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Brian May and Kerry Ellis rock Birmingham Symphony Hall

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Review: Rock legend Brian May brought his latest tour to the region – and had to play second fiddle to his new lead singer.

Review: Rock legend Brian May brought his latest tour to the region – and had to play second fiddle to his new lead singer.

May has produced an album by West End star Kerry Ellis and the pair are now on the road on their Anthems tour – which last night stopped off at Birmingham Symphony Hall.

And while the Queen guitarist proved he has lost none of the skill that allows him to make his custom Red Special guitar sing, it was, quite rightly, Ellis who had the room in the palm of her hand.

Some of the sell-out crowd might have come for Brian, but they stayed for Kerry – treating her to a number of richly deserved standing ovations.

From the moment May's distinctive guitar struck up the opening chords to album opener Dangerland – Ellis put paid to any doubts about her stepping out of her musicals comfort zone. Does she have the voice to cope with a full band – one that includes Brian May's wailing axe and Queen drummer Roger Taylor's son Rufus banging seven shades out of the skins behind them? Does she! Ellis possesses a voice which goes up to 11.

After Dangerland, Ellis – dressed in a spectacular costume which may have put many in mind of one of Freddie Mercury's Zandra Rhodes numbers – launched into I'm Not That Girl, from Wicked, the musical which won her both plaudits and awards. It is spectacular. A rockier version than from when she tread the boards with it, but not suffering in its arrangement for that.

There were Queen songs aplenty. Somebody To Love, Save Me and the emotion-inducing No-One But You all get the Ellis treatment with intelligent reworkings from May. A Queen fan behind me said she shuddered at the thought of a voice other than Freddie Mercury's singing the band's songs. Somebody To Love soon changed all that.

And although these songs are highlights for many – this show is so much more. Ellis' version of Diamonds Are Forever possibly tops the original, if that isn't heracy. And then there's another rocked up Wicked song – Defying Gravity - as well as a wonderful, full-of-fun version of Love It When You Call. The chemistry between Ellis and May is clear to see. These are two friends having the time of their lives.

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May gets his moment in the spotlight, too. A guitar solo based heavily around Last Horizon from his album Back To The Light facilitates an Ellis costume change and is followed by May leading the crowd in the traditional Queen singalong Love Of My Life.

The show "ends" like Queen concerts did too, with the hand-clapping We Will Rock You and brilliantly pompous and overblown We Are The Champions.

But of course there's an encore. With the crowd baying for more Ellis returns to own Anthem from Chess before disappearing and returning looking like a 21st Century Sandy from Grease to show the girl rocks, giving Tie Your Mother Down all she's got.

And Ellis has got the lot.

By David Burrows

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