It’s not his only line of work, but 56-year-old South African-based Texan Joseph Clark is best known for what he describes as his ‘bread and butter’ – his Queen tribute stage shows. He’s travelled the world performing some of Freddie Mercury’s greatest hits, and this week, he brings the show to Dubai, almost 20 years after the untimely passing of Mercury. We grab him for a chat ahead of what is bound to be an energetic and fittingly nostalgic performance.
How long have you been performing the music of Queen?
I started in a show called Queen of the Opera in 1990. It was a huge extravaganza with a whole opera company, a full ballet company, a soprano, a tenor and two lead singers – I was one of the singers.
What are you working on now?
At the moment I’m working on a show called The Queen Experience, which will take place in The Netherlands – we’re doing it this year because it is quite a significant year for Freddie Mercury and Queen. It was Freddie’s 65th birthday very recently, and in November – when we’re doing the show – it will be 20 years since he passed away. 2011 also signifies 40 years of Queen in the music business, so it’s quite a significant year.
What kind of performance will you be doing in Dubai?
The Netherlands show is more along the lines of a Queen concert, but the stage show, which we’ll be doing in Dubai, is more dramatic and theatrical. It’s not so much a rock concert because obviously we’re not on a big rock stage. Instead, we do a dramatic version of each of the songs. This tribute is like a little story we try to tell.
Had he not passed away, do you think Freddie Mercury would still be performing today?
Absolutely – there’s no doubt about it. He lived for the stage. He lived to perform in front of live audiences. He would only have done something else if people stopped listening to his music, but they haven’t stopped – they still love it.
Have you ever thought about teaming up with someone who looks like Brian May?
I don’t want to go that way. I never wanted to be a Freddie Mercury impersonator. I just want to do the music in my own way, and a lot of times we try to stay accurate to what Queen did, recording-wise. We try to make it so that when people come along to the show, they can close their eyes and say: ‘Oh yeah, that’s just like the recording I know’.
Which other artist’s music would you like to perform?
I’ve done a couple of tribute shows in South Africa. One was an Elton John show, and that was exciting. But the most exciting show was one I produced myself, based on Sting’s music. I used a ballet company, and we followed Sting’s musical journey through The Police and his solo work. Each song was choreographed so the audience could see it portrayed. I’d like to do that show again, actually.
Joseph Clark: The Music of Queen is at the First Group Theatre on September 27-October 1. Tickets Dhs175 at www.timeouttickets.com