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Monday, March 15,2010

King of Queen

Gary Mullen will rock you in a tribute to the late Freddie Mercury

by Luke Allen Hackney

Not everyone sounds like Queen's Freddie Mercury — and, of those that do, only Gary Mullen has managed to make a career of it.


"One Night of Queen," coming to the Wharton Center on Monday, March 22, is a two-hour tribute to the arena rockers best known for "Bohemian Rhapsody," "Another One Bites the Dust," "We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions" and "Somebody to Love." The show has traveled the world, thanks to a television appearance Mullen made a decade ago. Up until that point, he said he had a pretty "normal life."


In his teens in his hometown of Glasgow, Scotland, Mullen said he had stars in his eyes. But forming bands here and there with the local youth never really panned out.


"We'd get together and think, 'Yeah, let's be rock stars,'" said Mullen. "But then you get married and have kids."


Mullen would occasionally sing karaoke in the pubs as a lark, but never thought much of it. 


Thankfully for him, his wife and mother did.


One day Mullen received a phone call asking him to be on "Stars in Their Eyes," a wildly popular British television program that was a lot like "American Idol" — if those people mimicked their favorite singers, costume and all. It had been secretly arranged by Mullen's wife and mom; Mullen's role model was, of course, Mercury.


Winning that season of "Stars" in 2000 changed Mullen's life forever. He set an all-time record number of votes cast on the show, polling 864,838 votes in the live grand season finale.


This allowed him to hit the road, initially touring by his lonesome and accompanied by backing tracks. As he got bigger, the band got bigger. He formed The Works, a five-piece band consisting of himself, Davie Brockett, Billy Moffat, Martin Campbell and Jonathan Evans. Campbell was eventually replaced by Malcolm Gentle.


The band pulls out all the stops in mimicking Queen; the light shows, the mannerisms, even the costumes. "It's something I got stuck with," he said about the latter. 


He is careful to not this is not a "parody" of the band in any way. He is very serious about giving the audience what they want while, as he said, "paying tribute to my heroes." 


In Mullen's mind they are a "rock band," one that just plays other people's material. Their tour schedule would say this is true: They are typically on the road for a 10 months out of the year, with only a few weeks for breaks here and there. Mullen estimates in its seven years, the band has played somewhere between 150 and 170 shows per year.


Following his stint on television, when he first started imitating Mercury on stage, he had a plan.


"I thought to myself, 'I'll do it for a year and see what happens,'" Mullens said.






"One Night of Queen"


 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 22


$22-$42


(800) WHARTON


www.whartoncenter.com



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