David Blamires is lead vocalist for Saturday’s performance at the Schuster.
By Don Thrasher
Oct 2, 2023
We all know you should never judge a book by its cover and that’s certainly true with David Blamires. The unassuming singer looks more like a retired history professor than a rock ‘n’ roll frontman but he’s the perfect man to tackle the Music of Queen with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra and Jeans ‘n Classics. The Dayton Performing Arts Alliance presents the concert at the Schuster Center in Dayton on Saturday, Oct. 7.
Since 2010, Blamires has been one of the go-to pro for Jeans ‘n Classics when the Toronto-based outfit needs a powerhouse vocalist for shows featuring the music of the Who, Led Zeppelin and Queen.
“I did a Led Zeppelin show in Hickory, N.C. last year,” Blamires said by telephone from his home in Chicago. “I had to sing an entire night of Led Zeppelin and I don’t have the long flowing Robert Plant hair. I’m just like me, like a schlump, but I’m pretty confident. I know I can do it but there was a little get-together afterwards and a woman said to me, ‘When you walked out there, a bunch of us wondered if you’d be able to do it. Then, when you opened your mouth to sing, we knew you had it.’
“That made me feel so good,” he continued with a chuckle. “But I’m thinking, ‘Well, that’s just the one person that has been honest about their perception. I wonder how many times that’s happened?’ Like, I’m walking out there and people go, ‘Wow, really, this guy is going to sing a night of Queen or Led Zeppelin? What’s this going to be?’ Then, I sing and they’re relieved, so I guess that’s reassuring.”
A diverse portfolio
Blamires, who was born in England and grew up in Canada, has lived in Chicago since 1997. He has been a working musician since the 1980s. He was a member of the Pat Metheny Group from 1986 to 1997 and has written and sung thousands of jingles. Blamires, who has been working with Jeans ‘n Classics for 13 years, is also a solo singer. His latest single, “Show Me How to Love,” was released digitally on Sept. 22.
“I do little gigs in jazz clubs and some other rock ‘n’ roll pickup gigs here and there but there’s nothing like these symphony shows,” Blamires said. “I walk out onto a stage with like 1,500 people staring at me. There’s a 60-piece orchestra sitting there and I’m between them and the audience. It’s electrifying, that’s the only word to describe it. It’s thrilling to be out there howling this music of Freddie Mercury.
“I’ve only been doing this Queen extravaganza for about two years,” he continued. “I’ve done a half dozen of them over the last couple of years and, man, what a thrill it is to sing that music. It’s not easy, I’ve got to tell you. I’m in my 60s, right, and Freddie was in his 20s and early 30s when he was singing that stuff but somehow, I’m able to do it, touch wood, and make it happen.”
Classic rock favorites
While Blamires doesn’t have a favorite song, there are some major moments in a show filled with enduring hits.
“There are a handful of songs I like to sing more than others,” he said. “I’ve got to tell you I’ve sung ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ with Jeans ‘n Classics, and not just with the Queen show but with other shows, and every time I sing that song, it never ceases to give me goosebumps. It’s amazing. When that piano first starts and (he sings) ‘Mama just killed a man.’ It’s so iconic. I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it so it’s thrilling to sing that.
“I really like singing ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ even though it’s a bit of a novelty tune,” Blamires continued. “It’s so crazy. It’s got this breakdown in the middle where he does all this vocalizing. It’s really fun to sing. ‘Somebody to Love’ is another highlight. We’ve got the chorus in the second half so when I go (he sings) ‘Somebody toooooooo,’ I hold onto that note. I milk it and everybody goes crazy. It really brings down the house.”
Blamires credits founder Peter Brennan with creating powerful orchestrations for this show, like the many other offerings from Jeans ‘n Classics.
“Peter has done these amazing arrangements,” he said. “Some of the early stuff didn’t have orchestra on it but it’s music that lends itself so well. Some of the music from the later periods had strings but he’s managed to create these pieces, even for some of the early stuff that didn’t have orchestra on it. We do ‘Flash’ and there’s all this dramatic, urgent music.
“Another one that suits the orchestra well is ‘Who Wants to Live Forever’ and it did have an orchestra on it originally,” Blamires continued. “It’s a beautiful Freddie Mercury opus and, boy, that’s another real high point. It’s very emotional and very orchestral. It suits the whole presentation really well. The whole thing is great.”
A musical rediscovery
While Blamires was a Queen fan growing up, he had lost touch with the group until he started revisiting the music with Jeans ‘n Classics.
“When Queen first came out in the mid-to-late ‘70s, I was the biggest fan,” he said. “I definitely like the older stuff from the ‘70s more than the stuff from the ‘80s. ‘A Night At the Opera,’ for example, I wore that album out. I’m not as crazy about some of the newer stuff. You go through phases and I’d kind of lost interest in Queen in the ‘80s for whatever reason. I haven’t dialed up a Queen playlist on Spotify in forever but since I’ve been doing this show and had to learn this music, I’ve rediscovered them and come to appreciate them more.
“I’m really enjoying my life with Jeans ‘n Classics,” Blamires added. “It’s such a great organization. I average maybe one or two a month so I’m traveling all over North America, in Canada and all over the States. Sometimes I’m a harmony vocalist but most of the time I’m a lead vocalist and I’m up there hosting and singing. It’s so incredibly thrilling and electrifying to be out on that stage singing this music with orchestra.”