Guitarist Steve Leonard will perform original acoustic music before donning his character Brian May’s wig and clothes as he opens for his “Very encouraging” his bandmates in Almost Queen on July 17 at the Mishler Theater.
In addition to Leonard, Almost Queen features Joseph Russo, as the late showman Freddie Mercury; John Cappadona, as drummer Roger Tayler, and bassist Randy Gregg, as John Deacon.
Almost Queen goes beyond being a tribute band, Leonard said, and to get the most out of the experience requires an engaged and participating audience.
“Everyone who comes to a show knows every note we’re going to play, so we have to master it. There’s no room not to nail it because we want it to be perfect.” said Leonardo. “We put on a show like those other people, but it’s more than that. The audience – they’re also a character and have a role to play and that’s an audience that goes to see Queen. We create the illusion of being at a Queen concert and that only works if the audience plays their part in responding to the engagement we give from the stage. We want them to sing and when Joe as Freddie does a call and response, we want the audience to respond.
Leonard will perform his original music and some covers in a half-hour show. While he has a new album of original music coming out in September or October titled “The Right Wheel” fans will hear selections from previous releases; SYZYGY in 2020 and debut in 2018 “Break the code.”
The half-hour opener will be a mix of Leonard performing his original songs and some covers. “Guys are the most supportive of my original music, so when the opportunity arises, I take it. It’s a fairly recent development as I hadn’t taken advantage of being in Almost Queen to promote my own music. . said Leonardo. “I had a burst of new and creative energy and confidence in this new material and I can get it out there,” he said in a telephone interview with the Mirror.
The “creative explosion” he said, is likely attributed to being able to perform live after the pandemic silenced live music for a year or more. The pandemic canceled Almost Queen’s original performance date at the Mishler in 2020. Leonard said the band is “We are thrilled to finally take the stage at the Mishler and ROCK the house. We’ve been coming for a long time and we’re really excited to play there. … “We like to spread people’s joy with music. That’s what it’s all about,” Leonard said. Almost Queen played a show at the Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum in 2016. It was a special thrill for him as he has been a railroad fan since childhood.
Leonard said he started taking electric guitar lessons at age 12 and was heavily influenced by 1980s hard rock and heavy metal bands like Judas Priest and Metallica.
Later, he took classical guitar lessons for two years to hone his lifelong interest in music composition. He also cultivated his skills in music recording and production, so his solo albums showcase his skills in mixing and mastering music.
Learn classical guitar “gave me better technique and a better understanding of chord progression and overall ability,” he said. “It improved my ability to express myself.”
Leonard has also performed on stage in community theaters and, to a greater extent, in pit orchestras in high school and college theater productions. Such experience played a central role in his selection for his role in Almost Queen, he said. He had acted in a production of “Hair” and through these friend connections, Russo approached Leonard when the opportunity arose.
“With my theatrical background, being familiar with theater and being part of theater productions has been hugely beneficial. We are a tribute band but there is a theatrical element since we perform as members of Queen. It’s not just going on stage, it’s taking on the personality (of May), being ready to put on a wig and a costume and impersonate a personality. So that was not unusual for me.
His years of playing classical and electric guitar also helped him master the “the unpredictable nature of how Queen songs go”, he said. “There are a lot of twists and even the simplest songs have a lot of nuance. It’s a bit challenging and super exciting.