Since winning Stars in Their Eyes in 2000 with a record 864,838 votes, Gary Mullen has toured the world with his One Night of Queen show. Katy Wheeler speaks to the charismatic tribute frontman as he prepares to rock Sunderland.
BREAK free and get out of your seats – that’s the message from Gary Mullen as he gears up to step into the iconic shoes of Freddie Mercury on Wearside.
He’ll be belting out Queen’s biggest hits in a concert, One Night of Queen, that recreates the look, sound, pomp and showmanship of arguably the greatest rock band of all time.
“It’s high energy. Expect to be blinded and deafened, well it’s not quite that loud. But if you want to see a musical or a play then this is not the show for you. It’s a rock concert in a theatre setting,” explains Gary.
“We don’t want people to be sitting down, it you want to do that go and see Les Miserables. We want people playing air guitar or throwing shapes, that’s what Freddie was all about.”
Rewind 12 years ago and it was a different story for Gary who worked nine to five as a computer salesman. But appearing on Stars in Their Eyes as his favourite frontman transformed his life irrevocably.
“I didn’t enter Stars in their Eyes. My mum and wife did it on my behalf as I was too scared that Queen fans would lynch me,” he explained.
“It was bizarre how it worked out. Stars in their Eyes wasn’t like the X Factor, you just went back to your normal job after winning.
“But after I won it just exploded, for the first couple of years I felt like I was on a rollercoaster, it was such a ride and such a rush and it just gets better and better.”
Bringing the magic of Queen to life has proved popular. Since 2002, Gary and band The Works have toured constantly, performing in the UK, U.S., Germany, France, Holland, Denmark, South Africa and New Zealand to sell-out audiences as well as twice rocking the prestigious BBC Proms in the Park in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 40,000.
Speaking about his career highlights, Gary said: “Meeting Brian May in 2008 was amazing. He had invited me as his personal guest to one of his shows and I couldn’t speak to him at first. I made a prat of myself. I just couldn’t vocalise the words at first.
“But he was such a lovely guy.”
Queen, who performed at the recent Olympics closing ceremony, seem as popular today as they ever were.
“Queen are iconic, they’re up there with the Rolling Stones and The Beatles,” said Gary.
“Like The Beatles, you’ll never see the original line-up of Queen again, but the quality of the music means that they stand the test of time.
“You put it on and the music still sounds fresh. I’m a fan of 80’s records, but when you put them on, some sound so dated. Bohemian Rhapsody isn’t like that, it’s so complex.
“People today are still striving to make music like that.
“The music is very clever. They were pigeon-holed as a rock band, but they had so many different styles. You go from something like Bohemian Rhapsody to Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon which was like a vaudeville, Cole Porter style, to We Will Rock You, which is a foot-stomping guitar anthem. You had that coupled with Freddie who was the most unbelievable frontman.
“He could take a member of the audience, no matter how far back they were sitting, and make them feel like he was singing to them.
“Also, Queen were unique in that all four members wrote hit songs, they weren’t like The Beatles where just Lennon and McCartney wrote the songs. That’s why you get such a breadth of material and so many styles on one album.”
l One Night of Queen is at the Sunderland Empire on Saturday, September 15.
Tickets priced £17.50 are available from the Box Office on High Street West (open 12pm–6pm, Mon–Sat), by calling 0844 871 3022 and online at www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland