It was a night filled with the same face melting guitar solos, the same high notes coming from a man wielding a less than fashionable moustache, the same gut crunching funky bass lines, the same thunderous drum fills that force you to head bang uncontrollably, all that was missing was the huge hair and flamboyant costumes that couldn’t have ever made breathing easy.
Flash Harry were in town, and that could have only meant one thing, us Belfast dwellers were in for a trip down memory lane, to a time when Queen ruled the stage.
The night was in the beginning a more supressed atmosphere than normal for a rock n roll gig in the Waterfront Hall. The venue was filled with seats, no standing area was provided, however a clear sense of anticipation and excitement was very apparent throughout.
The stage was set up like an old Queen concert, with the stage having platforms built up on it allowing the performers to get higher up than the normal flat surfaced stage. The night was kicked off with a short yet impressive two song set from none other than the daughter of the ‘great pretender’ (as Ireland’s Buzz magazine so fittingly nicknamed him) Harry Hamilton, lead vocals of Flash Harry and co-founding member of the band. Lucy Hamilton was introduced to the stage by her father to sing two songs to warm us all up and prepare us for the rest of the night. The two songs chosen and performed by Lucy were Alicia Keys – Fallin’ and Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, two songs I’m sure you the reader can already tell takes some amounts of real talent to pull off vocally, which young Lucy did in truck loads. The daughter of frontman Harry stood upon the Waterfront Hall stage alone, with nothing but the backing tracks of the songs to aid her, and no doubt her father and the rest of the Flash Harry band members perhaps to the side willing her on in what was one of her biggest performances to date. Unphased by any nerves or pressure, Lucy performed brilliantly, hitting every note in what was in all a very impressive performance. Perhaps it won’t be the last time the young singer graces the Waterfront Hall stage, as a voice like one she possesses belongs on a stage.
Once the short set was over, and some final checks were made to the guitars set on stage, the lights around the auditorium cut out. It was time for the Flash Harry members to take to the stage, and rather than just walk on to cheers, Flash Harry came to the stage as ‘Flash’ played out around the Waterfront Hall, quite a fitting entrance song I think you will agree. Once all members had gotten to their instruments and faced the crowd, they blasted into the set, beginning with ‘We Will Rock You’, a song perhaps used as more of a message to what their intentions where for us audience members. And how they did.
The night was jam packed with hit after hit from the legendary Queen, as you would expect. The set included songs like ‘Under Pressure’, ‘Another One Bites the Dust’, ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’…I could go on and on, the songs were perfectly picked, balancing the fan favourites like ‘Fatbottom Girls’ and ‘Crazy Little Thing called Love’ providing those more adventurous and outgoing audience members to defy the seating plan and get to their feet to dance, whilst also playing the softer more emotional songs known by Queen like ‘These Are The Days’. Alongside the more obvious songs the set list was made up of came a few surprises, with songs like ‘Keep Yourself Alive’ for those more hard-core of Queen fans that would know the songs beyond what we are used to hearing on the radio.
Looking past the main focus point of the band for now (Harry Hamilton and his brilliant portrayal of the late great Freddie Mercury), the band itself were equally amazing. Stevie Boyd, taking on the role of Brian May (no easy task I’m sure any guitarist would agree) for the night performed every song with the same flair, and precision that Brian May played with. Every solo was a face melting tribute to the original, every note strung out was a pitch perfect salute to the songs played, it was truly a flawless performance. Behind Stevie Boyd was the man that had us clapping along to the songs, our Roger Taylor for the night, Stevie Shanks. Stevie was throughout the night a true powerhouse behind the drum kit, providing tremendous drum fills and pure precision when it came to the timing of any rolling beat required or head banging mash up, he played throughout the night with non-stop energy, energy I couldn’t help but see was in turn projected onto his fellow members. John Cleland and Stephen Prosser finished the main line up of the band, providing the funk, the solid back bone to any Queen song, with John’s seat shaking bass and Stephens’s flamboyant and adventurous keys.
Now let’s talk about Harry Hamilton, for Harry and his role in the band, it’s more than just a music performance, but an act, a portrayal that if done wrong, could be truly disastrous, and I’ve seen many wannabe Freddie Mercury acts in the past all fall flat on their face. But not this one, Harry showed just why he and his band of rock n roll veterans are so popular and so critically acclaimed. Harry hit every note that Freddie used to so beautifully throw out at us Queen fans, he provided us with all the same hip shaking, pose pulling energetic moves Freddie used to pull while on stage, wielding the same free standing microphone, and even treating us to costume changes that saw him travel through Freddy’s leather jacket phase, to the tuxedo we sometimes saw, finishing off with the most notorious of all, the yellow jacket. Harry’s overall performance of Freddy was utterly brilliant, a true testament to the memory of such a musical legend.
I could go on for so long about the night, it provided so many memorable moments, like a young fan being brought up on stage, wearing a Freddie costume, to receive the admiration of the band and the audience, or when Harry challenged the crowd to the same chant-off that Freddie used to do, with the crowd having to copy what he sung – a challenge in which the Belfast crowd were more than willing to accept. But rather than have you read anymore, I’ll just say this, if you loved Queen, you will love Flash Harry, no doubt about it. They are the perfect Queen tribute band, they provide the perfect set of songs, the explosive energy required to keep the night alive, and the same charisma Queen possessed to instantly win your admiration from the opening note. A brilliant night, if you take anything away from this article let it be this, go see Flash Harry the first opportunity you get, I guarantee you will not be disappointed. Niall Donnelly, Gigging NI