SARAH VEST – STAFF WRITER
Don’t stop them now! Gary Mullen & The Works are on their way to deliver Chautauquans one rocking night of Queen.
Mullen began his career as Freddie Mercury in 2000, when his wife and mother secretly entered him in the Granada TV show “Stars in Their Eyes.” He won the overall Live Grand Final. In 2002 he formed his band The Works, and created the touring show One Night of Queen. Gary Mullen & The Works will be taking the stage at 8:15 p.m. Aug. 6 in the Amphitheater to perform the British rock band’s top hits.
The Works are made up of Billy Moffat (bass), Jon Halliwell (drums), Malcolm Gentles (keyboards) and David Brockett (guitar). According to their website, Halliwell first began playing with Mullen at the age of 15 when he got his first drum kit for Christmas. Unfortunately, the pair’s first band practice was cut short by law enforcement, who were called due to excessive noise during a spirited rendition of “We Will Rock You.”
According to Mullen — who has been touring One Night of Queen for the past 19 years — what keeps the band going is getting to travel the world and make people happy. To him, this is especially important with everything that has happened in the last 16 months.
“To play songs that we all rock with, like ‘We Are The Champions,’ and just see a sea of hands (and people) singing along, it’s incredible, and it’s such a buzz,” Mullen said.
“It’s just nice to do something that makes people happy and that’s why we … constantly push ourselves, trying to make the show better and bigger than it was before.”
For Mullen, it is important for people to know that The Works try to play their songs with passion as a rock band — that they are not trying to parody Queen. They try to play as if they are Queen, in order to convey to the audience how great a band Queen was.
He said that people frequently ask him what he does on stage. His response always is, “Well, I become the other guy.” To Mullen, this “other guy” is the Superman to his Clark Kent; his showy stage persona who helps him to embody Freddie Mercury’s spirit.
Mullen said that getting ready to go back on tour again involved watching some videos of old Queen performances and remembering how to put on a show. The Works were able to rehearse primarily over Zoom, with a few in-person meetings once restrictions began to lift. According to Mullen, each band member mostly practiced alone in their home, each perfecting their part of the song, before coming together for an intense few days of rehearsal where they fit the pieces together.
This was backwards from how they normally rehearse and prepare for a tour, Mullen said. What really made it feel real was when The Works first stepped back onstage and heard the crowd screaming. Interacting with the crowd is what really makes the performance fun for the band.
Mullen asks that all Chautauquans come to the show prepared to rock out. He points to the band’s rendition of “Somebody to Love” as an example of how crucial crowd participation is to making it a good evening.
“There’s only five of us on stage,” Mullen said. “We say to the audience, ‘You can be the choir, you want to sing with me? You guys be the choir,’ and we get the audience to sing the middle part of (‘Somebody to Love’).”
Mullen hopes that people know they are not going to be putting on a “sit down and clap” kind of show. He invites people to dance in the aisles, play air guitar and even headbang.
“We’re giving you something to rock out to, so rock out,” Mullen said.