst the first couple of rows while belting out a ballad. I can’t remember what tune it was, but I’m sure it made my eyes roll. Anyway, dude was singing right into people’s faces, and he got as close as the seat next to mine. If he had looked me in the eyes and fed me a beautiful Freddie Mercury line with the vacant emotion of a TV show contestant, well, I really don’t know what I would have done.
I got out of there at setbreak.