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Queen – Stormtroopers in Stilettos exhibition

February 25, 2011

There are few artists in the charts today who we’ll be commemorating in forty years time. Indeed, it wouldn’t be unfair to say that some of them would struggle to capture our attention in a year or two from now. But one band who have stood the test of time and are still more conspicuous in our day-to-day lines than most of the Radio 1 playlist combined, is Queen.

To celebrate the band’s 40th anniversary and meteoric rise to fame comes the Stormtroopers in Stilettos exhibition at the Truman Brewery in east London – the first ever exhibition of Queen memorabilia. It’s a story told chronologically, starting from Freddie Mercury’s roots, before he even went by the name of Freddie Mercury. There are personal mementos crammed into almost every corner: Freddie’s illustrations and job application letters, broken drumsticks once belonging to Roger Taylor, stage costumes, contracts for shows, magazines, records, tapes and ticket stubs.

But in spite of all these trinkets, there is unfortunately very little context for each relic on hand. No information to tell you when costumes were worn, whether promo posters were reprints or the real deal, where various contracts have been for the last 37 years. Nor was there anyone milling around who might be able to give you the details that you so desperately want.

The fact that the Queen music playing over the sound system is so loud that it makes it difficult to concentrate on any of the information that is available is also frustrating. It’s so loud that even when you don headphones to watch some of the video interviews and mini documentaries dotted around, it’s still being drowned out by the music.

The exhibition comes to a very abrupt end in 1977, with several short paragraphs illustrating what the band got up to from then until 1995. It seems a shame – I wasn’t ready to leave, nor was I interested in a corridor of TV screens purporting to show several Queen videos in 3D, which didn’t appear to work, even with the glasses supplied. Instead, it would have been nice to have a display of artists who had consequently been inspired by the band, or even a continuation of the band’s story but it wasn’t to be.

Despite the flaws, it was a spectacular show, and is definitely worth visiting. The amount of intricate, and arguably a little bit nerdy, information that lines the hallways about the band’s formation and consequent success could keep you mesmerised for hours. Arguably the most impressive part of the exhibition is a written montage of a fragment of Queen’s concert dates. It doesn’t matter how far you walk back with your camera – it’s impossible to get it all into a single shot, highlighting what a phenomenal band they were and how difficult their legacy is to beat

The exhibition is open until March 12 2011, and is free.

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