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**Wed 26 Jun 13**
No One But You - sung beautifully by Kerry Ellis - accompanied by Brian May on Red Special, Jeff Leach on Keyboards,
**Tue 25 Jun 13**
Courtesy of Pete Malandrone (Brian May's faithful Guitar Tech) - Pete's set list - with guitar changes !!
**Tue 25 Jun 13**
Born Free Tour, Birmingham Town Hall
Kerry Ellis and Brian May on stage at Birmingham Town Hall where the audience enjoyed a stripped-back set
In this show there is nothing elaborate about the stripped-back songs, low tech staging and simple production – but the overall effect is all the more powerful for its simplicity.
There’s nothing predictable either. In a set covering everything from The Beatles to Barbra Streisand via Bob Dylan, the song choices and arrangements constantly challenged expectations.
I never thought hillbilly and Tie Your Mother Down could appear in the same sentence but you know what? It worked. And choosing I’m Not That Girl instead of Defying Gravity from Kerry’s Wicked days was genius.
The tour has been recorded for a new album, Acoustic by Candlelight, but as this was Birmingham it was acoustic by slightly naff electric candle effect lights – the city council doesn’t allow candles in its fabulously restored historic town hall.
But although it says acoustic, this is Brian May – so the Red Special was brought out for the signature solo, plus a few more tracks. Is this the only guitar i that gets its own round of applause?
The highlight for me was No-One But You, the song the three surviving members of Queen wrote in tribute to Freddie Mercury and which Kerry has made her own since she first sang it at the Dominion Theatre in We Will Rock You.
The show is part of the Born Free tour which is raising awareness and cash for the foundation working to save Africa’s lions. Brian also loses no opportunity to hammer home his cause of the moment, which is to oppose the badger cull.
**Tue 25 Jun 13**
BORN FREE TOUR
It has to be said that, with the monikers of “acoustic” and “intimate” being attached to this gig, it was approached with some trepidation. Brian May and Kerry Ellis are, after all, two of the most powerful performers around and Brian, above all, is distinguished by the sound of his Red Special, homemade electric guitar.
The plethora of burning candles, a set of keyboards, two microphones and a pair of stools front and centre did little to allay the fears, yet once three anti-badger cull videos were played out on a big screen at the rear of which – one of which is an hilarious parody cartoon of The Battle Theme from Flash Gordon – the two stars of the show sauntered out and proceeded to rip the place apart with a gig of outstanding ability, grace and humour.
Set up in support of the Born Free Foundation, Brian and Kerry took to their stools and set things rolling with a deeply emotive version of I Who Have Nothing, with Ellis’s rich vocals soaring and crystal clear, whilst May’s exemplary playing of his twelve string acoustic gave the song an accentuated undertone which was further enhanced when Barclay James Harvest keyboardist, Jeff Leach, joined the pair on stage for the Butterfly and a truly exceptional version of the Kansas song Dust in the Wind, on which Brian really came to the fore with an exquisite middle section.
It wasn’t long before a Queen classic made an appearance and Somebody To Love was shoved to the front in all its stripped back glory, ideal for the crowd to get involved and warmed up nicely, as was the brilliant version of ’39 which brought the crowd to its feet in appreciation. Freddie Mercury’s tribute to John Lennon, Life Is Real, made a rare live appearance but this wasn’t a Queen fest or trip down memory lane by any means and Kerry Ellis displayed superbly why it is she is such a well respected West End musical star, pounding out songs from Wicked such as I’m Not That Girl and Carousel in If I Loved You with great style and panache. Superb too was the Don Black and May composition, I Can’t Be Your Friend, which is one of the many highlights on her Anthems album of 2011. Indeed the chemistry between Ellis and May is so poignant it is almost tangible.
And so the show rolled on, with The Red Special finally making an appearance to much jubilation for the solo of Last Horizon that May interspersed with a bridge of Brighton Rock which had everybody on their feet. Now we were cooking, with a John Lennon anti-hunting song – Bungalow Bill – being quickly followed by an at first countrified version of Tie Your Mother Down reverting halfway through to its more recognisable – ear-splitting Rock genius – style that once more dragged the audience upright. Indeed, if there was one surprising omission from the set it is the ubiquitous Love Of My Life, making this the first full set May gig I’ve seen without it being played.
