Rhianna Shaw | Jun 05, 2012
On this jubilicious weekend what better topic to write about than: Queen? Okay so not the beloved monarch of my native land, instead pretty much the coolest band of all time Recently I was lucky enough to receive an invitation to attend the 10 year anniversary performance of We Will Rock You, the show that has been rocking London’s West End since 2002. Having already seen it, albeit eight years ago, I dithered over whether it was worth going again. I need not have worried; not only had they pulled out all the stops in honour of the anniversary (including live performances from Brian May and Roger Taylor) which in and of itself would have been more than reason enough to attend, but the show has transformed over the last decade to stay culturally relevant, and I feel that somewhere along the way a new message has emerged.
I say new but actually whether or not the message had been there all along (perhaps my fourteen year old self was just not as highly attuned to the nuances of the show beyond the head-banging rock and roll) hearing Ben Elton, the genius behind the story, talk at the end, left no doubt in anyone’s minds as to what this show was about; aside, of course, from the absolutely epic work of one of the greatest bands of all time. At this point I’d like to imagine that you are poised on the edge of your seats, eyes glued to your computer screens, frantically skim reading to find out what this earth shattering message I have now spent two paragraphs writing about without mentioning actually is. Well you can stop scrolling and reposition your behind for maximum comfort because here it is: we are losing music to media. Not just music either – Elton suggests we’re so involved in living our lives through technology, so busy recording every moment, tweeting about it, blogging about it, texting about it, we’re forgetting the most important thing: actually LIVING it.
As he was saying this of course hundreds of smartphones were trained on him, recording every second, the irony of which did not escape him. “For God’s sake, put down your bloody phones and just enjoy it!” As someone who is borderline obsessed with recording every second of my life, both with diary entries and obscene numbers of photographs, I am aware that I spend too much of my life looking through a camera lens. And actually in the last two years I have done much to curb it, and he’s right – it is wonderful to be able to look back, but you want whatever you’re looking back on to be worth looking back on. A day with your eyes glued to the screen of your phone is not.
I feel that I’ve now wandered into a slightly different – but equally important and totally related – arena. So now I will I digress back to where I (and Mr. Elton) began: the tragic degradation of ‘real’ music. We Will Rock You is set in a bleak time in the future where rock and roll is forbidden and forgotten, and follows the story of a young man, Galileo Figaro (if you need the name explained this article is probably lost on you, and also you need to start listening to Queen, pronto!) who has dreams in which fragments of famous song lyrics come to him. This sets him apart from the Gaga boys and girls (pictured below), ironically from whom, in a roundabout way, Lady G takes her name, who all dress the same and talk the same and sing songs that are unerringly similar to the autotuned numbers currently dominating today’s charts. This uniformity is imposed by the Killer Queen (geddit?) and is seen as a kind of brainwashing. Galileo’s refusal to kowtow makes him a threat to her orderly, musicless world. Of course, not to spoil the ending or anything, but rock and roll wins.
Now I enjoy a good dance tune as much as the next product of the noughties, and I have to admit that I’ve been guilty of playing more electronic music than anything else in the last year or two. But standing in the Dominion Theatre, Ben Elton’s impassioned speech ringing in my ears, watching Brian May, Roger Taylor and the entire cast of We Will Rock You smashing ‘The Show Must Go On’ I honestly felt like I was on another plain of existence! Elton is right: it’s so easy to adapt to the catchy nothings of today’s music, but good old rock and roll, the precursor for everything musically epic that ever was and shall be, is at risk of dying out. And it’s us babies of the eighties and nineties who are to blame. So I believe, as a generation, it is our responsibility to not only bring back rock and roll as musicians, but as lovers of music; to accept the repetitive booty-jiggling tunes of today as just that and nothing more, and really truly appreciate the incredible phenomenon that comes of a group of human beings collaboratively twanging strings, hitting drums and singing their hearts out to ensure that the show really does go on.
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About the Author: Rhianna Shaw, Conference Hound’s UK correspondent is a 2011 graduate of Brown University with a B.A. in Literary Arts and a course focus on Business. At Brown, Rhianna was the Public Relations and Event Coordinator for the Brown Class Board, responsible for organizing class and campus-wide events. She spent her final semester developing an online start-up with a small team of her Brown classmates. Rhianna hails from sunny England, where she has returned to work in the event industry in London. She has spent a large portion of her life dedicated to music as a member of several bands and orchestras and she also enjoys acting and playing competitive sports!