We will rock you
“You don’t sound like a rock star — you could be a . . . a New Zealander.”
Surely most rock or rock musical stars would sniff haughtily, or have their publicity helicopter save them from such gracelessness. But not performer Dominic Warren. Top bloke and tribute artist as the flamboyant, stage-eating Freddie Mercury, he brings the extravagant rock concert to life.
South African Warren has a few more days left in MIQ (pre-booked, no queue-jumping; he’s just not a special privileges sort of guy) and presented as a captive interviewee on the phone. Besides, who else has he to talk to? Nala? No, wait, that’s Lion King.
Warren enjoyed performing in a Bee Gees tribute show in Gisborne two years ago but to play Queen frontman Freddie Mercury is, as the cliche goes, a dream come true.
“Freddie is my absolute hero,” says Warren from his managed isolation facility.
“I’ve been a fan since I was 12 or 13 years old. I feel like I have prepared for this moment my whole life. It’s awesome, I have a better job than most.”
But given the mesiodens or supernumerary teeth in Mercury’s upper jaw, which caused overcrowding that pushed forward his front teeth, leading to an overjet, which enhanced his singing voice through the activation of his vestibular folds, a pair of mucous membranes located just above the vocal cords, surely Warren has undergone either surgery or opera training to meet Mercury’s range.
“I did study classical music and classical studies but not opera,” says Warren.
His focus was to take on the highly challenging tenor role of the Evangelist in the Drakensberg Boys Choir’s productions of Bach’s St John Passion.
“I started with classical long before rock and roll. I discovered Bach when I was very young. I didn’t think rock had a place in society. I was on my way, preparing for the role of the Evangelist, when the rock and roll bug bit me.”
“I found Freddie Mercury equally as challenging in vocal ability but you can draw endless parallels between the two genres. What’s important to remember is there will never be another Freddie. I try my best to do the songs justice and pay tribute to Queen, which is the biggest thing I’ve ever done.
“Freddie died the year before I was born but I feel like I know him well.”
Warren’s favourite Queen song is Bohemian Rhapsody which his uncle sang to him when he was a child. He then introduced Warren to Queen records.
“At about 12 or 13 I realised how epic their music was, It was a rabbit hole for me from that point.”
Born on the Eastern Cape of South Africa, Warren began his vocal training as head chorister with the Drakensberg Boys Choir. He continued his training at Kearsney College and joined the South African Youth Choir.
With a voice once described as “annoyingly good” Warren’s career highlights include sharing the stage with Luciano Pavarotti, Joshua Bell and the Soweto String Quartet, performing for Bishop Desmond TuTu, Bono and Saul Kerzner.
Warren was in Capetown when he heard Showtime Australia was to hold auditions for the Queen tribute show, It’s a Kinda Magic. He gave it a go, landed the part and now has a better job than most people. But because he so doesn’t come across like a rock god on the phone he could be one of us — he could be a New Zealander.
“On stage it’s a different character you’ll see when the attitude comes out,” he says.
“I’m living the dream. Sometimes I wake up and have to pinch myself.”