Under the Wig – Almost Queen Guitarist Steve Leonard

Thanks for visiting steveleonard.net! You might have seen me as the opening act for the Queen tribute band Almost Queen, either solo or with my band. I usually mention during my set that I’m also the guitarist for Almost Queen, though sometimes people don’t entirely make the connection. After being introduced during the Almost Queen set, I’ve heard people in the audience say, “wait, that was him?” Yes, that was me!

I hope you’ve enjoyed the original music I’ve been creating and sharing with the world. Thanks for being open to giving new music a chance and listening during my set opening for Almost Queen. I’d also like to thank the guys in Almost Queen for their enthusiastic support of my original music-making. Their support inspires me, and I’m excited that Almost Queen is in the process of recording an original song that I wrote for the band. More to come on that soon.

I know the audiences at the shows can’t wait to have their faces rocked off by their favorite Queen tribute, but besides being Queen fans, I think we’re all, first and foremost, music lovers. As music lovers, we connect and come together in many ways. Through the music of our favorite artists, like the incredibly powerful music of Queen, but also different music from artists we’ve never heard before. After all, we all heard our favorite artists and songs for the first time at some point. Some sounded like something we had known forever.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to perform some new music for you and for the attentive audiences. I’ve been writing songs and playing in original bands since I first picked up a guitar, and feel a deep connection with the songs I’ve been writing lately. When people clap or sing along, it feels like that’s coming through. As I reach out through the music, thank you for reaching back.

To those who know me as “Brian Maybe”, my music is a window to what’s happening under the wig. For me, the new songs I’ve been playing are a reminder, and a vehicle, to embrace being alive and in the moment. As the line goes in Queen and David Bowie’s Under Pressure, “this is our last dance.” Live music only happens in the now, using the most fundamental canvas, vibration, as a medium of expression. Vibration is what the world is made of. It is essential, and the music is simply an extension of that. If you hear it, give a listen.

7/15/2022 The Capitol Theatre, Port Chester, NY

Fri July 15, 2022
The Capitol Theatre
149 Westchester Ave
Port Chester, NY

Almost Queen with special guest Steve Leonard Band

Thank you to the amazing photographers John R. Wisdom and Mickey Deneher!

Eric Cohen, Paul Kates, Steve Leonard, Michale Parillo
Steve Leonard Band with Joseph Russo of Almost Queen
Steve Leonard playing Brian May Guitars BMG Super, Capitol Theatre, Port Chester, NY 7/15/2022
Steve Leonard playing Brian May Guitars BMG Super, Capitol Theatre, Port Chester, NY 7/15/2022
Steve Leonard playing Brian May Guitars BMG Super, Randy Gregg on Bass. Capitol Theatre, Port Chester, NY 7/15/2022
Steve Leonard playing Brian May Guitars BMG Super, Capitol Theatre, Port Chester, NY 7/15/2022

Almost Queen | NYCB Theater at Westbury 11/18/2017

Almost Queen brought the music of Queen to the NYCB Theater at Westbury, NY last Saturday. Thank you to everyone that came out to this show and made it a special night for us on this famous stage. I brought my camera along and wanted to share some scenes from the day!

The vital information for the day – doors, set times and curfew. Don’t go over curfew or you’ll end up like Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen 😉.

We ran a few songs during sound check, like Tie Your Mother Down, Flash, and Liar.

Dialed in the monitor mixes and front of house, got a feel of the stage, and reminded Joe not to fly into me with his “Freddie Pole“.

The staff in Westbury were kind and welcoming, and set up a delicious dinner spread for the band and crew.

Dessert can set apart a good night from a great night! The éclairs here got things going in a great direction.

Tony and Matty! Our fearless on stage crew and partners in crime. If you see either of these guys, give them a hug!

The theater, previously known as Westbury Music Fair, hosted some of rock and roll’s most legendary performers.

It’s always fun to play on the same stage where your favorite artists once performed.

James, our sound engineer, “in action”.

Relaxing backstage.

It’s not unusual to find things like this in a dressing room at any venue.

You’ll always find this in my dressing room.

