A good time to be Queen: Nation’s top tribute band plays Anchorage Friday night

The 2018 release of the film ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, a biopic about legendary Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, was a roaring success both critically and at the box office.

Among the beneficiaries of this reexamination of the 70s and 80s band that established stadium rock and operatic styles in rock is Queen Nation, America’s premier Queen tribute band, which visits Alaska for a pair of shows this weekend, Friday night at the Alaska Native Heritage Center on Friday and the Tanana Valley Fair on Saturday.

“I was excited to see it when it was finally coming out,” said Gregory Finsley, the Freddie Mercury of Queen Nation. “We cried, we laughed, it was the best time, so emotional. I gave it a B-plus because there were some chronological issues that didn’t work out and there were a few people left out. I’ve seen it three or four times since then.”

Finsley said the release of the movie has certainly added to demand for his group, but it had been on the rise in recent years anyway.

“It’s timeless music that’s going into retro” Finsley said. “We had 107 shows last year and amped it up to 139 shows this year, which is 3 to 4 shows every week — a very tall order. The movie has done well for us. There’s a lot of retro kids and teens wearing Queen shirts, people wearing moustaches. It’s overwhelming and we enjoy it. Our show is all ages and we play parks and casinos and private parties. It’s been a real blessing, but (Queen’s) music is timeless like Fats Domino, Ray Charles — you’ll always know them.”

For Finsley, it was appropriate, maybe pre-ordained that if he was going to be part of a tribute band it would be a Queen tribute band.

Growing up in the Dallas area, 11-year-old Gregory Finsley saw Queen live in Fort Worth and was instantly hooked on the dream of becoming a rock star like Freddie Mercury.

“He was dressed in a diamond coat, no leather, no moustache, he was just this rock Superman guy,” Finsely recalled. “I was playing drums and singing as an 11 year old and I was overwhelmed. Wow! This is what a rock concert is.”

After pursuing a musical career in the French Quarter and making ends meet as a private gardner, Finsley ended up back in Dallas where he worked in a music shop.

“Brian Harris, an amazing guitar player heard me singing ‘Somebody to Love’ and he thought it was the radio and he thought we should put together a tribute band called ‘Queen for a Day’. God almighty, I never thought anyone would want to do that,” Finsley said. “We played in Downtown Dallas and blew the doors off of places.”

Finsley’s cousin, a set designer in Los Angeles caught wind of a Queen cover band forming there that was in need of a singer. “They busted me out an email and said we’d like to send you out to the Napa Valley Fair,” Finsley said. That was in 2007, and Finsley has portrayed Freddie Mercury for Queen Nation ever since.

“It’s a great occupation — I don’t even consider it a job,” Finsley said. “We just had one of our best shows in a long time with 6,000 people and just two weeks ago had 12,500 in Manhattan Beach. They had to call in extra security; it was a great show.”

Finsley said there are a number of prominent Queen cover bands in the U.K. and Europe, but stateside, his band doesn’t face a lot of competition at the top of the heat.

“There’s a couple — Killer Queens, a band of all girls in San Francisco and Almost Queen, in the New York area,” Finsley said. “We’re super-busy so we don’t worry too much about other people — in England and Europe there are a lot of tribute bands, but it’s kind of like in Texas you’ll see Stevie Ray Vaughn and ZZ Top bands.”

Mercury was so known for wearing a panacea of different costumes on change, a part of capturing the artist that can be challenging.

“Costuming is great if you have set changes,” Finsley said. “But sometimes we’ll have shows that are 60 minutes, sometimes 90 minutes, but if you can get two sets that’s best. I like to go with the diamond coat or black, slick leather with knee pads and leather jackets — I sport the leather hat and change out as much as I can… that’s what helps the variety.”

Finsley assures that whether fans grew up with the music of Queen, or recently came on board with the mass popularity infusion of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, they’re guaranteed a great rock show.

“I think if they really liked Queen — not just the ‘boom-clap-boom’ ‘We Are the Champions’ or ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ but also some of the B side songs, they’re going to like it,” he said. “We’re all ages, user-friendly for all those people out there. We really do try to bring the attitude and the nuance of the sound with the twisting, twirling half-mic stand to portray this iconic band… We really want to party; we’re people-people and we gravitate toward that. We love it when people sing — even if they’re not on key, just sing. The interaction with the crowd is priceless and we feed on that energy.”

