The show may have been at the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox, and members of the Spokane Symphony may have been on stage, but what transpired on Friday night was not an orchestral event.
It was a rock concert. A rock concert dedicated to the music of Queen, complete with wailing guitars, audience sing-alongs and a light show.
A five-piece ensemble of musicians from Windborne Music, fronted by vocalist Brody Dolyniuk and featuring Dan Clemens (bass), George Cintron (guitar), Justin Avery (keyboard) and Powell Randolph (drums), took a close-to-full house on a trip through the Queen catalog. Conductor Martin Herman guided the symphony as it helped fill out the sounds made famous by Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon.
“The Music of Queen: A Rock Symphony” was a highly energetic evening that brought rock fans to the symphony.
One of the great things about Queen is that there really is no typical Queen song. The band wrote in a variety of styles in their years together, so you get the torch-y vibe of “My Melancholy Blues” and the 1950s rocker “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” standing alongside the operatic exuberance of “Bohemian Rhapsody” and the straight-up disco hit “Another One Bites the Dust.”
The Windborne band did not don costumes to play their musical counterparts, but they all did an excellent job of reproducing the Queen sound on stage. And, of course, Dolyniuk had the biggest challenge – evoking the voice of one of the greatest rock singers of all time.
He was up to the challenge, too. Dolyniuk showed good command of Mercury’s iconic singing style and vocal range. From the opening numbers, the 1976 single “Tie Your Mother Down,” and 1980’s “Play the Game,” it was clear that Dolyniuk was going to do Freddie proud.
Favorite numbers? It all sounded good. I was thrilled to hear “Under Pressure,” and thought bassist Clemens did a good take on David Bowie’s vocal part. For “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” Dolyniuk pulled a woman (who may have had a drink or two beforehand) from the audience on stage to “conduct.” “Fat Bottomed Girls,” which opened the second set, was fun and raucous, as was “Hammer to Fall.” And “Bohemian Rhapsody” was everything you’d expect.
In its supporting role, the musicians of the Spokane Symphony performed beautifully. They added depth to the power ballad “Too Much Love Will Kill You.” Symphony bassoonist Paul Plowman picked up a saxophone to play a solo in “My Melancholy Blues,” while principal percussionist Paul Raymond endured a bit of ribbing from Dolyniuk for not hitting the gong hard enough at the end of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
It was all part of a loose night, with Dolyniuk taking on a classic frontman role, egging on the crowd, befriending kids in the front row and frequently stopping to thank the symphony musicians for their hard work.
A note on the sound system. Friday night’s show was the first public performance using the Fox Theater’s new Meyer Leopard sound system, purchased through a generous and anonymous gift. For the show’s first half, it seemed that Dolyniuk’s mic was too soft, as his vocals at times were overpowered by the dozens of musicians playing behind him. That said, by the second half, that problem had been fixed and the rest of the show was flawless, save for a couple moments of distortion during “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I’ll chalk it up to first-night jitters, and look forward to hearing something great at the Fox soon.
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