13 February 2014 by Michelle Norris
HE’S one of the world’s greatest guitarists and she’s Britain’s newest First Lady of Song – together Brian May and Kerry Ellis are embarking on a new tour, bringing acoustic versions of famous Queen tracks to a handful of theatres up and down the country – and Southend will be getting a front row seat. Following from their successful Anthems tour, the Queen guitarist and West End star are returning to the Southend stage, bringing their intimate Candlelight Concerts to the Cliffs Pavilion this month.
And with news breaking this week that Queen are the first band to sell six million copies of an individual album with their first Greatest Hits Album, 2014 is turning out to be an exciting year for Queen fans.
In January Brian May announced that he and band mate Roger Taylor discovered previously unheard Queen tracks, featuring the vocals of their late frontman Freddie Mercury – and they’re hoping to release them later this year.
“It was an unexpected pleasure,” says Brian of discovering the tracks. “We found material from the 80s that was unfinished but there was enough there to polish up. It’s going to be similar to our last album Made in Heaven, they’re nice songs but we don’t have a whole album yet. We’re hoping to release it in the autumn.”
However, the past year hasn’t been easy for the 66-year-old guitarist. Following a recent cancer scare, the musician tells me he is] keeping a close eye on his health and is already preparing for life on the road again.
“I’ve been trying to get fit in my old age,” says Brian. “I am looking after myself a lot more.”
Kicking off their tour on 18 February, Brian and Kerry first met in 2002 while she starred as Meat in Ben Elton’s musical We Will Rock You. [sic]
“Kerry has an amazing voice and was incredible as Meat in We Will Rock You,” says Brian. “Back then, we were so lucky to find the qualities that mix theatrical with a rock and roll passion.”
Since then, Brian and Kerry have produced two albums together, performed two sold out dates at the Royal Albert Hall as well as performing at the BBC Proms in the Park. So, how did Kerry feel when Brian asked her to work with him?
“Well I had to think about it,” she jokes. “It’s not every day you get someone like Brian May asking to work with you. We’ve both taken the time to discuss what works for us on tour both individually and as a duo and to explore different avenues together.”
Both famed for their big stage performances – Kerry on the West End in Wicked, RENT and Les Miserables and Brian famously performing to audiences of 75,000 at Wembley for Live Aid in 1985 – are they feeling the pressure of performing intimate acoustic sets?
“I come from an acoustic background and as a kid I played a lot of guitar, which a lot of people don’t do today, they go straight to electric,” explains Brian. “The arrangements are very exciting and Kerry has such an amazing voice – what more could you want?”
“It’s been a real pleasure,” adds Kerry. “If anything, it’s nice to not be hindered by anything in the back-ground. In the West End everything has be in its place and you’re not as free as I’d like to be. Now, we’re free to do whatever we want.”
Stripping down versions of Queen classics alongside a number of their personal favourite songs, Kerry will be taking over the vocals made famous by Queen’s frontman Freddie Mercury, who passed away in 1991.
“Queen fans have been pretty good and kind to me,” says the 34-year-old. “We perform the tracks slightly differently as I am a female singer and you can’t really compare me with Freddie. Plus, you’ve got Brian sat next to me so the fans can’t get too mad.“
“She’s very different,” agrees Brian with a smile. “It’s very difficult for men to hit the same range as Freddie. But we’ve made the Queen songs more interactive than they used to be. It’s largely acoustic with an electric end, but it’s also very interactive with the audience,” adds Brian. “There is of course the dramatic moments where everyone will be listening but we also throw in a few jokes too – maybe we shouldn’t though!”
Saving the best until last, the duo will be coming to Southend on the final night of their seven date tour.
“Southend was the date right at the end of our last tour and now we’re coming back with a completely different show,” says Kerry. “It’s nice to go back to the same venue to see the fans and hopefully some new people too!”
“This is going to be a night of damn good songs,” adds Brian. “There’s no tricks just a lot of candles.”
Brian May and Kerry Ellis’ Candlelight Concerts come to the Cliffs Pavilion in Southend on Wednesday, 26 February. For tickets, call the Box Office on 01702 351135 or visit southendtheatres.org.uk.