Queen Nation Playlist

1. Another One Bites The Dust

2. Bohemian Rhapsody

3. We Will Rock You

4. We Are The Champions

5. You’re My Best Friend

6. Under Pressure

7. Crazy Little Thing Called Love

8. Fat Bottomed Girls

9. Love of My Life

10. Now I’m Here

11. Killer Queen

12. Bicycle Race

13. Play The Game

14. Tie Your Mother Down

15. Stone Cold Crazy

16. Keep Yourself Alive

17. We Will Rock You (fast version)

18. Don’t Stop Me Now

19. Dragon Attack

20. Somebody To Love

21. I’m In Love With My Car

22. I Want To Break Free

23. Death On Two Legs

24. Spread Your Wings

25. Get Down Make Love

26. Show Must Go On

27. Let Me Entertain You

28. Save Me

29. Radio Gaga

Thanks Matt Hickman and Anchorage Press for the Interview!

Dave Walser

Dave Walser Combines His Two Musical Loves, the Beatles and Bluegrass, Into One Band

For 9-year-old Dave Walser, the inspiration that would propel him through the next 55 years seemed to strike out of nowhere. As a boy living in West Texas, Walser was still learning to play the guitar but had mainly been learning the traditional folk and bluegrass songs his parents and grandparents loved. Rock ‘n’ roll, still in its infancy, wasn’t on his musical radar.

Until Sunday, February 9, 1964, that is. Along with a reported 73 million other Ed Sullivan Show viewers who watched the Beatles’ performance that night, young Dave came down with an incurable case of Beatlemania.

“I didn’t know who the Beatles were at that point, I had never heard of them,” Walser, the leader of Dallas-based Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Bluegrass Band, says over the phone. “Out of nowhere, my mom said, ‘Dave, come in here and hear the Beatles play,’ which was the weirdest thing for me to hear my mom say, because, again, I didn’t even know there was a band named the Beatles.”  read on…

Michael Firestone - Photo by Udi Mozni

‘I AM KING: The Michael Jackson Experience’ stars Michael Firestone at Palace Danbury

Singing like the late Michael Jackson is a feat in itself, between his impressive falsetto, distinctive vocal “hiccups” and versatility. But Michael Firestone does that and more — he delivers Jackson’s hits while also performing his killer dance moves. It’s a combination that’s taken him around the world.

Even though he’s lost his voice at times because of too many back-to-back shows, and injured his knees on stage floors that weren’t as smooth as they should be, Firestone says he wouldn’t have it any other way. The father of three, who lives in Las Vegas, says the crowds make it all worthwhile.

He and his band and dancers have performed for millions. They bring “I AM KING: The Michael Jackson Experience,” to the Palace Danbury on Thursday, Aug. 8. “We usually do a one and a half-hour show and try to squeeze in as many of his iconic songs as we can,” he said in a phone chat.

There are 22 costume changes during this production. He said, “The buckles are the hardest because they can get stuck.” Firestone also said everyone onstage with him is a huge fan of Jackson’s artistry. Songs such as “Human Nature,” “Beat It” and “Thriller” always get a huge reaction.

Firestone is an acclaimed performer. He was chosen as one of two official impersonators for the Michael Jackson Laser Spectacular shows in theaters and casinos all over the United States and Canada.

Our interview took place shortly before his recent series of dates in Israel. “When we have five or six shows in a row, by the seventh night, vocally, that’s a little challenging,” he said. “I drink tea all day long. I drink tea with honey and lemon.”

Protecting his knees while dancing is also a challenge. “Just one little move can do it if a stage nail has lifted up; if you catch it when you’re sliding, that can kill your knee. I try to look over the stage and put an ‘X’ on it (where it may be dangerous).”

Firestone has perfected his moonwalking. He runs and bikes for stamina. The main thing is keeping his voice in shape for all of that singing, not to mention those high-pitched squeals — “Whoo!”

“I have done super long runs for seven months at a time and never had one day off. One night my voice went out completely and I asked the crowd, ‘Do you want your money back, or do you want to sing for me?’ They sang and I just danced.”