Ellis and May’s new song, The Kissing Me Song ,is out this week and was given the full treatment here and is such a fun number it deserves to scale the charts, although what was to follow – with the accompaniment of The Liverpool Show Choir – provided a finale to remember with We Will Rock You quite literally being stomped out and We Are The Champions bringing the show proper to rousing climax.
The choir stayed put as Ellis and May sauntered off for a couple of minutes, thankfully returning to deliver yet another highlight with a deeply moving rendition of No One But You and a truly party-infused Crazy Little Thing Called Love, which finally brought the curtain down on a high.
This was a truly remarkable night of music and song and only goes to show that even a veteran of some 25 + Queen / Brian May gigs should not be fooled by what’s written on the ticket.
Quite, quite superb.
**Mon 24 Jun 13**
LATEST 13.00 hrs
Acoustic by Candlelight out now!!
- debuted straight in at Number 60 on the iTunes Rock chart !! Woo-hoo!!
Physical release: Kerry Ellis & Brian May 'Acoustic By Candlelight'
iTunes download soon to be available for USA through Hollywood - link when we have it.
NOTE - TONIGHT AT BRIMINGHAM TOWN HALL - VENUE WEBSITE READS 'SOLD OUT'
**Sun 23 Jun 13**
Brian and Kerry Liverpool Philharmonic - Somebody To Love 23-06-2013
Brian May Liverpool Philharmonic - - Last Horizon 23-06-2013
Earlier in the day Brian's interview with Nicksy In The Morning was aired on WireFM 107.2 - ahead of the Liverpool Philharmonic Born Free concert
Brian May On Nicksy In The Morning WireFM 107.2 - http://youtu.be/odic6QD2ie8
**Fri 21 Jun 13**
WELSH DAILY POST
Queen legend Brian May and Kerry Ellis visit Llandudno for Born Free Tour
No-one can accuse Brian May of living a quiet life after Queen. In the last decade alone, he’s performed on top of Buckingham Palace, rocked out at the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, and is even thinking of collaborating with Gangnam Style hitmaster, Psy.But for now, the legendary guitarist is turning his attention to a more intimate affair, swapping the “big production” stage lights for candlelight as part of the acoustic “stripped back” Born Free Tour.
Back by popular demand, Brian’s talents are complimented by the stunning tones of songstress Kerry Ellis as they get set to serenade audiences at Llandudno’s Venue Cymru a week Saturday. Touched by the plight of the endangered lions in Africa, the pair have come together to raise money and awareness of the Born Free Foundation, which protects and conserves the threatened species.
But how does the understated unplugged sound compare to the more adreneline-fuelled spectaculars the rocker is used to?
“It’s a very different kind of performance that came about when Kerry and I went to Africa,” Brian told the Daily Post. “We ended up doing a couple of impromptu concerts in the middle of the jungle, it was such an amazing feeling, especially having a small audience, that we thought wouldn’t it be great to bring this to the UK and try and recreate that atmosphere around Britain? Also we discovered stripping away the big arrangement and just doing it simply with the vocal and guitar, literally brought out the song better. It seemed to put the song into a stronger bracket and you really get into the soul of the music – it’s really been something I’ve enjoyed.”
He added: “For me, it’s like going back to the roots and rediscovering the way we stared.
“I started playing the guitar as an accompanying instrument, which a lot of people don’t do these days, so to me there is great joy in shifting up, but not too much to compliment the voice, because Kerry’s got an amazing voice.”
Kerry Ellis added: “I am so excited to be taking Born Free out again with Brian, the audience reactions were so special on the first tour.”
**Sat 22 Jun 13**
Thanks for voting
Next round - 'Brighton Rock' will be up against 'Crazy Train' by Randy Rhoads.
**Fri 21 Jun 13**
VOTE IN THE GUITAR WORLD POLL
GUITAR WORLD have kicked off a summer blockbuster of their own — a no-holds-barred six-string shootout. Pitting Guitar World's top 64 guitar solos against each other in an NCAA-style, 64-team single-elimination tournament. Every day, they will ask you to cast your vote in a different guitar-solo matchup as dictated by the 64-team-style bracket.
You can vote only once per matchup. The voting for each matchup ends as soon as the next matchup is posted (Basically, that's one poll per day during the first round of elimination, including weekends and holidays).
