Added on 19-Jul-2007
by Daniel Zugna - July 19 2007
'Queen: It's A Kinda Magic' is more than just a tribute show.
With the kind of painstaking attention to detail that crosses the border into obsessiveness, Craig Pesco has helped create the closest experience possible to a real Queen live performance. He's even got prosthetic teeth.
Here's the first part of our conversation with Pesco, who plays Mercury in the lavish travelling production, which is travelling across Australian cities and regional centres until the end of August. Apparently you're the best Freddie Mercury impersonator in the world, is this correct?
Ha, I don't know if that's for me to say. As far as Peter Freestone (Freddie's former personal assistant) is concerned, that's the case. But 'Freddie impersonator' isn't a term we like to use, Queen was always about the four of them. What we do is a theatrical recreation of a Queen concert.
One word that pops up regularly in describing Freddie – and I've heard Brian May himself say it himself – is 'inimitable'. Why take on this role?
For me, it was a passion thing. The amount of shows we do a year, you couldn't do it if you didn't love it. When Freddie passed away in 1991, I became a massive Queen fan. I was a rock singer at the time, and was heavily influenced by him. The opportunity for me to play this role came up about six-and-a-half years ago, and my one condition was that it was going to be big scale. Queen was always over-the-top, they're remembered for their massive shows, and if we were going to do it, that's the way it was going to be. Last year we did ten months through Europe, we've been to North America four times. The show is always changing, with new songs and new outfits, and it's still growing.
You're keen to point out that this isn't just a tribute show. I guess the difference is in the detail?
That's true. I mean, in the UK there are 20 guys running around in yellow jackets playing Freddie Mercury at your party. For me, it's gotta be more than that. What we try to do is recreate the atmosphere of a Queen concert, and have people come in and have no idea that the production is so big. The four of us hit the stage, and people's mouths drop at the similarity, musically and physically. Somewhere along the line, the illusion works, and people are back at a Queen concert.
Do you generally base the show on the Magic Tour shows?
We did initially, but now we've got a couple of guys from the UK who worked with Queen in their later years. What we've got now is something closer to 'Queen On Fire at The Bowl', using that Roger Taylor drumkit (the one with his face on it), using that light show. I've just got the 'Hammer To Fall' outfit, which has got the lightning bolt wrapped around the white, and a new black leather outfit, as well as the Freddie white jacket, which was the alternative to the yellow jacket used on the Magic Tour. We've also introduced a bunch of songs that we've never done before, 'Seven Seas Of Rhye', 'Play The Game', 'In The Lap Of The Gods', and heaps more. It's been a great year for us, and it's always refreshing to come back to Australia, bring some new material and try and take it to another level.
Can you tell us a little bit about these small details, the kind of things you look at to make this a close to the real thing as possible?
The teeth! That's something we've never had up until now. We want to get it closer and closer to the essence of what it was about. Brian's guitar solos now are, to the second, an exact copy of the original. My look with the teeth, and the different sorts of makeup we're using now with prosthetics … I mean, we want to take it further than what people think it's gonna be, we wanna have people be surprised, we want people to get a thrill about what's happening up there.
You don't get your John Deacon to wear those short shorts do you, that'd be a bit cruel?!
We have done, we did it in Europe, we thought in Europe it's gonna work. He actually wanted to! We did 24 shows in a row in Barcelona last year, sold out every one. The crowd was so enthusiastic so we thought we've gotta give back something, because they're more powerful than us, they're so hyped. So out come the yellow shorts – they're the big guns, y'know? And we did whatever else we could do to give them more, because they were just so enthusiastic. Queen spent a lot of time over that way during the 80s, so I guess that's where it's coming from. It was a learning experience for us, because it h