When asking Eric Himan what he's got planned for this coming weekend and his response is simply "Oh, just a little Queen tribute," I know there's a sly grin at the aother end of the phone call. After all, Himan has kept a busy schedule, touring nationally throughout the year and even recording a monthly cooking show, Trial and Eric, which streams online at his website and UStream.tv. In fact, when I spoke with him, he had just finished recording the latest episode at Mario's Italian Restaurant, where he worked while attending college at Penn State University.
Even so, calling Queen Rocks! "just a little tribute" is something of an understatement. It may only be scheduled for one performance, but taking on the Queen catalog is no short order. The fact of the matter is, Himan and his band have been preparing for this show since March and rehearsals are hitting high gear this week as they put the finishing touches on what has become a full production that spans a large cross-section of the Queen catalog.
But how did the Queen show come about? As most people will remember, Himan did a tribute to Lady GaGa two summers ago with his band at the time, Eric and the Adams. "I did that at Majestic with Jimmy and Angel," Himan reflected. "It was a lot of work, but I was really happy with it."
When Himan crossed paths with the owners of Majestic earlier this year, they approached him about doing another show this summer, and although a number of artists' names were bandied about, none of them really hit home for Himan. Sometimes inspiration comes from unlikely sources, however.
"I was doing a photo shoot with Evan Taylor, who shot the cover for Oklahoma Today with Mary Beth Babcock as Audrey Hepburn," he shared. "That got me thinking it would be cool to do a series of shots like that where you have to look a little deeper to see the person, with me as different characters like Elton John and Bruce Springsteen. That's when it hit me: Freddie Mercury. I could do a Queen tribute."
"I knew everyone in the band could pull it off," he continued. "Although Lady GaGa was fun, her songs aren't as complex or complicated as Queen's. Queen is known for their harmonies, but even the songs that you think sound relatively easy are a lot more complicated and intricate once you get into them. Plus, there's a theatrical element to the band's work, which I thought would work for us and add to the show."
"Once I told the band, to see what they thought, they were all excited and into it," he said. "Then we got Tylisha (Oliver) and Tina (Phillips) on vocals, who also play with Todd and Erin in Fuzed, and they were into it as well."
In addition, Himan was talking with Noah Spiegel of the Tulsa Opera and asked him if he and the Opera would be interested in being involved, which brought Spiegel on as a producer and added the Tulsa Opera Choir for a portion of the evening.
Himan even approached Hank Charles about producing sound for the evening and helping create the introductions and interludes between songs.
"I don't really have a lot to say and don't want to break character," Himan explained, "So hank has helped put together a series of introductions and segues to help tie everything together."
Ultimately, Himan said "There are so many talented people in Tulsa and this has given me an opportunity to put together a team with all of the people I respect and have wanted to work with."
When discussing the set list for the night, Himan initially named check "Fat Bottom Girls" and "We Are the Champions" as songs the group could add to the set with the addition of Tylisha and Tina. When asking how the set list was picked, and if the band was focusing on any one particular record, Himan shared that the group would be covering an expanse of the Queen catalog and everyone in the band had input.
"'Killer Queen' is one of my favorites, so we'll be doing that, but we're playing a pretty broad selection," he shared. "Erin (Nelson) wanted to do 'Play the Game' and the girls wanted to do at least a section of 'Bicycle Race,'so those will be part of the evening. Mostly, though, we want it to be a big sing along all night. We want the audience to feel like they're a part of the night and enjoy it."
Of course, it's not only about being a sing along. Himan and his band have been rehearsing and working on this show since March, so you know it won't be a simple night of covers in a bar. Simply taking on a song like "Bohemian Rhapsody" can be an undertaking, but the band is taking this seriously to make this evening a night of recreating the songs as accurately as possible.
The evening has become quite the production, however, with not only the addition of the Tulsa Opera, but costumes which were recently flown in on loan from the Baltimore Opera and even dancers which will be performing with the band on a couple of songs.
"I wanted this to be the kind of show I'd enjoy going to see," Himan said, "and I want people to see that, so we've made it a production in everything for the sound and lights to even using the makeup people from the Opera."
Eric Himan Band will be performing Queen Rocks! for one show only this Saturday night, July 28, at Club Majestic. Tickets are available in advance at Sweet Tooth Candy & Gift Company (3747 S. Harvard Ave) or online at EricHiman.com for $15. Ordering online also allows the option of ordering a package that includes your ticket and an exclusive "Queen Rocks!" event t-shirt for $22. Tickets will also be available at the door the night of the show, but capacity is limited, due to the size of the production, which has included building out the stage and set for the evening.
Show time is set for 10pm, so make sure to arrive early before the show sells out and get a good spot for the show. In the end, Himan shared that "I really want people to see how much hard work we've put into this," but more than anything else, he wants the evening to be one that everyone in the audience can feel a part of. With that in mind, plan on participating and singing along with all your favorites from the Queen catalog, from "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "We Are the Champions" to "Fat Bottom Girls" and "Another One Bites the Dust."
Himan is one of Tulsa's consummate professionals and his current band is his tightest yet, so you can rest assured it will be an amazing evening that is only pushed over the top with the production he has put together for the evening. Although friends and fans have already gotten excited about this show and encouraged him to tour it regionally, Himan has put this one together for one night only for his hometown crowd in Tulsa, which will make Saturday night's show a special performance.
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