The Ultimate Queen Celebration - a Tribute Starring Marc Martel
“In the history of music, few voices have been as great as that of Freddie Mercury. However, the Canadian singer Marc Martel seems to be his very reincarnation.”
-Alejandra Orozco, Quarter Rock Press
Long before his YouTube videos went viral, spawning an appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and a performance with the surviving members of Queen on “American Idol,” Marc Martel spent 13 years recording and touring the globe with Canadian rockers Downhere. Not only did the rock band visit 49 American States, but also toured throughout Europe and even Northern Africa, collecting worldwide acclaim and four Juno Awards in their native land.
All the while, the group was extoled for its sonic diversity while the Nashville transplant was regularly heralded as a world-class vocalist, often earning comparisons to late great Freddie Mercury in tandem with building his own fervent fan base. While the idea of paying tribute to one of the world’s most renowned and influential rock institutions never actually occurred to him when pounding the pavement with his own internationally signed act, in hindsight, it only made sense that Martel would someday be the perfect vehicle to propel the Ultimate Queen Celebration onto the road.
“When I was in my former band Downhere, I did everything I could not to remind people of Freddie Mercury, but it became almost hilarious how many people compared me to him to the point where it felt like it was working against the band when we tested singles at radio.”
After paying their dues for more than a decade in a fifteen passenger van and finally graduating to a full-fledged bus, the group wrote what they believed was the very peak of its artistry and expression, but despite the private support of radio programmers, the public never latched onto to what turned out to be Downhere’s swansong effort. Yet right around the time when that writing popped up on the wall, Martel received an email from an industry pal with a link to a contest spearheaded by the actual members of Queen.
At first, the front man almost passed on the opportunity, but with some prodding from his wife and additional friends, he casually cut a version of “Somebody To Love” in 2011, and now 30 million cumulative YouTube and Facebook views later, bolstered by the aforementioned “Ellen” appearance, Martel was declared the victor. Even legendary Queen drummer Roger Taylor remarked to the Daily Record: “That voice. You listen, close your eyes and you think it’s Freddie. It’s really uncanny.”
Fast forward to 2017, and Martel is the ideal match for the Ultimate Queen Celebration, an explosive, attention-commanding tribute where some of the most iconic rock anthems of all time collide with a theatrical performance style and eye-popping production. At its core, the riveting show focuses on the extremely diverse body of the band’s greatest hits, from the grandiose “Bohemian Rhapsody” to the adrenaline-pumping “We Will Rock You,” the euphoric “We Are The Champions,” the funky “Another One Bites The Dust,” the stadium-shaking David Bowie collaboration “Under Pressure,” the soulful “Somebody To Love” and the swinging “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” (to name but a few from the steroid-stacked set list).
In addition to the obligatory but nonetheless consistently astounding selections, the Ultimate Queen Celebration also incorporates an entirely unique angle that will have die-hards and casual appreciators alike clamoring to hear several other sides of Martel. “Near the end of Freddie’s life, he explored other styles of music beyond rock, including opera, so with that in mind, the show also includes a segment of familiar songs in the flavor of what they might have sounded like had Freddie ever gotten the chance to sing them,” he explains. “For instance, I perform ‘Ave Maria’ by myself on piano and also the great opera aria ‘Nessun Dorma’ in the style of Freddie, so it gives the night some imaginative elements in the spirit of Queen, rather than strictly the letter of Queen. You could call it a greatest hits show with a twist where I get to explore other things that I wish Freddie could have recorded himself and wonder what could have been.”
Melodic rock solo artist Jeff Scott Soto, who’s also logged time in Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Journey (the latter of which taught him a thing or two about channeling a superstar vocalist) even admitted “I wouldn’t want to have to try to sing these more obscure songs or one of these novelty songs after somebody like Marc Martel, who does them so well and does them like Freddie.” Rolling Stone went on to call the vocal resemblance “striking,” while Brian Koerber of Mashable proclaimed “regardless of Martel's obvious comparisons to Mercury, he's a talented musician and performer, not a gimmick.”
“Living in the States, I’m finding that Americans in particular are kind of discovering Queen still, even though they’re the second biggest thing to The Beatles in the rest of the world,” notices Martel. “As a result, America isn’t satiated with Queen cover bands like they are in the UK and Europe, so gigs keep falling into my lap. I try to walk a line between being my own artist and indulging in this Queen thing, but it’s so much fun and people have been knocking down my door that it’s hard to say ‘no’ and it’s a standing ovation every night. It’s really just me answering the call of a huge desire for Queen’s music to be performed with Freddie’s sound.”
But even with the overwhelming demand behind Martel’s Queen-themed projects, he’s cultivated an increasingly visible solo career defined by a relentless creativity, unpredictably and practically super human abilities to simultaneously craft his own identity while flawlessly stepping into the shoes of others. He’s made additional waves performing at the direct request of Céline Dion (who avidly follows his videos) on Radio-Canada TV's “En direct de l’Universe” in 2016, plus a jaw-dropping cover of George Michael and Wham!’s “Last Christmas” for the video game “Just Dance 2017” (with Kenny Loggins’ “Footloose” coming next). Add in performances on People.com, ten nights at the Calgary Stampede, plus various San Francisco Giants, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers and Charlotte Hornets games, and there’s truly no limit to Martel’s unreal reach.
“I grew up believing a lie that I had to have one sound as a singer, but after I put that false belief aside, I realized I can have as many sides as I want,” sums up Martel. “I’m having the best time of my life as a professional musician right now where I’m involved with so many different things it’s impossible to get bored. Between anything Queen-related, my own recordings and these fun little side projects, I’m more diverse and happier as an artist than I’ve ever been!”