Everybody’s gettin’ here…

The stage is set…

Time to rock! Matty took these with my Canon 60D set to shutter priority mode, 1/160s, auto ISO. Tony took some video…

I really dug playing Love of My Life and ’39…

…and the Brighton Rock guitar solo!

Always a fun time playing with the Brian May signature 800ms delay. Here’s how it’s done…

An honor joining the audience singing We Are The Champions!

Thank you to the NYCB Theater Westbury and to all of you! You did, you did, rock us!

We Are The Champions

As I’m packing up to leave for LA for Almost Queen’s appearance on “The World’s Greatest Tribute Bands”, the April air reminds me of when I was a kid, and a huge fan of the New York Mets. Though I don’t follow sports these days, I’m reminded Baseball is in the air in April. I recall the first Major League Baseball games I attended at Shea Stadium in the early 80’s. For me, that’s the hayday of MLB. After the Mets won the World Series in 1986, and I got my first guitar, my interest in sports waned. But during that time, I could not get enough. I was so into the Mets, I would even bring a radio to bed, falling asleep to the the sound of Bob Murphy calling the games. My family and I would make a yearly road trip to Philadelphia to catch a three game series, and stay at the same hotel where the Mets stayed, having many opportunities to meet my heroes of the time; Mookie Wilson, Darryl Strawberry, Tom Seaver, Keith Hernandez, Dwight Gooden, George Foster, to name a few.

I remember the sounds of the crowd at Shea Stadium, the calls of “Beer Here!” and “Hot Dogs!”, but there was one sound that I will never forget, though I was unsure of where it came from at the time. As the Mets started loading the bases, there would be a distinctive sound that would add to the excitement of the moment. The loud and compelling sound of “STOMP STOMP CLAP! STOMP STOMP CLAP!” I actually though it was the people in the stands, maybe in the bleachers, making that sound happen. No singing, just the “STOMP STOMP CLAP!” It was so cool! I knew I liked it, and it was associated with the Mets being in a position to score some runs, but I didn’t know where it was coming from. I would join in, stomping and clapping. It wasn’t until some time later that I heard “We Will Rock You” and realized that sound I loved was Queen. This was one of my earliest introductions to Queen. The other being hearing “Another One Bites the Dust” playing in my cousin’s room in 1980, and my parents indicating it wasn’t appropriate for my 5 year old ears. Ha! They were never successful in keeping me away from the hard rockin’ music I love. Regardless of their attempts, they would always be there to support me in my love of music.

Another early connection I had with Queen came in 1981. Though I was a Mets fan, as the LA Dodgers went to the World Series, I was pulling for them. What can I say, I was raised to not root for the Yankees. The Dodgers won the World Series that year, and in celebration, some members of the team recorded a really awful version of “We Are The Champions”, which I had on 45. I loved it. At the time, I just loved the World Champion LA Dodgers. I didn’t even know it was a Queen song!

So, here I am getting ready to go to LA, reminded that some of my earliest connections to Queen were made though baseball, and the LA Dodgers. I’m excited to visit LA for the first time, and really psyched to get to play “We Are The Champions” in the city who’s baseball team introduced me to the song. I just hope we perform it better than they did! I think we’ve got it covered.

Almost Queen, Aspen, CO, January 2011

Back in January 2011, Almost Queen played a show in Aspen, CO. We had played Aspen once before, flying into Denver and taking a smaller plane from Denver to Aspen. This time, due to weather conditions, our flight from Denver to Aspen was cancelled. The airline arranged bus service to Aspen for everyone on our cancelled flight. What a ride it was!

The conditions were terrible. Snow made visibility very poor, and the roads were icy. Our mountainous ride took all afternoon, into the evening, going up to over 7,000 feet. I could not imagine driving in those conditions, but I did feel somewhat safe thanks to how incredible our driver was. The trip was slow going. The snow was really coming down, but our driver was an absolute pro, handled every turn with grace. You could tell he knew the terrain and how to handle the bus.

