DEER VALLEY—I'm the first to admit I was skeptical at the thought of the Utah Symphony taking on the music of Queen as the grand finale of the summer's Deer Valley Music Festival. But it turned out I had nothing to worry about.
My reticence had nothing to do with the Utah Symphony; obviously the world-class players wouldn't have any problems tackling Queen's bombastic mix of prog- and glam-rock. I was more worried about the rock band brought on board by conductor Brent Havens to deliver the powerhouse vocals of Freddie Mercury and the stinging guitar of Brian May.
In a wise move, singer Brody Dolyniuk never really tried to replicate Mercury's vocals, instead delivering them with some style all his own. And the same could be said for the band backing him—they delivered solid versions of Queen's tunes, but it never felt like they were completely trying to ape the British rock royalty.
The show was split into two sets, each including a brief burst of rain that lent the proceedings a decidedly English vibe; no doubt Freddie and Co. spent plenty of stadium shows in the rain. Dolyniuk did his damnedest to get the crowd involved, running up into the audience, cajoling the them to wave their hands, clap along or get on their feet. At one point, he even put on a fake mustache, ala Freddie.
The show included all the Queen hits you might expect, but there were some surprises, as well. They opened with "Tie Your Mother Down," which I thought was a bold choice, and a rocking one. They followed with blasts through "Play the Game," "I Want It All" and "These Are the Days of Our Lives" before hitting the bass-driven mega-hit, "Another One Bites the Dust." "Killer Queen" was an excellent performance, and you could really hear the symphony's skills on that one. "Stone Cold Crazy" and "The Show Must Go On" ended the first set.
It's safe to say the members of the Utah Symphony's choir probably had never sung "Fat Bottomed Girls" before, and that opener for the second set was clearly popular with the audience. "Who Wants to Live Forever," a tune from the Highlander soundtrack, was an interesting choice,while "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" brought some old-school rock & roll vibes to the show. "Somebody to Love" was appropriately epic, and the ending salvo of "Bohemian Rhapsody," "We Will Rock You" and "We Are the Champions" naturally lent itself to a symphonic approach.
All in all, good fun for Queen fans, despite the occasional drizzle. At times, the symphony seemed to take a backseat to the band Havens brought to the show, but that's probably hard to avoid when you have screaming electric guitars and dramatic vocals like Mercury's to deal with. And another effort that keeps Queen's music alive now that Freddie's gone seems okay by me.