Jackson died at 50 on June 25, 2009. Firestone said it’s clear his fans miss him. “They’re so supportive; they cry and sing with me.” He said those fans are the greatest, but he’s certainly aware there are many who no longer revere Jackson because of the sexual abuse allegations against him.

Firestone met the King of Pop briefly once, when he handed him a tape and a business card. He said Jackson called later and they wound up speaking several times afterward, including when Jackson was rehearsing for his comeback tour.

It was a tour many had anxiously awaited. When Firestone performs, he tries to be as authentic as possible. His intention is to bring fans back to the years Jackson was at his best. “That’s what I hope to do every night,” he said.

lkoonz@newstimes.com; Twitter: @LindaTKoonz – Link to Original Article

Michael Jackson Tribute Show

Man in the Mirror Arrives in Israel

Michael Jackson’s name and legacy have been further tarnished in recent days following the allegations of sexual abuse of minors revealed in the Sundance Film Festival entry Leaving Neverland.

But that hasn’t seemed to affect Jackson’s popularity in Israel. It was all cheers and adulation on Monday night when the I Am King Michael Jackson review from Las Vegas made a stop on its month-long tour of the country in Ma’aleh Adumim.

The near-sellout crowd treated singer/dancer Michael Firestone and his glitzy, entertaining revue as if he were the king of pop, but without all the baggage.

Possessing an uncannily similar physique and singing voice to Jackson, and – thanks to prodigious makeup and hair piece – an eerie likeness, Firestone dazzled the audience with a spot-on performance that showcased his Jackson-inspired nimble dance steps and memorable repertoire.

He was backed by a spunky band, four talented dancers and numerous costume changes, evoking the atmosphere of a stage show, rather than a concert. At times, the cleavage and exposed skin factor of the female dancers jiggled toward burlesque, and coupled with Firestone’s frequent crotch grabs, cemented this as a show that might require some parental guidance.

On the other hand, the kids that were there became participants, being brought up onstage for some amateur moonwalk efforts and singalsongs.

Strolling through the audience during “Black and White,” Firestone was treated like a superstar, posing for selfies with Jackson fans and mugging for the crowd.

We love our heroes, and if they are far from perfect in real life, onstage they make up for it – even if it’s not really them.

—– The Jerusalem Post

Original Link

Michael Firestone

Acclaimed Michael Jackson Tribute ‘I am King’ Wows Windsor Audience

I am King: The Michael Jackson Experience is a “MUST SEE” Event. The touring show that has rocked Vegas for years visited the Chrysler Theatre last week for a stunning show that included all the songs, moves and charisma one would expect from the world’s leading Michael Jackson impersonator.

Having never seen Michael Jackson live in concert, this was as close as I’ll ever get. I am King’s Michael Firestone is not a typical impersonator; he’s the TRUE Embodiment of The King of Pop. A real entertainer with real skill and star power.

The audience was captivated by his performance – from his voice to his moves, you would think it was MJ himself. Every so often he would break character and interact with the crowd with a quick one liner joke that would have the audience rolling in the isles.

Fans couldn’t help but sing along to every song that was performed and he truly made it an audience participation event. At one-point Michael Firestone encouraged the entire audience to sing “We Are The World” to the point where only the audience was singing it at the end.

I am King’s setlist was one for the record books – iconic songs from the days of the Jackson 5 like “I’ll Be There” and “Who’s Loving You” to MJ essentials like “Rock With You”, “Beat It”, ”Billie Jean” and “Thriller”, just to name a few.

Michael Firestone and the I am King experience was a musical thrill ride that no one wanted to get off.

Thank you YQG, Windsor, Ontario

Tribute Show - Bee Gees Gold Tribute

Bee Gees stay alive through tribute band

Brothers Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb sold more than 220 million records and won five Grammy Awards as the Bee Gees. Their music lives on with John Acosta, who portrays Barry Gibb in Bee Gees Gold: The Tribute, which comes to Genesee Theatre Sept. 28.

Acosta promised the audience will “feel the fever.

