Interview: The Queen tribute band so good that even the real band love them - and Freddie’s mum too

Tribute band Mercury have toured the world for more than a decade and received glowing praise from Queen drummer Roger Taylor.

But it was none other than Freddie Mercury’s mum, Jer Bulsara, who paid them the ultimate compliment by calling them “the next best thing” to the real thing.

“It’s been quite a journey,” says frontman Joseph Lee Jackson, whose job it is to channel the mustachioed frontman on stage every night on tour.

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“We knew the music was timeless, but when we started we didn’t know how it would pan out.

“We’ve played for Freddie’s family a few times over the years and we have a huge respect for them,” he adds.

The band from Nottingham, which also comprises guitarist Glenn Scrimshaw (Brian May), drummer Pat Coleman (Taylor), Lee Harvey (Spike Edney) and Steve Humphreys (John Deacon), formed 12 years ago after Jackson replied to an advert looking for a singer to step into the shoes of Queen’s flamboyant frontman.

“It happened by chance,” he explains. “I come from a musical theatre background and I stumbled across the ad.”

After a few months of rehearsals, the boys headed to sunny Mallorca for what was to be the first of three summer seasons performing on the beautiful Balearic island.

Mercury were an instant hit as they set about faithfully and accurately re-creating the distinctive Queen experience for holidaymakers.

“It set us up really,” says Jackson. “We were gigging every night for three months. We came back and the diary was full. We did three seasons out there but eventually we out-grew Mallorca.

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Not that they had much choice but to take their talents elsewhere. New laws limiting the volume of live music shows on the island came into force and Mercury’s time in the sun came to an end.

“There were new rules stipulating how loud music could be,” explains Jackson. “It was a joke in the end.”

No matter. By this point they’d built up their theatre show and were ready to take on the wider world.

Mercury’s visit to the HMV Picture House on Saturday will see them performing some of Queen’s biggest hits - including Bohemian Rhapsody, It’s A Kind Of Magic, Another One Bites The Dust, We Are The Champions, I Want To Break Free and Don’t Stop Me Now as well as some lesser known gems.

Mercury have played gigs all over the world and sold more than a million tickets to their show - but nothing prepared them for the nerves they felt after they were invited to perform at the official unveiling of the Freddie Mercury Memorial in Feltham a few years ago.

“What an awesome atmosphere, it was,” recalls Scrimshaw. “Midway through the set, I looked up and saw the unmistakable figure of ‘Sir’ Brian May.

“Now, it is very hard to describe the feeling of being on stage, pretending to be someone else and that someone else is watching you.”

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Laughing, he adds, “I think that it was Sir Alex Ferguson who came up with a suitable phrase when he described something as ‘squeaky bum time.’”

• Mercury, HMV Picture House, Lothian Road, Saturday, 7pm, £13, 0844-847 1740