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Review | Tom Chaplin performs Queen at the London Palladium

The Keane frontman pays tribute to legend Freddie Mercury

By Steve Brown

We thought Cher had the monopoly on covering classic artists this year, but a late contender has entered the arena in the tall – and extremely handsome – form of Keane frontman, Tom Chaplin.

As part of BBC Radio 2’s Friday Night is Music Night, Tom took to the stage at The London Palladium last night – yes, a Wednesday, such is the magic of broadcast – to perform songs by Queen. Not, perhaps, an immediate fit, you might think. But boy would you be wrong.

It’s funny that Tom tells the sold-out audience that he had avoided emerging himself in the world of Queen and Freddie Mercury – deciding only fairly recently that he felt he could do the gig justice.

With only three weeks to learn 20 Queen songs, he says he might need the help of the crowd. What turns out to be a hardcore collective of both Queen and Keane fans roar their appreciation and Tom beams. By the end of the performance he’s left them screaming for more, without any need of assistance.

Opening the two-act set with ‘I Want To Break Free’, Tom immediately owns the stage. He’s looking better than ever, dressed in skinny jeans, high tops and a sparkly jacket as he bounds around, bringing renewed vigour to a classic track. By the second track, 1980’s ‘Play The Game’, people are standing up, applauding.

It’s a few songs in before Tom mentions that Freddie Mercury – the subject of recent movie, Bohemian Rhapsody – was his idol. It certainly makes sense, as you realise he’s got every single vocal nod, breath and memorable moment down perfectly.

At points, when the crowd are so animated that you can’t see Tom, you can easily be forgiven for thinking how eerily close to Freddie’s vocals he sounds.

He pays a touching tribute to the bisexual singer, who died in 1991, telling the audience we should all live our lives to the full before performing an incredible version of ‘The Show Must Go On’.

Another gay legend gets paid tribute, as Tom talks about George Michael and his show-stopping rendition of ‘Somebody To Love’.

“You set the mark quite high, George!” Tom laughs before he begins his version. It’s genuinely spine-tingling when he hits that note and the audience reward him with a well-deserved standing ovation that Tom eventually has to interrupt to continue with ‘Radio Ga Ga’ – which the crowd are only too happy to partake in.

Tom later jokes about having to attempt to cover David Bowie as well, when performing both vocals on ‘Under Pressure’ and then undertakes a mammoth cover of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ – which he explains that, due to the complexities of the production, Queen would perform live with a backing track. No such luxury here – and Tom absolutely nails it, driving the audience crazy once more.

His version of ‘These Are The Days Of Our Lives’ is just beautiful, and ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ has everyone’s hands in the air. He closes the evening with ‘We Are The Champions’.

“It’s a roller coaster of emotions, singing the songs of Queen,” he admits, before apologising that he really doesn’t have anything other than the 20 planned songs.

The crowd erupts when someone suggests he should sing Keane. But we’re putting it out there now – if there’s not an album of Tom Chaplin singing the songs of Queen released next year, it would be a travesty.

Until then you’ll have to wait to experience this entire phenomenal gig when Radio 2 broadcast it in early 2019.

Rating: 5*

Friday Night Is Music Night – Tom Chaplin performs Queen will air on Radio 2 in 2019

Words: Darren Scott