Essential Queen is a Minnesota-based Queen tribute band. They were opening for Queensryche at the Medina Ballroom, so I asked their guitar player (a friend of mine) if he could get me in. I had seen shows at the Medina before, and felt it would be an excellent venue for images.
The music for this page is “Greatest Hits” by Queen. Wow, didn’t see THAT one coming, did you? I am not the biggest fan of Queen, but like ’em, love ’em or hate ’em, they were an awesome musical force, and their spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is well earned.
[A quick side note on that CD. Back in the mid-80’s when I got it, I probably loaned it out more times than any CD that I had. It was a Japanese import and not only had excellent sound quality, it also had some bonus tracks that the USA version didn’t.]
Before the show began, the Medina Ballroom security had issues with me. At one point I was confronted by 3 of them (!)…must have been the Hell’s Angels outfit I had on (uh…..no). They were all over my photo backpack; they didn’t seem to appreciate the benefits of it as I do. Eventually all was squared away but I have no idea why they gave me such scrutiny; after all, I was on the Guest List as the “photographer”, for cryin’ out-loud…more about them later.
Once past security, John (Essential Queen’s guitar player) gave me a Crew Credentials Pass, so I was able to go pretty much anywhere. This was taken behind the stage before the band came on (love seeing those Marshall heads). A rather sharp image for hand-held at 1/15 of a second.
Then it was show time, but I had more issues. The lighting wasn’t as good as I recalled, so it was ISO 6400 time (yuck). Worse yet, was the seating arrangement. In past shows, the Medina had tables set up all around, so I planned on placing myself low, between the front-row tables and the stage. Not the case here; they set up a mosh-pit, and all the front areas were jammed with people. There was no way to get to center-stage. I had to shoot from the sides; disappointing, but it was all I could do.
Steve (lead singer Freddie Mercury), belting out some vocals. He has an amazing range, and can sing pretty much anything. You should hear him sing “Ah Leah” by Donnie Iris…he hits the high notes perfectly…
Here is Jim (bassist John Deacon). He also plays keyboards, guitar, and does back-up vocals. Pretty darned talented guy! He was difficult to shoot because of the crowd; tough to get access to him. This is the first of many monochrome images you will see.
John (guitarist Brian May) with a Fender Stratocaster in hands. He is yet another gifted musician in this power line-up.
Chris (drummer Roger Taylor), keeping up his end of the rhythm section, and also providing background vocals.
John asked me to focus on Steve, so a majority of my images are of him; shown here with the classic Freddie Mercury yellow jacket.
Ever the showman, and a true pro, Steve studied Freddie Mercury’s stage behavior so he can give the best possible performance.
John with a “road-worn” Stratoblaster; a pretty cool guitar. Note the “Royalty” (of Rock) cabinets in the background. Monochrome is the choice here, as it gives a sharper image, and the color version was a bit over-saturated (because of the colored stage lights). Plus, I like the vintage appearance this delivers.
One positive about this shoot is the lighting remained rather consistent, so I shot in Manual and kept pretty much the same settings.
Shooting a live band indoors is hard. You pretty much have to “spray and pray”, and I did a lot of that, shooting about 500 images during their 1 hour set. 150 of those were deleted right away. This shot of Chris had good lighting, so it’s a keeper.
Steve giving his all. The lighting worked out well; colored lighting would have wrecked the shot.
Look! It’s Brian May! The original shot here was in red, but I shifted it in post-processing to this much cooler blue.
The best I could get for a full band image. I really wanted a wide-angle shot of Essential Queen, but there was no way to do that without fighting the pit. That wasn’t going to happen. Maybe I should have worn Hell’s Angels attire?
I am rather bummed I have so few shots of Jim. He is not only an excellent musician, but a super-cool guy. In 2007, he allowed me to shoot a scene for a video I was making using multiple musical instruments at his home.
No, I am not up on stage. I refused to do that. The photographer is not supposed to be part of the show. This was taken behind the stage.
Easily my favorite image of the shoot. I believe it was during “Another One Bites the Dust”, but I cannot recall. It was tough to enjoy the performance and get the shots.
This is not the same image as above; it was taken during a different part of the same song. I also like this image, a lot. Please note my ever-changing focal lengths; my Tamron was given a work-out.
“My guitar won’t play!” Actually, that really happened! John had a different Strat go dead on stage, during a song. He suspects it was a kill-switch that possibly had a wire break loose.
That wasn’t the only misfire. While backstage, I leaned up against a wall and accidentally turned on some ambient house lights. Oy. Yeah, I got barked at for that one. The band didn’t care at all; it was the Medina staff, on me again.
Another winner of Steve, this taken from behind the stage…really! He turned to the side and I got this wonderful profile shot of him. Gosh, he sure looks like Freddie Mercury here, doesn’t he?
Backstage after the show, a good look at John’s “Red Special” guitar. The original was hand-built by Brian May and his Dad, and this guitar was also custom-made. Sadly, I didn’t get any shots of John playing it.
Show’s over….tear down time…Steve’s Freddie Mercury jacket; a nice closing shot.
Afterwards, we stayed for the headliner; Queensryche. I was told by the Medina staff that no photographs were allowed, and given what I had already dealt with, I decided it wasn’t worth pushing the issue. I saw several people getting images of Queensryche with their Iphones (one even had a tablet in the air), and they were never approached by the Medina staff…not once. Shaking my head here…
However, my main focus for this event was to get images of Essential Queen, and that’s what I did. I thank John, Jim, Steve and Chris for their hospitality, enthusiasm, and their great performance!
all images © Scott Woelm – October 2014