TODAY'S SHOOTOUT: BRIAN MAY V KIRK HAMMETT HERE
Greatest Guitar Solos of All Time Readers Poll: Round 1 — "Fade to Black" (Kirk Hammett) Vs. "Brighton Rock" (Brian May)
41. "Brighton Rock”
Universally venerated for his lavish guitar orchestrations and tasteful British restraint, Brian May kicked over the traces on this high energy rocker that leads off Queen’s third album, Sheer Heart Attack. One of May’s most blues-based excursions ever, the song’s extended solo section grew out of the guitarist’s experiments with an Echoplex tape delay unit. His original goal was to reproduce his multi-part guitar harmonies live onstage with Queen, back in the days before harmonizers were invented.
“I started messing around with the Echoplex, the delay that was available at the time,” May recalls. “I turned up the regeneration until it was giving me multiple repeats. I discovered you could do a lot with this—you could set up rhythms and play against them, or you could play a line and then play a harmony to it.
"But I decided that the delay [times] I wanted weren’t available on the Echoplex. So I modified it and made a new rail, which meant I could slide the head along and make the delay any length I wanted, because the physical distance between the two heads is what gave you the delay. Eventually, I had two home-adapted Echoplexes. And I discovered that if you put each echo through its own amp, you wouldn’t have any nasty interference between the two signals. Each amp would be like a full-blown, sustaining, overdriven guitar which didn’t have anything to do with the other one.
“So, ‘Brighton Rock’ was the first time that got onto a record. I’d already been trying it live onstage in the middle of ‘Son and Daughter’ [from Queen’s self-titled ’73 debut album], when Queen first toured with Mott the Hoople. It was rather crude at first. But I certainly had a lot of fun with it.”
Queen 'Brighton Rock' - http://youtu.be/TdUKi3_QntE
**Fri 21 Jun 13**
**Tue 18 Jun 13**
BBC DEMOCRACY LIVE
Zoologist and crossbench peer Lord Krebs questioned the credibility of plans for a national cull of badgers in order to reduce bovine tuberculosis (TB) in cattle. On 18 June 2013 during oral questions, he argued that culling badgers would have a "modest effect" and hence "rolling out culling as a national policy to control TB in cattle is not really credible".
The government says the action is needed to help tackle bovine TB, a disease of cattle that has been steadily rising since the 1980s. Farmers in two areas of England will be permitted to shoot badgers from 1 June, in an attempt to control TB in cattle.
Under the proposals, about 5,000 badgers will be culled in two pilot zones in the south west.
Speaking for the government, Baroness Northover said that two pilot culls would be undertaken over the summer to assess the "methodology for delivering an effective cull" and "only then will ministers decide whether the policy should be rolled out more widely". She also said: "We are taking a range of measures, including more cattle testing, greater bio-security and investing in research into vaccines."
Shadow Defra spokesperson Lord Knight of Weymouth said that while it was vital to find a workable solution, science strongly suggested that a cull "is not workable".
**Tue 18 Jun 13**
ITV NEWS REPORT
In less than half a century the number of lions in Africa has plummeted by 75 per cent - most of them hunted for sport and trophies. Other big game animals are under similar threat.
Now Queen guitarist Brian May and singer Kerry Ellis are on the road with their Born Free tour to try to halt that decline. ITV News correspondent Andy Bevan watched them rehearse.
**Tue 18 Jun 13**
STOP PRESS!! Kerry Ellis and Brian May BRAND NEW ONLINE SHOP: CD Single, Album + Vinyl.... AND MORE !!.
KERRY ELLIS also has her own new OFFICIAL STORE
**Tue 18 Jun 13**
**Mon 17 Jun 13**
"Brian in Oxford tonight with the first copy of Diableries in its 3d slipcase with viewer - all complete." Robin Rees
**Mon 17 Jun 13**
AVAILABLE TO DOWNLOAD NOW FROM iTUNES
NOTE: The download single is being put live in the US. It will be available via Hollywood Records.
Released today on iTunes!!!
Here is the link to the brand new release today, track & video iTunes bundle!
The digital version of Acoustic By Candlelight will be available 'exclusively' for the first week of the tour in it's physical form as well as via Brian May and Kerry Ellis Online Store (hopefully within 24 hour)s - check back for link SOON.
**Mon 17 Jun 13**
Brian May with Omelette and Friends WKLT 97.5FM 07 June 2013 - http://youtu.be/Gh4uP9IstFE
Enjoy - in sound and photographs taken during the interview.
**Sun 16 Jun 13**
Note: an extra date was put in for Oxford on Monday, which is now official start date
Lovely interview - enjoy!
