Fireworks

Brian May & Kerry Ellis - 'The Candlelight Concerts' Hot

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Written by Central Electronic Brain     November 25, 2014    
 
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Whether you are a Rock Fan, a Musical Theatre fan or, like me both, there’s plenty to enjoy here.

The pairing of Queen guitar legend Brian May and West End leading lady Kerry Ellis dates back for over a decade. May had seen Ellis in ‘My Fair Lady’ and urged the young vocalist to audition for what would become Queen’s smash hit musical ‘We Will Rock You’. Ellis landed the role of Meat and her performances sufficiently impressed May who inquired if she wished to make an album with him.

The pair worked together on Ellis’ debut solo album ‘Anthems’ which featured Queen material, newly penned songs and Musical Theatre numbers. With May producing and handling all the guitars, matching the versatile vocals of Ellis, the album was a successful blend of Rock and Musical Theatre all in one.

Once they had toured together for ‘Anthems’, the pair travelled to South Africa to support May’s animal rights campaigns. After playing acoustically in a game reserve, the duo enjoyed the stripped back feel and decided to do a fully unplugged series of shows dubbed ‘Acoustic By Candlelight’. The first disk of this excellent package, the CD, covers the 2013 tour. The arrangements are extremely sparse, with only May’s guitar and occasional vocals, Ellis’ soaring voice and a smattering of keyboards from Jeff Leach in the mix. However, the range of sounds the trio produces is impressive, with Queen standards sitting neatly next to originals and well chosen covers.

‘I Who Have Nothing’ is delivered by Ellis with power and drama, while the welcome cover of Kansas’ ‘Dust In The World’ works very well. ‘Life Is Real’, a rare cut from Queen’s ‘Hot Space’ record, works brilliantly in this new form and is touchingly dedicated to its composer, Freddie Mercury. The Beatles get a nod with an exquisite version of George Harrison’s ‘Something’ while songs from ‘Anthems’ such as ‘I Can’t Be Your Friend’ and ‘I Loved A Butterfly’ sound just as good in this stripped back form as they did on the lush originals. ‘Love Of My Life’, sung by May and Ellis, always gets the crowd involved and ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ has everybody clapping.

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The second disk is a DVD of the pair at Montreux in 2013, in front of a much bigger crowd than the previous tour. The set-list has been shaken up dramatically and while the trio of May, Ellis and Leach remains, there is the added ingredient of May’s legendary electric guitar, the Red Special. Things start off acoustically, with special mention going to a great version of ‘Somebody To Love’. The performance of this huge song with only one guitar, keyboards and two voices shouldn’t work, but it does, brilliantly. Another Queen number appears in the form of the popular ‘39’ which gives May chance to contribute some more lead vocals. He then plugs in for a portion of the show and delivers the excellent instrumental ‘Last Horizon’ and a new arrangement of Queen’s ‘Tie Your Mother Down’ which starts off acoustically and then erupts into the original electric riff. May entices the large crowd to stomp and clap, which results in a spectacular rendition of ‘We Will Rock You’ which Ellis handles admirably.

The DVD footage is crystal clear and the sound on the CD is incredible. May and Ellis cover a wide variety of styles with the vocalist handling the Rock songs with ease and the guitarist adding his distinctive playing to standards and Musical Theatre material. Whether you are a Rock Fan, a Musical Theatre fan or, like me both, there’s plenty to enjoy here.

James Gaden

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