Up close and personal with a rock legend


Interview with Brian May and Kerry Ellis about their forthcoming show at the Buxton Opera House, as they prepare for the start another round of Candlelit concerts … and they have Buxton Opera House to thank for getting them out again so soon…..

Kerry and Brian
Brian May and Kerry Ellis are bringing their Candlelight Concerts tour to Buxton in February.  Photo contributed

13 January 2014

The term legend is somewhat overused these days but there are some people the word just fits. This is most definitely the case when it comes to Brian May CBE.

The rock superstar has enjoyed a hugely successful music career spanning more than four decades, and is of course, best known for his role in the global phenomenon Queen. But it’s a somewhat different, more stripped back Brian May who will entertain the crowds at Buxton Opera House next month as part of the Candlelight Concerts tour with West End star Kerry Ellis.

The duo, whose collaboration began back in 2002, when Kerry landed a part in the Queen musical We Will Rock You, are no stranger to touring together, but this show promises a new experience with a different sound and a different ambience while remaining an interesting and entertaining night out.

And the tour might never have gotten off the ground at all if it weren’t for the Buxton date.

“I’ve never played Buxton,” Brian says [Sic This forgets the Cozy Powell tribute concert 1 May 1999] as he takes time out of rehearsals to speak to the Advertiser. “Actually Buxton is what started us off again this year, we had the offer from Buxton and we thought ‘oh well let’s go out and do some more’, so I have a thank you to say to Buxton for getting us mobilised again quickly.”

Filled with a variety of songs from the West End to Queen classics and everything in between, the Candlelight Concert tour provides both Brian and Kerry with the chance to perform in more intimate settings than they are used to. And it also gives the audience a chance to get to know the people behind the performers.

“It really is a mixed bag,” Kerry explains.

“And it does change, we change it from night to night, throw in different songs, take out songs depending on how we feel and it’s nice because people get to see a different show if they’ve seen it before.

“With this show we do cover a lot of different songs that we haven’t done before and it’s nice that it is just very simple. There’s just the two of us.

“I think that is the beauty of it, we get to chat, and it is intimate and I think people feel that they’re seeing something that is quite unusual. There’s no smoke and mirrors, there’s no backing tracks, it’s all very real. Brian tells a lot of stories that people wouldn’t have heard before and it really is an insight into both of us “It keeps it fresh and interesting for both us and the audience as well.”

And Brian was quick to agree, adding: “The big epic stuff I do enjoy, but a song is a song and in a sense this is the way I started out.

“The simplicity is very attractive somehow, you know you can really get to the core of a song and the songs come across very powerfully. It’s like every single syllable of every word counts and that’s great, that’s what a good song deserves.

“It’s a very nice feeling to be interacting and much more personal. I can be a rock star, I can do all that, and there is a bit in the show where it gets quite epic at points and quite loud, but it has this huge range because you can bring it right back down so you can hear a pin drop. We can stop and start whenever we like, it’s very human which is a great feeling.”

Having played huge arenas all over the world, and put on massive shows from New York to Tokyo, it is an experience closer to home which Brian cites as the highlight of his career so far.

“It would have to be being on the roof of Buckingham Palace,” he said.

“It was the most unforgettable and life-changing moment because you’re facing fear on such a grand scale and you’re very much on your own. It was a one-off and in a sense it was liberating.

“I don’t think I’m so hard on myself after that because that would have been the time I would have made a fool of myself if things had gone wrong, so I kind of abandoned myself to a higher power at that point and I find I’m much more forgiving of myself these days which is a good thing.”

Speaking of his time in Queen, while the band was in its heyday before the sad death of the flamboyant and hugely talented front man Freddie Mercury, Brian said:

“It was amazing, we were incredibly lucky and sometimes I wake up and pinch myself and think did that really happen and it’s still happening.

“It’s incredible that 40 years later in any country in the world people know what we are and what we represent.

“I don’t take it for granted, it’s a wonderful thing that happened to us.

“As a boy I couldn’t see further than playing in London. I had no idea there were such places as Madison Square Garden or the incredible things we did in South America, playing the football stadiums. None of that was on my horizon so it was all a bonus really.”

The Candlelight Concerts comes to Buxton Opera House on February 19 as part of the Four Four Time Festival.

For tickets, priced £40, call the box office on 0845 127 2190 or see the website www.buxtonoperahouse.org.uk.