In our noisy open-plan office you can always tell when someone is interviewing someone important. Because everyone else goes really quiet as they furiously ear-wig on the conversation. And so it was when I got to call up Dr Brian May; THE Brian May, lead guitarist of Queen, studier of microscopic dust particles, spirited campaigner against the badger cull, writer of some of the world’s greatest songs, seller of an estimated 300million albums and that bloke who played the national anthem on the roof of Buck House at the Golden Jubilee. Not that my colleagues would have heard much from my end; I was too busy wondering what to ask him. I mean. Badgers/concert (he’s coming to the Pavilion on Tuesday with the vocalist Kerry Ellis on the inaugural date of their Born Free tour) /doctorate/Aids charities/Freddie Mercury/THAT Live Aid performance... the possibilities blow your head off.
And I’ve only got 10 minutes with Brian on a crackly phone as he wanders round the BBC following yet another round of badger-saving interviews. In the event I am so star-struck I opt for the feeble universal opener, asking why he is starting off his tour in Bournemouth’s Pavilion.
Brian, bless him, graciously reminds me that the town has been the site of some really fabulous Queen concerts: “So we’re no strangers to it but I think it’s as good a place as any to start because, in a sense, it’s on its own,” he says. “Most of the tour will be up north but we haven’t covered the Bournemouth area in our last tour so I’m really looking forward to it.”
And why wouldn’t he, when Dorset is so very dear to his heart.
“We have a lot of history in Dorset,” he says. “We used to holiday in Weymouth and until their last days my mum and dad used to go down there.”
He reminisces about the beautiful beach and how delighted he was to discover that his family used to be dairy farmers in the county and how he owns land at Bere Regis which he’s going to replant as primeval forest with 101,000 trees and, more importantly: “Make it safe for wild animals.” No prizes for guessing which wild animals he’s thinking of. Brian may be a rock god of monumental proportions but he’s currently best known as the figurehead of the campaign to halt the government’s badger cull in Gloucestershire and Somerset. The government wants to eliminate badgers in cattle areas because they say they spread bovine tuberculosis. Brian – and most of the scientific community and David Attenborough and, he would like to point out, quite a few farmers – reckon they don’t and the problem is far more complex and can’t be resolved by blasting thousands of them to death.
“None of these marksmen and shooters have any experience of shooting badgers because it’s actually illegal,” he says. “Badgers are a protected species so these poor creatures will be maimed and loads of them will crawl away and die somewhere and they are saying this is humane?” He has no confidence it will solve anything, given that: “Owen Paterson, the wonderful Minister of the Environment, supposedly has now admitted that in 25 years he still wants to be culling badgers.”
At this juncture I give him a direct opening to have a pop at the farmers but he won’t.
“It’s not really the farmers’ fault, it’s the leadership, I would say,” he says, citing the National Farmers’ Union. “It’s very easy for them to paint me as anti-farmer but it’s not the case; I like my milk on my cornflakes and I don’t want to give that up but I do not want it at the price of hundreds of thousands of badgers’ blood.”
It’s not really what he’d planned to be doing in his seventh decade, is it?
“I hate it, I don’t want to spend my time talking about badgers and campaigns, I wish it was taken care of, I wish we had a decent, humane government and one day, please God, we will, we’ll have a government where wildlife and animals are represented,” he says. He speaks up because: “I’ve been pushed to the front of it a little reluctantly but I’ll do it because I believe it has to be done.”
And Brian is certainly a man who gets things done; whether it’s surveying radical velocities in the zodiacal dust cloud, swapping astronomical tips with Brockenhurst star-gazer Professor Greg Parker, raising money for charity (one of the reasons he was awarded the CBE), or keeping alive the flame of ‘dear Freddie’ Mercury, a man he still misses and whose ballads will be part of the Born Free tour.
“Queen is such a huge part of my life still,” he says.
Not just his, I remind him. This glorious band that Brian was so much the backbone of has been the soundtrack to many a 40-something’s life, including mine. He sounds genuinely touched. “Thank you for saying that.” And, as his PR cuts in and we have to finish, I put down the phone and realise my colleagues are still listening.
Brian May and Kerry Ellis appear at The Pavilion Theatre, Bournemouth, on Tuesday at 7.30pm
**Sun 16 Jun 13**
NOTE: Nothing concrete, early discussion.
Queen guitarist Brian May has confirmed plans to collaborate with Gangnam Style sensation PSY.
