On Sunday 30 June, my daughter Eilis and I went to see Dr Brian May and Kerry Ellis, performing for one night only in Dublin, Ireland, on their Born Free tour.
Eilis is a big fan of Brian May, so when I discovered that tickets were on sale for the Dublin show, I hit that “buy” button and thought about the cost afterwards. We had front row tickets at the Olympia Theatre, Dublin, a venue I know very well, as it is the home of Jedward’s annual Panto.
Brian, of course, is known to the world as a top-flight guitarist with the classic rock group, Queen. He is also passionate about wildlife and science (with his PhD in Astrophysics, he is currently a visiting researcher at Imperial College London). Kerry Ellis is a musical theatre actress and singer famous for her portrayal of Meat in the Brian May produced West End show, We Will Rock You. After watching Ellis perform in the role of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, May personally invited her to audition for the role.
Brian and Kerry have been friends for over 10 years, and in the past few years have been collaborating musically, and have made joint efforts in supporting wildlife conservation. Brian is particularly vocal in the fight to save the badger in the UK, and the set-list reflected their shared love of animals.
My favourites would have to be the cosmic romance of ’39, the very stirring Somebody to Love, and the encore, Crazy Little Thing Called Love. The concert was a candlelit, quite intimate affair, and Brian and Kerry said by way of introduction that they hoped at the end of the show we’d feel like we were a small gathering of friends. And that’s what happened. The whole audience was invited to sing along on a number of occasions – we sang a stirring rendition of Somebody to Love, and all stamped our feet in such a dangerous fashion to We Will Rock You that it felt like the Olympia would fall down around our ears. Fortunately, it still stands!
Prior to the show, Eilis and I had the opportunity to meet Kerry Ellis, who posed for a photograph with Eilis. We had sadly just missed Brian by a few minutes, but Eilis made sure a fan book, which she had compiled for Brian’s birthday with contributions from young fans around the world, was given to him. It was all good. Brian gave her a shout out of sorts from the stage – he accidentally swore but caught himself and commented that “there are young girls in the audience”.
I asked Eilis to write a summary of what she thought about the concert.
“It was, to coin a phrase, a kind of magic.”
“For some songs, Kerry seemed the consummate performer: sincere, simply giving herself over to the song; other times, she was bright as a button and clearly having the time of her life. There were all sorts of giggles and grins and glances at Brian — it’s clear that the very different pair are best of friends.”
“It was Dublin, after all, so Brian gave us a story of him and one particular Dublin boy: Rory Gallagher. He remembered going down to the Marquee Club and seeing his guitar genius first hand, then waiting after the show with all his friends to ask him how it worked. “How do you do all that?” he’d ask, he and his friends fascinated. “He taught me all I knew,” he recalled, a fond smile on his face. I just found that moment rather touching. And he took that moment to segue into a country-sounding riff, dedicating this next song to Rory: “Tie your mother up.”
“Though the concert would be lively and friendly, it began on a jaw-dropping note — many jaw-dropping notes, to be precise, sung by the very able voice of Kerry. This (the song “I Who Have Nothing”) was really her showcase, and it was a masterful one.”
“One of the strengths of the tour, in my opinion, was the way big overwrought orchestral-backed show tunes could be brought back to basics and still sound wonderful. I’m listening to the original as I type and the two versions are worlds apart, but each with their own definite merit.”
After Dublin, Brian and Kerry moved onto the Continental leg of their tour, starting with Paris. Their next concert will be on July 13, in Sogliano al Rubicone, Italy.
Lisa’s daughter, Eilis, with Kerry Ellis.
(Save The Badger Badger Badger)
I Who Have Nothing
Butterfly (Some things that Glitter)
Dust in the Wind
Somebody to Love
Tell Me What You See
Nothing Really Has Changed
Life is Real (Song for Lennon)
The Way We Were
Can’t Help Falling In Love
Something (Beatles cover)
I’m Not That Girl
If I Loved You
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
Tie Your Mother Down
We Will Rock You
The Kissing Me Song
Encore: No-one But You (Only the Good Die Young)
Crazy Little Thing Called Love.