At some point in the last portion of the ride, we were going up a steep climb, two lanes, not much room on the road and steep drops off to the side. I’m looking out the window on the left side, and see just ahead of us a car spins out, and within seconds spins right into our bus. There was nothing the driver could do, it all happen so quickly, and there was no where to move at all. We stopped and the incident was called in. The bus was inspected and was okay to continue. We couldn’t tell what happened to the car that spun out, it seemed like they stopped not too far behind us, but it was tough to see. Hope they got to safety. It was a danger filled ride, but our driver got us to Aspen in one piece. I thanked him, most sincerely.

The next day we’re set to play at The Belly Up, the main music club in Aspen. We have the whole day to ourselves, as load in at the venue typically isn’t until 3 or 4pm. I wanted to get outside and check out Aspen. I had heard about a John Denver Sanctuary in Aspen, and found out that it was a short walk down the road. I remember John Denver’s Greatest Hit in my parents record collection. I remember those songs, and early memories hearing the acoustic guitar. That was probably right behind Johnny Cash, Destination Victoria Station, in an old cardboard soda box of records in the closet.I heard a lot of rock and roll, and popular 1970’s country music as a kid. And Barry Manilow.

I felt somewhat compelled to stop by the John Denver Sanctuary. I asked the guys if anyone wanted to go, John was up to join in. We headed down the street and made a right turn on Colorado Rocky Mountain High Thank God I’m A Country Rd to the John Denver Sanctuary. Thinking back, it was close to a perfect day after a snow storm day, but when you’re traveling in for such a short amount of time, through the storm, it’s harder to notice as it’s happening. The sanctuary was still, filled with snow covered granite monuments etched with the lyrics to John Denver’s classics. He lived in and had a close connection with Colorado/Aspen. I could see why.

Once we finished up our visit, we still had a couple hours to kill. I thought taking the gondola ride up to 11,200 feet to the top of the mountain wasn’t a bad idea to take in the scene. I asked the other guys if they wanted to go, but no one else was up for it. I wasn’t sure when I’d be in Aspen again, and I’d never been to an altitude of that height before, so I decided to go by myself! Wow, I’m glad I did.

I hit the desk to buy a ticket for the gondola ride to the top. I wasn’t skiing or anything, as I haven’t done that in years. I had a gig to do that night, so winter sports were not on the agenda. Photography, and a beer, at 11,200 feet was. I jumped in line to get on board the gondola. I’m on a separate line as foot traveler, and they have me wait for a minute for another single rider to go up with. Soon enough, I get on board with another guy going up. He’s skiing.

While checking out the incredible view going up, I got to talking with the other rider. At first talking about where we were from, what’s happening in Aspen. Eventually, he asked what I was doing in Aspen, so I told him how I play guitar in a Queen tribute band and we’re in town to play show. He smiled and said I’ll never guess what his name is… stumped, I asked. Turns out, the guy I got on the gondola with is Brian May. He even got out his drivers license to show me. What a funny coincidence! He has the same name as the guy I ‘play’ in Almost Queen, which is the why I was there. It was a fun ride up, and I took this as a good sign for what was to come.

Since it had snowed the entire day before on our way up, the mountains and trees were covered in fresh snow. A truly majestic sight. Looking back at the pictures reminded me of how awesome it was looking out all around from the top of Aspen Mountain. Pure, awesome beauty. I’m glad I took the ride up. I hung out for a while, took a little walk around the top. Eventually hit the lodge for a beer, and was back on the gondola heading back down. After descending a couple thousand feet, I met up with the rest of the band and crew at the condo we were staying at, and told them of my adventure and meeting Brian May.

Soon enough, it was time to load in and sound check. Once the stage is set, and monitors tuned in, we usually run through about 5 different songs to dial everything in. After finishing up sound check, we checked out the backstage oxygen tank, which the venue provides to help with the altitude. We’re ready for the show!

Before we hit the stage, we walked back to the condo to relax and get ready for the show. It is ideal when we’re staying walking distance from the venue we’re playing. As we walked back, the sky lit up with a pinkish purple color as the sun set on the mountains. I took this picture…

Perfect timing to walk back.