The 65-year-old, who last year featured on Dappy's second solo single Rockstar, continued: "I've had all sorts of people tweeting me saying 'How could you do that? He's a popstar!' and thinking it's very trivial, but 1.6 billion hits on YouTube you don't get for nothing. Rock and roll is not a closed shop, you've got to have an open mind in life, and a lot of the most interesting stuff happens when you interact with someone you never would've dreamed you could interact with."
**Fri 14 Jun 13**
Brian May interview with THE OXFORD TIMES
Brian May is having a busy morning. As if he was not occupied enough putting the finishing touches to what is surely his most intimate tour, he has found himself back in the headlines over an issue close to his heart: badgers. A passionate advocate of animal welfare, the Queen guitarist has become the figurehead for a national campaign to overturn a Government-backed cull which would see thousands of the animals slaughtered in an attempt to control bovine tuberculosis.
“I’m talking myself to death,” he says, gently. “But it’s good to make contact with people. And this long hard battle’s not over.”
The star led a procession through London earlier this month, to oppose the culls and the setting up of pilot killing zones, one of which is in Gloucestershire. He also presented a petition to Downing Street, calling on the Prime Minister to halt the cull.
“There’s no science involved whatsoever,” he says, with feeling. “The only thing they will find out is how loudly badgers scream when killed. This is all about ways humans can cull thousands of badgers. It’s awful. We have a Government which is not listening and they have to listen to us. “They and the NFU want to do their dirty work and hope that we all look away. But there will still be bovine TB.”
We are supposed to be talking music; specifically his low-key tour in support of another threatened animal – the lion. The concerts, which see Brian team up with West End star Kerry Ellis, are in aid of the Born Free Foundation and follow a similar outing last year and a bigger Anthems tour with Ellis in 2010. But while the Anthems tour was a spectacle, culminating in two sold-out nights at the Royal Albert Hall, this one is low-key, starting, in suitably cosy style, with a warm-up show at St John the Evangelist Church, Oxford, on Monday.
“I love these concerts,” he says. “They are full of smiles and make me happy. It is acoustic and by candle-light. We sing songs, tell stories and get through a lot of candles.”
Kerry, 33, is best-known for playing the lead of Fantine in Les Misérables, and for roles in Oliver!, Wicked and My Fair Lady. She met Brian when he invited her to audition for a part in his Queen musical We Will Rock You. They have performed together ever since. The shows will see the pair perform stripped-down Queen classics and other favourites. Brian admits he can’t wait to start. “Come and see a concert the way it used to be,” he says. ”It’s truly live, which most things today aren’t.” So where did the idea come from? “Out of Africa!” he laughs. The pair were invited to the Born Free Foundation in South Africa, by its founder, the actress Virginia McKenna who made her name playing naturalist Joy Adamson in the Born Free film. Both were captivated by the big cats they saw roaming the Shamwari game reserve. Moved to help, they hit upon the idea of an acoustic tour.
“We ended up doing sporadic songs in the jungle — it was amazing!” he says. “We thought ‘wouldn’t it be great to bring this to the UK to build awareness of these wonderful animals on the verge of extinction?
“We are there to have a good time, but if it jogs thoughts, that’s a good thing.”
It’s certainly a step down after the enormous shows he played with Queen, not to mention his famous National Anthem guitar solo on the roof of Buckingham Palace, for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, and last year’s Olympic closing ceremony. “The Olympics were huge and challenging and I had to face my fear doing that,” he says. “But I can do big any time.”
And he says he still gets a thrill playing his favourite Queen tunes. So what can we look forward to? “I can’t tell you that!” he laughs. “It changes, but there are a few favourites like A Crazy Little Thing called Love, which people like to sing along to; We Will Rock You; and We are the Champions. They are lovely songs and lend themselves to just guitar and vocals, with no clutter.”
The shows also give Brian and Kerry the chance to play their Kissing Me song — Brian’s first new single for over a decade. He says: “I wrote Kissing Me for the last leg of the tour and it went down well. It’s nice to have a hook to hang your hat on.”
Though, he says, releasing a single after such a gap revealed some dramatic changes in the music industry. He says: “I don’t understand it any more. In the old days you made a record you could hold, smell and look at. Now it’s all about downloads and everyone wants it for free. How any artists make money I don’t know. “I don’t need to make money. I just want to make great music and see things happen. But for Kerry it’s a shame.”
