Miracle, October 18th 1999
The Jam, Leiden, The Netherlands
By Jan-Jaap de Haan
By accident I received an e-mail about this Dutch Queen cover-band. Apparently they were to play in my hometown, but I couldn't find any further information on the gig. That's a pity, because I'm sure more people would have attended this gig if it had been advertised properly.
The gig was to start at 21h, but it took the band more than one-and-a half hour extra to soundcheck. I found this rather annoying and very unprofessional, though I understood that they had some problems with the tapes - the gig was to be recorded.
During the gig they played some of the first songs again, to have a proper version on tape. But at the same time this was my only complaint, since the rest of the evening was really brilliant.
The concert started off with a nice version of I Want It All. Since singer John Zwaan also played guitar, Miracle was able to play the track very close to the original. Pity the lead guitar was a bit low in the mix, but this was to be changed after three songs. The May-part in this track was sung by keyboard-player Mark Smit. His role in this band is pretty important since he adds some nice arrangements here and there, which makes the sound a bit fuller. His backing (and sometimes lead-) vocals are right on the spot.
After another short break and a tiny bit of Father To Son, drummer Chris van Koppen started the very recognisable intro of Liar, which is one of my favourite early Queen-tracks. The key to the wonderful performance of this band, is without doubt the wonderful voice of John Zwaan. He resembles Mercury's voice very much and I think he hits some of the higher notes better than Good-Old-Freddie did during the 80s. Liar was very powerful and straightforward. Simply awesome!
Somebody To Love followed and despite the great performance, I think this version didn't really come off the stage, mainly because the 40 people in the small cafe were a bit reluctant to sing along. Still I think this song could work very well with a bit bigger audience.
The heavy guitar-riff by Rudi de Jong introduced Fat Bottomed Girls, which showed how powerful and tight these boys are. After the famous 'get on your bikes and ride' they almost blew me out of the cafe..
Save Me was next. Personally I think the album version of this song is a bit bare, but this live version was great. After the piano introduction, the guitar solo was played by two guitars, which created a very special sound. These guys aren't just copying Queen songs, they add little things that make the arrangements a bit stronger at points. I always thought that was impossible!
Since Miracle is jumping back and forth in the Queen-catalogue, a newer song was next: a lovely version of the very emotional These Are The Days Of Our Lives. Rudi de Jong didn't miss single note in the guitar-solo and Bart Pellinkhof made me aware of the great bass-line in this ballad.
Death On Two Legs, another favourite of mine, was next and I think I can say that - thanks to the double guitarpart - Miracle got closer to the album version than Queen ever did. Very nice was the transition into Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon, a very tongue-in-cheek song, sung with a very nasal voice by keyboardplayer Mark Smit. It even featured the bicycle bell!
Smit's vocals were important as well in The Fairy Feller's Master Stroke, which was next. He adds to the wonderful voice of Zwaan and together they managed to get through this extremely difficult track, the transition into Nevermore was right as well.
A giant leap of almost twenty years brought them to Too Much Love Will Kill You, which was played in the Made In Heaven-version, which was a right choice since Zwaan's voice has nothing in common with Brian May's.
A fast version of Don't Stop Me Now (recently used in Holland for a cat-food commercial) brought back the attention of some of the bastards in the audience that had started talking during Too Much Love…
Another surprise for me was the appearance of Was It All Worth It? in the setlist. This song was as powerful as the very symphonic original. Smit managed to do very well on keyboards, despite the difficult orchestral last part.
Another keyboard-oriented track was Play The Game, not a favourite of many fans, but certainly one of mine. The keys were a more natural part of the song in this version than in the original, where the different parts almost seem 'glued' together.
Love Of My Life is always a live-favourite, but I think it's one of the few songs that didn't come across. The people in the cafe were talking too loud and I think this song should be accompanied by acoustic guitars, instead of piano. But I'm sure this will work on any Queen convention! Breakthru however did work fine. A nice, fast version, with the bassline played on keyboards, made the people singing at the top of their lungs. The very typical guitar-solo was right in every detail.
I Want It All was played again for recording and this time the sound was a lot better. Simply great! Sometimes I even wondered if Zwaan was play-backing.
Bijou was next, but regrettably there was a bit too much echo in this version. Then, one of Miracle's own tracks, called Band In Heaven was played. Personally, I was confused for some minutes, because it sounded so much like Queen, that I was convinced this was some unknown B-side. I think they can regard this as a compliment.
A very familiar synth-sound didn't leave anything to guess: Radio GaGa was up! Of course there was the obvious hand-clapping and it was great to see everybody sing along. Apparently people were a lot more familiar with this track than with the older material. The only thing I missed in this version were Roger Taylor's backing vocals. These are very essential to the sound of the song.
After a repetition of Liar (even better than the first time) for recording, Miracle played a set of no less than four songs from Queen II. Starting with Procession, they went straight into Father To Son, which was played very tight and featured great backing vocals. It was nice to hear the multi-guitar-parts played so well live. At this point (a bit late) someone seemed to have found the right lights and the smoke-machine, which adds to the atmosphere. A very emotional White Queen was played and this quartet was closed off with Seven Seas Of Rhye. All in all Miracle played no less than 6 tracks from Queen II, and I wonder if they ever considered doing the whole album in one piece. Personally, I would consider that a dream come true.
We Are The Champions made me aware that the gig was coming to an end. This version was again very nice and I think Zwaan did a great job on this song as well. Mercury needed the help of Taylor here live, Zwaan did it by himself. Better than most stadium-versions…
At the end of the song, it changed naturally into very nice, warm keyboard-sounds that introduced Mother Love, which was the closure to the set. I understand the reasons behind this choice (it was Mercury's last song) but I think I wouldn't end a concert with a ballad. Nevertheless it was a very beautiful version, with great guitars, and great vocals both by Zwaan (Mercury&Taylor-verses) and Smit (May-verse)…
All in all, I had a great night. Although these guys are amateurs they reach a professional level in their performance. The band is very tight and Zwaan really has a golden voice. I think he should quit smoking immediately and take singing lessons, not to improve anything, but just to maintain this great voice.
Miracle isn't copying Queen and they're not a best-off band. They didn't go for the obvious choices and they played material never played live by Queen. Although Zwaan shows some physical resemblance to Mercury, this band isn't trying to "be like" Queen, they're just giving you the best possible performance of the music they (and I) love…
If you ever get the chance to see them, don't hesitate!
Spread Your Wings (soundcheck)
I Want It All
Father To Son (part)
Somebody To Love
Fat Bottomed Girls
These Are The Days Of Our Lives
Death On Two Legs
Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon
Fairy Feller's Master Stroke/Nevermore
Too Much Love Will Kill You
Don't Stop me Now
Was It All Worth It ?
Play The Game
Love Of My Life
I Want It All
Band In Heaven
Procession/Father To Son
Seven Seas Of Rhye
We Are The Champions