Mike McManus remembers the night that changed his life.
He was 15 and saw Brian May playing guitar for Queen in 1980.
“I saw ‘The Game Tour’ when I was growing up in Boston,” says McManus, who also attended a concert in 1982.
“I was with my dad and it changed my life. I looked at Brian May walking to the front of the stage doing a guitar solo, and all the light and smoke that hit him. I thought, ‘Oh yeah, I want to do that.’ My dad looked over at me and the thought of me going to law school or medical school went right out the door.”
McManus now plays the May part in Queen Nation, a tribute to the legendary English band. The group comes to Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino at 8 p.m. Saturday, February 8. He has fond memories of playing in Arizona.
“We have been coming there for 10 years,” he says. “It started 10 years ago when Terry and Anne Davies owned Skye in Peoria. Since then, we’ve come to Casino Arizona and Talking Stick and, in fact, we were the very, very first band to play on the outside pool at Talking Stick.”
Queen Nation shows, McManus says, take fans back to 1980, when Queen was at the height of its popularity in America.
“That’s what we emulate,” he says. “‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is the most challenging song, but I’ve read articles with Brian May and, after even years and years of playing it, there are still parts of that song that are pretty intricate. He would dread them coming up.
“But it’s also the most fun to play. We let the audience sing the operatic part—whether or not they’re in key, as long as they sing from their hearts.”
McManus says his 15-year-old self would be thrilled at his career choice.
“I know now I would have been pretty psyched,” he says.
“We’ve been doing this now for 15 years. We’ve met the nicest people you could ever imagine. It’s bittersweet, though. We go to places like Ohio, Wisconsin and Canada and we meet some of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet, but there’s a good chance we’ll never see them again.”
Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino, 5040 Wild Horse Pass Boulevard, Chandler, 1.800.946.4452, playatgila.com, 8 p.m. Saturday, February 8, $20.