By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski | April 7, 2021
Queen Nation was definitely under pressure when the tribute band was asked to play a backyard birthday party for Foo Fighters bassist Nate Mendel.
The gig was a surprise for Mendel, who is a Queen superfan, according to Mike McManus, who plays the Brian May role in Queen Nation.
“They set up a bunch of extra amps on the stage,” McManus recalls. “The Foo Fighters wanted to get up and play a couple songs with us. During our last song, the cops shut us down.
“I was talking to (The Foo Fighters’) Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins after our show. I said, ‘I’m so (mad) the cops shut us down. We wanted you guys to play a couple songs with us.’”
Grohl responded with the ultimate compliment: “There’s no way we were going to go on after you guys. You would have made us look like a bunch of chumps.”
Queen fans can see for themselves when Queen Nation plays We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort in Fort McDowell at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 10, and tentatively in June in Cave Creek.
For more than a decade, Queen Nation has been playing sold-out shows with songs like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “We Are the Champions,” “We Will Rock You,” “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” “Another One Bites the Dust,” “Under Pressure” and “You’re My Best Friend” on its setlist.
“We just started our 2020-2021 tour in early March,” McManus says. “We didn’t have anything in January or February. We did shows on March 6, March 8 and March 9.
“We forgot how much we loved playing and just hanging out together. We’re the four musketeers.”
Queen Nation focuses on “The Game” era, 1980-1981, when Queen was at the height of its popularity in America.
“A lot of British Queen tribute bands play songs from 1985-1986, when Freddie Mercury was wearing his yellow jacket and they played at Wembley,” McManus says.
“They had fallen out of favor in America around that time. Just because we focus on ‘The Game’ era, that doesn’t mean we’re not going to do anything past ’81. We’ll do ‘I Want to Break Free’ and ‘Radio Ga Ga.’ The look and feel of the show are more 1980 to 1981, at the height of their popularity in America.”
Queen Nation plays the songs note for note, not taking liberties with Queen’s music. They look the part, play the instruments and cop English accents.
“We want fans to think they’re coming to see a Queen show in the 1980s,” McManus says.
“If a band says they’re going to play, say, ‘Under Pressure’ and put their own spin on it, nobody wants to see that. They want to hear the songs. Otherwise, you’re just a bar band hashing your way through Queen songs.”
A Boston native, McManus has been into Queen since 1976, when his father introduced him to the band. His father loved the song “Killer Queen,” but when a complex single from “A Night at the Opera” came out — “Bohemian Rhapsody” — the two hightailed it to the store.
“We sat there and listened to it from beginning to end,” McManus says. “I was a goner. Before I had even picked up a guitar, I played air guitar in my bedroom to Queen music.”
McManus was fortunate enough to see Queen twice — in 1980 at the Providence Civic Center in Rhode Island, and 1982 at the Boston Garden.
“I went with my dad and my brother and he got us 20th row on the floor,” he says. “Tickets were $7.50. Needless to say, I remember, during that concert, Brian May walked to the front of the stage and took a guitar solo. My dad knew that any thought of me going to medical school or law school went right out the window.
“Who would have known that X number of years later, I would be standing in front of 10,000 people playing ‘We Are the Champions.’ When we do concerts in the park, we play to that many people. Queen isn’t meant to be played for 50 people. It’s meant for huge audiences.”
When: 9 p.m. Saturday, April 10
Where: We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort, 10438 We-Ko-Pa Way, Fort McDowell