ANTHEMS, the album was a dream pairing – of a celebrated singer with a true legend of British music.
And come Wednesday night, Kerry Ellis and Brian May will be belting out the album in the live, with a concert at Milton Keynes Theatre.
Leisure editor Sammy Jones talked with them...
Kerry Ellis is excited – about the tour, about the glamorous frocks she will wear (a 75 minute set could boast four dress changes...at the last count) and about the fan base that supports her so relentlessly.
“They are hugely loyal, and I’ve got to know quite a few of them now, because they come to absolutely everything...” says the bubbly singer, “It’s like having an instant support. You know people are on your side, so it is really helpful.” And although tickets for this tour – which launched at the start of the month with two dates at The Royal Albert Hall (the first sold out in under 24 hours) are flying everywhere – Kerry is feeling the pressure: “There is a bit more than usual, because it all lands on you.
“If I go out as part of a show,” as Kerry has in huge West End shows including My Fair Lady and We Will Rock You, “...you have a cast, a company and producers to hide behind.
“Whereas this is us baring our soul, so we’re quite exposed...when we sold out the Albert Hall, I was blown away. Having it sell out so quickly was a great way to start.”
It’s a refreshing package too.
“The nice thing is that it is pulling together different styles of music and different characters...with me coming from theatre, Brian coming from the rock world, and our support group Vintage Trouble are very much a soul rock band...”
Vintage Trouble, we should say, are an LA-based quartet who you might have seen turn a recent Later with Jools show from a tad drab to pure perfection.
You can’t take your eyes from the rousing rabble.
Kerry caught them at an industry showcase: “I called Brian and said ‘These guys are really good, it would be great if we could use them,’.
He knew the lead singer, called them up and now they are on the tour.
“It is nice to be able to put all those things in a place that they wouldn’t normally be – like a theatre or concert hall, shake it up a bit, and hopefully make it a little bit unusual.
“Because I was quite heavily involved in We Will Rock You, I am used to singing Queen numbers, but it’s a joy for me to be able to sing a couple of songs on stage with Brian,” Kerry enthuses.
Queen, she says, figured in her family record collection, but she was equally at home listening to a bit of Barbra Streisand as she was playing A Day at the Races, and that scope undoubtedly helped to shape that feisty, pliable voice.
How do you keep the vocal chords in pristine working order?
“It’s like being an athlete,” she says. “You have to keep it in check.
“I have to make sure that I look after it, rest, sleep, drink lots of water – make sure that I am match fit!” she laughs.
Kerry says that a second album definitely figures on her wish list, but for now, the tour is the wow-factor.
“Not only have you got the legendary Brian May, but you have got a fantastic band.
“It is going to be a real fusion of theatre, rock, loud noises and a lot of surprises!”
BRIAN May is a guitar ace, responsible for many of the songs that are the very fabric of this country’s musical history, and revered the world over.
As one quarter of Queen, he is behind classics like We Will Rock You, I Want It All and Save Me.
They really don’t come any better than that, as is reflected in the 300 million album sales that Queen racked up.
But even perfectionists make mistakes...
“Oh god, all the time!” he admits, “I don’t like to stick to the formula and very often if you are out on a limb you can do something great.
“But you can also do something very foolish.
“So yes, I am very much a live animal...” And you must surely realise that your sound is so iconic.
“That’s a hard question,” he pauses.
“I am just me really and I know my limitations.
“To some extent I know what I can do. I’m not a Paganini, but I can do what I do and my guitar is a voice, that’s the way I see it.
“The sound is very important to me, and its voice is very important, because it is my voice.”
So far as the tour is concerned, Anthems won’t be Queen by numbers, by any means.
But as Kerry has already mentioned, there will be a couple of expected tracks aired.
“One of the great things about this Anthems tour is not to try and be Queen...everyone has got a new slant and that’s very refreshing for me. We’ve come up with a different way, ... it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Music keeps Brian busy, but it isn’t his only passion.
He is a patron of several charities, found time to complete a Phd in astrophysics, has co-authored two books, boasts many other musical dalliances and of course, has a home life too.
How on earth does he manage to successfully cram so much into his days?
“I have no idea!” he answers with a laugh.
“I don’t have days off – and I do feel that some days I am batting balls all the time.
“But I try to organise things so that I am in a sense, in control, although I think that control can be an illusion.
“We think we’re in control of our lives, but actually things happen around us and we just deal with them the best we can...”
Brian is a staunch believer in animal welfare, and has turned that belief into firm action with his own charity, Save Me, and a crusade to fight the return of blood sports to the British countryside.
It occupies much of Brian’s time and means that these days, he is attacked, albeit verbally, on a regular basis.
“It is a constant learning curve,” Brian says.
“I have to deal with the flak, as you mentioned, and I wasn’t really trained for this.
“I was trained for the gentleness and positivity of music, which everybody gets into and is a joyous experience.
“This business of sticking up for what you believe is right, and then getting attacked for it every day is something I am still struggling to get used to,” he admits.
“I can deal with it, but it does take a toll, I have to say,” says the mild-mannered chap.
“It changes your life.
“I feel like I get up every morning and wonder where the next bullet is coming from.
“It is like being permanently at war, but I am not backing down – I know we are right and I know this country has got to change.
“There are people working day and night to try and make sure the beastly act of pursuing animals with dogs is brought back into the panorama of British life and anyone who cares about animals doesn’t want to see that happen.” We read somewhere that you would rather be remembered for your work in animal welfare rather than your career in music...
“I think it’s getting that way,” he admits, “When I die, if I feel like I have made any difference whatsoever in the way the rest of the animals on this planet are treated, then I will die happy...”
Visit www.save-me.org.uk for details.
>To book tickets for Anthems at MK Theatre on Wednesday night, call 0844 871 7652.