“I want everybody to close their eyes and when they’re hearing their favorites songs, exclaim out loud, ‘I just heard the Bee Gees,’” said Acosta, whose falsetto voice closely mirrors that of Barry Gibb’s.

“We do dress in the 1970s fashions. And we bring back these arrangements, these songs from the Bee Gees catalog that are one-of-a kind,” he said.

Then came the disco era in the 1970s when Barry Gibb reinvented the group using his famous falsetto. “No one sounded like him,” Acosta said.

Acosta said he was 10 years old during the disco era, which brought the Bee Gees song “Stayin’ Alive” to the top of the pop charts.

“Whatever you’re listening to when you’re 10 years old, you start to imitate,” he said. “I was imitating Barry Gibb at parties.”

Read on…

I AM KING - The Michael Jackson Experience

‘I Am King’ salutes Michael Jackson’s career

Michael Firestone admitted when he learned Michael Jackson died in 2009, he no longer wanted to continue doing his tribute performances of the King of Pop.

But within months, Firestone was back on the road again, acting like, singing like and dancing like one of the most popular entertainers of all time, something he’d done for years before Jackson died.

Firestone will perform in “I Am King: The Michael Jackson Experience” Sept. 20 at the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet and Sept. 21 at the Genesee Theatre in Waukegan.

“It is way better than anything I’ve ever done,” Firestone said of the production. “Everybody on stage is a piece of the puzzle, the band, the dancers. It isn’t just me. It’s the whole package. The crowd really gets into a super crazy state, like a trance almost.”

Firestone, who has been portraying Michael Jackson on stage since he was 12 years old, recalled the day Jackson died — as well as conversations he’s had via the Internet with Jackson over the years.

When Jackson died, Firestone said he was in bed and awakened by many phone calls from news channels, friends and family.

“I hate to sound dramatic, but I knew,” Firestone said. “There was this feeling in the air. I knew he had passed. I didn’t cry for two days, but when I did, it just didn’t stop. And I said, ‘I’m done. I’m not going to do this anymore.’ I quit for about a month, and then all these wannabe really terrible impersonators came out overnight, and I said ‘I want input into this.’ I went full throttle. I put all my other music on the back burner. I just loved Michael Jackson and I wanted to do it right.”

Read on…

Michael Firestone

I AM KING: The Michael Jackson Experience @ Miramar

Michael Firestone’s “I AM King,” The Michael Jackson Experience at Miramar Cultural Center on May 10, 2018, at 8pm, was an astronomical performance. Many in the audience felt that this was as close to the King of Pop as they would get.

“I get to see Michael Jackson,” said one woman.

The journey Firestone took the audience through Michael Jackson’s performances was a deeply moving, exciting, and exhilarating experience. The Michael Jackson Experience was enhanced by a cast of talented musicians: two keyboard players, a female guitarist, drummer, and four dancers. They did an awesome job!  Continue reading…

Marshall Charloff & Purple Xperience

Purple Xperience Pays Tribute To Prince At Red Rocks

Trying to fill someone’s shoes can be tricky. Regardless of who it is.
But when those shoes belong to a beloved musical icon, whose fairly recent passing is still felt throughout the world, the stakes mostly certainly go up a notch. Or ten.

Enter Marshall Charloff and the Purple Xperience. Hailing out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, the five-piece Prince tribute band have been on the scene since 2011. The group was founded by Matt “Doctor” Fink, keyboardist for The Revolution. And thanks to a steady presence on the touring circuit, their following has been building. Thursday evening was just the first of the two Colorado performances they’ll make this year.

The resemblance between Charloff and Prince is striking. Both in looks and musical prowess. The high notes. The guitar chops. The moves. It’s all there in full supply. And the band, made up of accomplished musicians as well, rounded out the experience seamlessly.

I’ve been to more Red Rocks shows than I can count. But the level of crowd involvement – and purple attire – at this one seemed particularly poignant. From the first notes of opener “Uptown,” and through a set list that included the likes of “Little Red Corvette,” “I Would Die 4 U,” and “Purple Rain,” the crowd was engaged in a steady sing-along. The momentum never waned. Even after the last notes of the encore had faded and the masses began shuffling out of the
venue, Prince songs could still be heard floating in the air. The tribute band out of Minneapolis had clearly done their job Thursday night. ‘The Purple One’ would have been pleased.

