[The Weekly Q&A]

‘Queens of Rock’ creator and star Elyzabeth Diaga on launching a successful show during a pandemic

Elyzabeth Diaga
Photo: Christopher DeVargas

Queens of Rock opened at the upstart Mosaic Theater on October 8, 2020, and for a while, it was the only live show in a theater space on the Las Vegas Strip. The rock tribute concert, which focuses on female legends, was created by—and stars—Montreal-born singer Elyzabeth Diaga, who locked down a deal to bring her show to Vegas in December 2019 but delayed the big move while she filmed the Canadian version of The Voice.

Then the pandemic hit, and everything on the Strip shut down—but Diaga kept on going. She moved to Las Vegas last summer, before the new rules were revealed detailing how live entertainment could operate. Her crew couldn’t travel, so she worked with the tiny team at Mosaic and her killer band of experienced local musicians (Christian Brady and James Oleson on guitars, Zach Throne on bass and Alex Papa on drums) to get Queens of Rock up and running, initially for an audience of fewer than 50 people.

Those who have witnessed her perform in a Strip space that once housed Club Utopia and Empire Ballroom understand how a new-to-Vegas tribute show can survive through such challenging circumstances. Diaga is electrifyingly charismatic onstage, and her voice knows no limitations.

(Left to right) Christian Brady, Elyzabeth Diaga and James Oleson in Queens of Rock

You found a way to open the show and build a following during some of the toughest points in the pandemic. Performing is what you do, but how did you deal with those challenges mentally? I just focus and go. It was tough, but I was so happy to be opening, even though I didn’t know how many people would come. It was challenging, but I was just happy to be here. And since I was here, I was just going to go with the flow. I was lucky my producer still wanted to do it, and the team at Mosaic was very hands-on, because it was a lot of work for the staff.

Were those initial performances difficult, considering you had such a small audience, which was 25 feet from the stage? Yes, but if there are two people in the room, or 100 or 300, you can still feed on the energy. You send something and you get something back—and even with that little audience, I still felt that. Because I have such an amazing band, it feels to me like I’m in an arena every night, and no matter what happens, I’m very much in contact with the music. I think it’s the only way I could have gone through that.

It’s easy to see that you love this music, and so does your audience. You make that connection as soon as you step onstage. I think a lot of people go into this business to become stars or for money. I’m in it for the connection; that’s what drives me. When the curtain opens, I’m not even thinking. I’m listening and trying to reconnect with these women whose music I’m singing and what they represent.

You switch between icons like Pat Benatar, Joan Jett, Cher and even Lady Gaga. And though you’re not impersonating their voices—you sing their songs your way—you still represent their tone and spirit. It’s impressive. It’s all instinct. I’ve listened so much to these singers that when I sing, it just comes out like that. It’s like I keep my personality but try to embody the song and the way it was written and performed. And every night when I sing those songs, I remember the first time I heard it.

It also helps that you come out on roller skates for the disco hits of Blondie. What other elements have you added during the past year? I started learning guitar during the pandemic, so that’s a new element. I had to look all over to find a Gibson Melody Maker like Joan Jett’s, and when I finally received it and brought it to the show, all the guys in the band were like, “Oh my God, you really got it! And you got the best deal on the planet!”

Are you looking to make any bigger changes or expand Queens of Rock somehow? I want to be here as long as I can. I never thought I would love it here like this. And what’s cool now is, I have more Quebeckers coming in, because the quarantine is no longer happening in Canada. That’s going to be awesome, since I was on The Voice and people know me there. I’m looking forward to that. I’ve had requests to tour other states like Texas and Utah, and that might be something in the future. But especially after all that’s happened, I’m just living day by day. This is where I am, and I’m happy.

QUEENS OF ROCK Thursday-Monday, 7 p.m., $55-$95. Mosaic, 702-444-7622, mosaiconthestrip.com.

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Tags: Music
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An award-winning writer who has been living and working in Las Vegas for more than 20 years, Brock Radke covers ...

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