It is 22 years since Freddie Mercury died aged just 45, but Brian says the charismatic frontman is rarely out of his thoughts.
“He’s a big part of my life,” he says. “Hardly a day goes by without me thinking about him. I went through grief and not wanting to talk about him or Queen. Now I’ve got over it and am full of joy at what we created and proud of what Queen is. I don’t know what that is... but I’m proud. We had a great time and I’m happy he was part of my life; I am really grateful.”
And if he could tell him anything, what would it be? “That’s a good question,” he says pausing deeply. “I’d talk about how life has changed since he was here.
“I don’t mean to sound mystical, but he’s very often in my dreams. We almost have a dialogue. I don’t feel he has really gone as he’s still so much a part of what we do — the same as he always was.
“Roger [Taylor] and I are always thinking ‘what would Freddie say now?
And what is he most proud of? “I hope that when I die I’ll be remembered for the way I used my life,” he says. “I hope my music, science and animal welfare work have helped to make the world a decent and more compassionate place.”
Brian May and Kerry Ellis
**Thu 13 Jun 13**
Queen guitarist and animal welfare campaigner Brian May’s ‘Stop the Cull’ petition has topped a quarter of a million signatures, making it by far the largest active petition on the official Government website, and now very close to becoming the most signed ever.
It is a clear indication of the depth and continued growth of public outrage over DEFRA Secretary of State Owen Paterson’s plan to kill thousands of badgers in the UK, in a controversial attempt to combat bovine TB in cattle.
The fight against the cull has been led by Team Badger (http://www.teambadger.org), a coalition of organisations including IFAW, LACS, the RSPCA and Dr May’s own campaign, Save Me, and is now supported by sections of the farming community which would prefer to pursue the option of vaccination, rather than an expensive and ultimately ineffective badger cull.
As of 1st June, the Government has a licence to kill an estimated 6,000 badgers in two TB hotspot zones this summer, although campaigners and politicians have vowed to step up the pressure to stop it. The NFU-driven policy now predicts a total of 130,000 badgers will be slaughtered when the cull is rolled out next year, the majority of which will be perfectly healthy animals.
The Government’s own figures confirm that as little as 5% of these badgers may have bTB, and that the maximum benefit to cattle farming obtained over the next 10 years is only 16 per cent off any rise in incidence. Scientific evidence predicts that the cull is likely to have the opposite effect, prompting leading bTB expert Lord Krebs to label the Government’s plan ‘crazy’.
May comments, “The cull is an irreversible tragedy for our wildlife. Randomly slaughtering 70 per cent of badgers will destroy them forever, bringing about immense suffering for these highly intelligent mammals. But the cull is a tragedy for farmers and their cattle too.
“The NFU have managed to convince a large portion of the farming community that this scheme offers them relief from their troubles, but there will be no way to ascertain if culling has been effective.
“Indeed, Owen Paterson has stated that he expects to be culling badgers in 25 years time, underlning the fact that culling cannot eradicate TB. Contrary to insistence of late, culling has NEVER eradicated TB in any other country in the world.
“The cull has no basis in science – which simply means it will not work.
“The farmers have been misled and let down by successive governments and successive NFU leaders, and at this minute they are being sold an illusion. We have had many reports of smallholders and tenant farmers being put under pressure to conform, to the extent that they feel too intimidated to come out publicly against the cull.
“Last week’s revelation that, even on the most optimistic estimates, this cull will cost the country more money than it saves it took away the last possible justification for this ridiculous policy.”
Lord Krebs recently commented, “Forty per cent of the farms in the hotspot areas remain bovine TB free, and these farms are likely to become infected (due to perturbation) if the cull goes ahead. If the Government has to ‘do something’, research into these farms would be a good place to start.”
This week a new rap/rock track has entered the charts, created at Abbey Road and featuring a young poet/rapper known as Sonny Green, plus Slash, Brian May, Kerry Ellis – and even Sir David Attenborough.
**Thu 13 Jun 13**
ADDING MORE - check back...
Kerry Ellis and Brian May, The Core, Corby, November 2012. Photos by David Jackson
Brian May and Kerry Ellis return to Northamptonshire this month for an intimate acoustic show at the Royal & Derngate theatre. Last year’s Born Free tour sold out The Core at Corby and other venues across the country spurring the legendary Queen guitarist and singing sensation to take the show back out on tour for a second run of dates Despite its success, both Ellis and May admit they had no idea what the public response would be.