The evening’s set list:

U Got the Look
Wanna Be Your Lover
Nothing Compares to You
Let’s Go Crazy
Little Red Corvette
Raspberry Beret
Pop Life
When Doves Cry
G-D (instrumental)
I Would Die 4 U
Baby, I’m a Star
Purple Rain

Review and Photos by Tina Hagerling – Click to view original article @Alternative Revolt


Wednesday afternoon, I received a phone call from David Brighton. A very pleasant man, he had agreed without hesitation to do a brief interview with me in preparation for his weekend arrival to Toledo.  Performing with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra for the April 14 installation of the KeyBank Pops Series“The Music of David Bowie”, Brighton shared with me what it is like to, for all intents and purposes, “be” David Bowie.

Brighton and his band, typically performing a show called Space Oddity: The Quintessential David Bowie Concert Experience”, are totally on point. Even under pressure. He is the new ‘Jean Genie’.

How often do you tour, and is this your first time in Toledo?

“Yes, this is our first time at the Stranahan. We started this show in 2001, and we’ve had the same line-up now for ten (10) years. My band is so talented. [He spoke so highly of his musicians throughout the entire interview.] They’ve played with a number of very famous musicians and are just so talented.”

What is is like to “be” David Bowie? How do you transform?

Brighton spoke of the hours of preparation for each show, studying the music of Bowie’s musicians, studying the music videos, and taking all of those things that have been absorbed and settled into a place where they can freely come out. “Tapping into the intuitive side of my brain is so key”, he says.

“It is interesting and very strange trying to be someone else. It was not my plan. But we’re in this insane world of celebrity impersonation fun. We present the show as if you are actually watching the band…we are presenting an illusion.”

He also mentions that the toughest thing to do while performing is THINK. When he speaks of the cultivation and activation of the intuitive side of the brain, it is to avoid the thinking process and bypass it to a place where the action just becomes something else entirely. Because “thinking is what causes mistakes. Bowie’s greatness came from his creative flow.”

Do you and the band have any rituals before the show?

“I think my musicians could all be stand-up comedians. There are so many jokes…so many. And this helps us get into a new frame of mind.”

What is your favorite Bowie song to play… or do you have one?

“‘Under Pressure’, ‘Life on Mars’”… those are greats Brighton mentioned off the top of his head, but who can honestly imagine having an all-time favorite Bowie song. One of the most diverse artists of all time, choose a mood and there will be a Bowie favorite for it.

David Bowie retired Ziggy Stardust in 1973. Have you left Ziggy behind in the same way, or do you ever appear in this character?

“Generally, I have multiple costume changes during a given show. This may be a [SPOILER], but I’ll appear with the Toledo Symphony in 3 or 4 different looks. In this particular show, not Stardust, but some I do. There will be extended instrumental and two (2) sets of intermission in the Toledo show, as well.”

Word on the street is that Bowie had a poor tea experience when he was five (5) years old. He reportedly never drank tea after that. Do you have any idea if this is true?

“Well, I met David Bowie to do commercials with him, but tea is never something that came up in conversation! So, I really have no idea about that one.”

Finally, I asked Mr. Brighton if there was anything else he’d like to share with me, anything that was important for me to know as I reported the David Bowie experience.

He did have a few things to say, and they’re all ravings about Bowie as not only a great performer, but also as a great human.

Brighton spoke of being on set with David Bowie, watching how he interacted with others, watching how directors loved him, and what an opportunity it was to see up close what made Bowie a superstar. Once, when being asked if he remembered a line, Bowie quipped, “Yes, of course. I have a photographic memory.” [Fun fact.] Bowie had accents, he had jokes, and just an all around “enormous repertoire of performance skills. And he was a perfect, perfect English gentleman.”

“There is a reason,” asserts Brighton, “that David Bowie was a superstar.” From the incredible musicians in his show to the plethora of genres Bowie delved into, some of which he created, i.e. Glam-rock, Euro-funk dance, etc., “he didn’t let anything hem him in.He bravely explored those places, whether or not they were commercially acceptable. He made them acceptable.

Originally published in the Toledo City Paper