Queenormous, with Dogs of Society Off Broadway Aug. 21, 2012
When considering music icons Queen, the Bee Gees and Elton John, most people think of riveting performance combined with over-the-top theatrics and costumes. I know I certainly do. But last night's "Tribute Trifecta" at Off Broadway didn't quite live up to what I was expecting. Some observations from Queenormous' and Dogs of Society's tribute show:
1. After misreading the start time, I saw Dogs of Society perform only "Love Lies Bleeding" and "Saturday Night's Alright (for Fighting)" during its tribute to Elton John, but those songs left me intrigued by the band and offered the most musicality of the evening. Indeed, the door man at Off Broadway told me when I entered, "They're killing it!"
2. I was surprised that lead singer John Gore was the only band member in costume. Instead of wearing a white wig or glittery tuxedo jacket, Gore paired large sunglasses with a poufy red pirate shirt, which flapped as he pounded the organ. This was the first time I'd seen an Elton John tribute band in jeans.
3. Heh. "Pounded the organ."
4. About 50 people were at Off Broadway during the set, squeezing into the four rows of seats and tables in front of the stage, the area near the bar and the balcony.
5. Gore's Elton voice was spot on, even if he wasn't nearly as flamboyant as the real deal.
6. The band supplied Gore with outstanding backup vocals, especially during "Saturday." The older audience enthusiastically supplied their own backup vocals, as well.
7. One middle-aged gentleman was especially moved by Dogs of Society's performance, fist pumping and playing nonstop air guitar.
8. I counted three seemingly official video cameras running during Dogs of Society's set, in addition to the many cell phone cameras the audience had locked on the band.
9. Between sets, a couple at a front table took turns practically sitting in each other's laps. The gentleman looked like Dave Madden, who played "Reuben Kincaid" from The Partridge Family.
10. Queenormous introduced itself as "Disconormous" for its Bee Gees set. For the most part, the entire band was in modern clothing, with only vocalists David Taylor (in bell-bottom jeans) and Amy (no last name on the band's website, in a gasoline-rainbow tent dress) clad in vaguely '70s attire.
11. From "Night Fever" forward, this set made me realize how much I loathe the Bee Gees. I'm just not cut out for constant, non-Bono falsetto or snoozy songs about love that serve as the backbone for doctor's office Muzak and bad wedding receptions.
12. Shannon Bengford on keyboards had a strong falsetto, ably leading the band through a long set of disco numbers.
13. Some members of the crowd did a mini version of "The Hustle" at the back of the room as Disconormous performed "More Than a Woman." The same crowd was annoyingly chatty during most of the set, particularly during the slower numbers.
14. Crickets chirped when Bengford asked, "We're going to do an older song. Got any Red Sox fans out there?" Amy then explained, "He's not from here" to the Cardinals-loving crowd before the band began "Massachusetts."
15. A toddler really seemed to get into "I Just Want to Be Your Everything," her long, curly hair bouncing as she jumped and clapped near the stage. Oh, child, we've got to introduce you to some Clash.
16. Introduction to "How Deep Is Your Love?": "It's time for love." "How deep is it?" I keep waiting for the "That's what she said" punchline that never came.
17. The crowd, of which I'd guess the average age was around 50, cut itself by about half towards the end of the sleepy Bee Gees set.
18. "Stayin' Alive," the Bee Gees' most recognizable song, got the audience bopping again, but both the song and the set ended abruptly.
19. Queenormous returned as itself after a lengthy intermission, with Amy taking lead vocals and opening with a sped-up, tricked-out version of "We Will Rock You" that sounded more Kiss than Queen.
20. The band was much more animated in its natural environment as Queen, with Amy playing air guitar and slinking across the stage. Backing vocals were quite loud, though, with Taylor often drowning Amy out.
21. "Bicycle Race" was quite energetic and anthemic, complete with bike bells during the song break.
22. The dwindling audience members understandably looked a bit confused when Queenormous performed "Flash," a long opera of verbal laser guns and space noises.
23. While the band again drowned Amy out during "Somebody to Love," everyone came together beautifully for the harmonies over "I got nobody left to believe."
24. With most of the remaining audience members exiting during Queen hits "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," "Under Pressure," "Fat-Bottomed Girls" and "Another One Bites the Dust," it was clear that this was a long set. Too long.
25. To finish its set, Queenormous launched into "We Will Rock You" for a second time, sounding closer to the original tune than when they had opened the set. The song properly flowed into "We Are the Champions," spurring the ten or so remaining people to spin and sway with abandon.
Overheard: "That was awesome! Fucking awesome!" [after Dogs of Society finished the Elton John set]
Said to me: "Why are you writing? Are you a reporter? You're with the Riverfront Times? I've never met a reporter before. That is so cool. I'm going to post it to Facebook. See? I posted it. Wow."
Confession: During the long Queen set, I found myself wondering if I owned any underwear that could be worn with Amy's shiny, tight black leggings without pantylines or thonglines showing. I do not.