Touching the Stars: Big-Name Cover Bands Play Big Dublin Shows

by James Hendicott

The cover band is a long and well established musical tradition, be it in the form of a facsimile take on an established great, or a chance to see clever twists on songs performed to a high standard.

The growth of the cover band industry is substantial, in fact. Gone are the days of a few shows in the pub for the biggest acts in the game: now they’re playing venues with capacities in the high hundreds to low thousands, and gaining nationwide reputations.

Take ‘Flash Harry’, a Belfast-based group who take the cues from Freddie Mercury’s opera-rockers Queen. They’re headlining Vicar Street this Spring, and it all came off the back of an independent career that they ended up twisting into a riff on the stadium-filling stars.

“Flash Harry was a gigging band when Freddie Mercury died,” they explain. “As we all loved Queen and already included four or five queen songs in the set, we decided to have a special night just playing all Queen music. That was 13th March 1992. The night went so well we did a few more and eventually evolved into a full “tribute” show.

“We love the diversity of the music. From early hard ‘progressive’ rock to 1920/30’s style. From elaborate big productions like Bohemian Rhapsody to stadium crowd-participation songs like We Will Rock You. For a musician, the music of Queen is interesting, clever and challenging to do.  Queen evolved over the 20 years of their recording career, but the quality of their songs was consistent.”

“We have a desire to do the job well,” they continue. “Learning and practicing the songs is only one side of the equation. Live, you need to project energy, enthusiasm and fun. Delivery and performance are key elements to the concert. The audience need to feel your sincere relationship with the music. We present the essence of showmanship.”

Pink Floyd, like Queen, have always been a great option for cover bands, offering recognisability and plenty of scope for experimentation.

‘Breathe,’ who cover the psychedelic legends, are less well-established than their counterparts, but take their version of Waters and co equally seriously.

“A lot of work goes into reproducing the music of Pink Floyd, and the most important thing is for us is to be able to faithfully recreate the sound and feel of a Pink Floyd concert,” they explain.

“We spend a lot of time getting the sounds as close to the originals as possible, sometimes by using the very same instruments, effects and keyboards as the band themselves used. We use a lot of equipment at these shows! There is nothing better than seeing the look of surprise on people’s faces when they hear us playing opening notes of a song they love.”

“We do a two hour plus psychedelic rock show, a real Pink Floyd Experience not to be missed. If I had to choose one thing I love about the band it’s the live album ‘Is There Anybody Out There’. It’s a live record of The Wall recorded during the band’s 1980/81 tour of the album, it’s Roger Waters at his best as he snarls and sneers his way through the show, it’s so alive and visceral, an amazing live document of what must have been an incredible and emotional show.”

Another outfit, ‘A Foreigner’s Journey’, cover New York rockers Foreigner through the decades of their 80-million selling arena rock career, and explore the sound of San Francisco legends Journey.

“This was my vision after witnessing a Foreigner show in Las Vegas back in 2006, I was blown away and thought that this would be a great tribute show,” they explain.

“We finally have the right line up now, which really does feel like a family, so performing together on stage is always a pleasure and when the crowd get behind us and the songs, it really is magical.”

Their mission is simple, much like the other acts going big on the cover’s circuit right now: “We want to be high energy and musically as close to the the real things as possible.” It’s the passion of a tribute, the sincerest form of flattery.

Breathe perform Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon at the Dublin Academy on March 16. Flash Harry play Vicar Street on April 13. A Foreigner’s Journey play The Button Factory on May 5.

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