By Joe Sweeney
NEWS CONTRIBUTING REVIEWER
In symphony orchestras’ never-ending quest to connect with mainstream audiences, they tend to lean on two things –movies and classic rock.
And while film scorethemed concerts are a great way to get people to feel the power of a live orchestra and ideally realize they might dig classical music after all, it’s the rock tribute nights that get everybody cheering the loudest.
This point was proven with authority on Saturday night in Kleinhans Music Hall, where the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra treated a big, happy crowd to “The Music of Queen.” By taking on a canon of material that’s already one of the most joyful and majestic in rock history, the BPO was able to give a performance that was organic and true — their symphonic muscle was a natural fit for these songs.
But no matter how clever the orchestral arrangements, a tribute to Queen would fall on its face without a great band and an even greater singer. Luckily, this show contained the necessary ingredients, thanks to guest conductor Brent Havens, singer Brody Dolynuik and a four-piece band that made replicating Queen’s challenging oeuvre look easy.
Opening with the incendiary, chugging riffage of “Tie Your Mother Down,” the band threatened to drown out the
BPO early on — I saw bows moving back and forth, and that’s about it. But from that point forward, the mix stopped being an issue. The next tune was “Play the Game,” one of Freddie Mercury’s most simplistically beautiful creations. Hearing the strings swell over the song’s glorious melody was truly something to experience.
Dolynuik held his own on “Play The Game,” never trying to ape Mercury’s otherworldly voice, just hitting all the notes with energy and grace. On later tunes, like the supremely tough “Somebody To Love,” and the prog-rock Holy Grail that is “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Dolynuik didn’t disappoint, getting all the inflections right and letting the band do its thing. He’s not an acrobatic vocal genius, but he served his purpose — something that’s a lot harder than it sounds.
As this stage crammed with musicians kept setting up Queen songs and knocking them down — “Under Pressure,” “You’re My Best Friend,” “The Show Must Go On,” the pretty, Tom Waits-ish “Melancholy Blues,” a torrid “Stone Cold Crazy” — the feeling was one of supreme respect for the artist being feted.
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
“The Music of Queen” on Saturday night in Kleinhans Music Hall. link