“We had a fantastic reaction and it was a very enjoyable experience for us and the audience,” explains May. “It’s very refreshing to go out with Kerry and only have to think about music and making people happy. I enjoyed doing the Queen stuff because people like it and it has a certain effect on them. Kerry does very different interpretations [of the songs].”
The Born Free shows combine a mixture of Queen hits, musical classics, a selection of their favourites songs and material written by the pair.
“It was a bit of a gamble,” explains Ellis. “It’s acoustic and we had no idea how people would respond to it, but to go out and have the reaction we did was just wonderful. We knew we wanted it to be just Brian and myself and something very exposing. We started throwing in songs we thought would work, it was very organic and changed over the tour. I’ve done some small venues with a small band but I’ve never done just an acoustic tour. It’s quite raw and that’s the excitement of it.”
For the second leg of the Born Free tour, May and Ellis will still be playing a lot of the classic songs which featured in the first tour, however, they plan to bring in new material as it progresses - including new single The Kissing Me Song. While Queen evoke memories of flamboyant shows, huge rock riffs and solos, the band would regularly have an acoustic element of their set which May says isn’t too far from the what he and Ellis are doing.
“We used to do all the big bombastic stuff which I loved. I love making a noise but we would sit down in the middle of the Queen show and do things like Love Of My Life and Is This The World We Created,” he explains. “In that sense, maybe it’s a progenitor of this.”
The pair have been working together for more than a decade. The Queen guitarist saw Ellis performing in My Fair Lady and asked her to audition for Queen’s We Will Rock You. However, the actual decision to tour together came in Africa when the pair went to help Virginia Mckenna with her Born Free work.
Born Free is an organisation which works to protect and conserve threatened species. Both visited the Shamwari game reserve and rescue centre in South Africa.
“We ended up doing some impromptu concerts because I took a guitar with me and the atmosphere was amazing in the jungle,” explains May. “We enjoyed it so much and thought, let’s try and bring a little of this back to the UK.”
Ellis added: “Virginia, myself and Brian all have a common interest in working to save animals and I think that that’s the key that links us all together. This is about a celebration of animals really and raising the awareness.”
The pair’s new single was written while on tour together. Prior to one of the previous Born Free shows, May suggested playing it and Ellis ended up reading the lyrics off her iPhone.
“It was informal and very spontaneous but it went down a storm,” reveals May. “People loved it so much we thought ‘lets record it’.”
Ellis added: “Ironically, Brian and I don’t get a lot of time together because we’re both so busy. When we do come together to snatch a few hours in the studio or put a tour together, it’s literally work work work. We find time where we can to try new songs and that’s how the Kissing Me Song came about. We dabbled with this song before the tour but we were in the dressing room one evening and Brian had a few more lyrics. I ended up reading them from my phone because Brian had literally just started playing it.”
Away from music, Brian May has become one of the key voices protesting against the proposed badger cull. June marked the beginning of a trial cull but May said he, and thousands of others, will carry on fighting against it.
“It’s not over, June is not the end and this will go on for a very long time,” he says. “It’s going to be worse for the farmers in a way because there is 25 years according to Owen Paterson of this cull, all of which the farmers will be asked to pay for meanwhile taxpayers will be paying for the same thing. They are a ignoring science. Science is saying culling badgers is not going to work. They are ignoring parliament as a parliamentary vote went against the cull and they’re ignoring about a quarter of a million people on our petition. The cull is not going to work. We’re going to lose 100,000 wonderful, wonderful native British wild animals. The result will be endless carnage. I feel very angry about this.”
May said he feels the government and NFU have let farmers down in the decision.
“It’s the fault of decisions in the past. They should prioritising vaccinating badgers and even more they should be vaccinating the cows. Successive governments have not bothered to sort the vaccination of cows. Europe is blamed for this, and everyone says ‘Europe won’t let us’, but, there is a 10-year plan which has come from Europe which would have us vaccinating our entire herd of cows in 10 years time. That sounds a long way away but compare it with the 25 years of badger culling which will not solve the problem and it’s an open and shut case. This is a dreadful place to be at.”
Returning to the pair’s pending Born Free days, May revealed it’s “always a pleasure” performing with Ellis. He said: “Kerry is the most amazing dedicated professional. She’s an extraordinary performer but it’s her dedication and her understanding of music which does it – it comes from the heart and that’s the way I like it.”
Ellis added: “It’s always a pleasure (working with Brian). “He’s a legend and I’m very respectful and very grateful that I still get to perform with him.”
May and Ellis are currently working on a new album together. A live album, recorded on the first leg of the Born Free tour, will be available on this tour.
Born Free is at Royal & Derngate at 8pm on Friday, June 21. Tickets cost £39, and are available by calling Northampton 624811 or by visiting www.royalandderngate.co.uk.
Click opposite for larger
Kerry and Brian on the Born Free tour
ON OTHER occasions, perhaps Brian May would have been all about the music. But when I speak to the legendary Queen guitarist, above, in advance of his Anvil appearance this month, it’s at a time when animal rights are at the forefront of his mind. The very day we have a brief chat, news has been released about the Government’s pilot badger culls, which are an attempt to prevent the spread of bovine TB in dairy and beef herds. The following day, Brian will publicly campaign against this policy, joined by Bill Oddie and other famous faces, in central London.
"We are in grim times as we have the most animal unfriendly Government possible,” the 65- year-old asserts. “We have a tough time, but this is not the end. We will fight all the way. Decency matters to me. If you get involved in animal welfare, you find yourself seeing such dreadful atrocities. People are so terribly cruel and I find it so, so hard. But I didn’t choose this – I feel like it chose me. It has to be done. We can change the world. It must have been the same with slavery, or women’s rights. You don’t get rid of the people who don’t get it – you overcome them.”
Animal rights are at the heart of the tour which brings him to Basingstoke. The Born Free Tour was created to support the foundation of the same name, which works to conserve and protect endangered species. The tour, which premiered in 2012, sees him team up with his old friend West End star Kerry Ellis, right, for whom he has acted as album producer, among many other collaborative projects. Kerry became famous after playing the Green Witch in the musical Wicked. The pair were inspired by a trip to the Shamwari game reserve and rescue centre in South Africa with Virginia McKenna. They released Born Free as a single, with all proceeds going to the foundation and then took their passion on tour.
On the night of Wednesday, June 19, at 8pm, Brian will accompany Kerry on guitar on vocals for what is sure to be a spectacular evening of live music in aid of the Foundation – by candlelight.
Brian explains: “The idea for the candlelight came from the Africa trip. We performed like that and it was really magical and we thought, ‘wouldn’t this work well?’ The show ends up being different every single night and because of that, it is a real live show experience. I do take an electric guitar along. And we show video and images of animals. Kerry has a stupendous voice and it’s a joy to perform with her. It’s like with Freddie (Mercury). When you have a great singer, it’s a gift from God.”
Can we assume, given his passion for helping this cause, that he has always loved animals?
“Yes, I have. To me, it is central to my existence that we are all animals and they have an equal right to be on the planet. We get floating voters coming along, maybe people who haven’t been motivated into action, and it just takes a certain thing to trigger them, but we will never convert the people who hunt, for example. Those people just don’t get it. I talk to them and I am astounded that they think that you can shoot and snare and torture and it’s part of conservation. It’s a very unhappy situation and I hate being portrayed as anti-farmer because I am not.”
Moving on to less serious matters, I end by asking him about life as one of the most recognisable musicians in the country. Does his distinctive hair mean that he can’t move around without being spotted?
He reveals: “I get a lot of people who come up to me and say, ‘you look a lot like Brian May’. People also come up to me, and you wonder what they are going to say, and sometimes they just ask, ‘could you take a picture of me and my wife?’ It’s part of the trade, part of my life.For me, it has always been about the music. I didn’t need to be famous, I didn’t need to have lots of money – I was quite happy in my bedsit with my fish in a bag.”
Tickets for The Born Free Tour, priced £39, are available from 01256 844244 or online at anvilarts.org.uk.
**Wed 12 Jun 13**
VH1 CLASSIC ROCK RADIO REPORT
· RELATED AUDIO: Brian told us about how he likes meeting all different kinds of people in music and staying current (See Related AUDIO HERE).
**Wed 12 Jun 13**
THANK YOU EVERYONE... Keep it going - 260,000 would be highest ever pettition - 10,000 not so far away.
**Tue 11 Jun 13**
Brian May and Kerry Ellis had a nice 'Brunch' meeting with gangnam artist, Psy, which judging by the photographs, appears to have been an enjoyable occasion. Can we look forward to a collaboration?
**Tue 11 Jun 13**
Is Brian May right to call for badger cull to be called off? (Poll closed)
Yes - 82.85%
No - 17.15%
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