[5 December 2007]
When I was in high school, Queen was my favorite band. Their News of The World album (I had it on 8-track, no less) was like my Bible throughout those confusing early teen years. At the time, I listened to a lot of AOR (album oriented rock). Yet mixed in with all the bad music played on ‘70s FM, I still knew there was something unique about Queen.
There is still nothing quite like “Bohemian Rhapsody”. But I jumped off the Queen bandwagon with 1978’s Jazz and 1979’s Live Killers, a one-two punch that knocked me out of the game. Jazz was naughty, stupid, and not even jazz; Live Killers was just plain weak. On this their first live set, the group sounded thin and unprofessional, especially after I’d become so accustomed to their jaw-dropping studio experiments.
I started to hate Queen. And then when I discovered Elvis Costello and many other anti-Queens, Queen became little more than a distant memory.
Obviously, I approached this live Queen DVD with much fear and trepidation. After all, 1981, the year of its videotaping, was not long after my divorce from the act. But instead of reinforcing why Queen and I originally went our separate ways, this show reminded me of why I fell in love with the band in the first place. There are simply so many great songs on this first disc, and the band plays them all so well.
If you only know the act’s “Another One Bites The Dust” and “Bohemian Rhapsody”, you’re missing a lot of equally fine tunes. Old ones like “Somebody To Love”, “Killer Queen”, and “Sheer Heart Attack” are all included in the show. Of course, there’s also “Now I’m Here” from 1974’s Sheer Heart Attack, which is little more than one of those tracks you get to test out stereo separation on your new system. In other words, it’s not really a song worth reprising live.
But “I’m In Love With My Car”, which drummer Roger Taylor sings, is even worse. It smacks of, ‘Okay, we’ll begrudgingly let the drummer sing one song—just so long as it shuts him up.’ But even this truly bad composition left me smiling. (Band) Love is blind, I guess.
My initial assumptions were correct, after all. Queen was/is like no other band before it. This DVD reveals the many sides of Freddie Mercury and the boys. “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” is wonderful faux rockabilly; “Another One Bites The Dust” is a nice stab at dance music; and how can anyone dislike a big, pompous ballad like “Play The Game”? Queen even had an acoustic side, which is revealed on “Love of My Life” where Brian May accompanies Mercury on acoustic guitar.
Then 1985’s Live Aid Concert was somewhat of a comeback for Queen. Everybody couldn’t wait to hear what social activists like U2 would say at the event. So I bet Queen’s powerful performance caught many off guard. “We Are The Champions”, which had been used for almost every sports team championship imaginable, took on a far deeper meaning during this plea to feed starving children.
Even if you have a photographic memory of Queen’s Live Aid performance, this two-disc set includes bonus Live Aid rehearsal performances of “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Radio Ga Ga”, and “Hammer To Fall”. Brian May stands out most during this rehearsal footage, as he’s wearing short shorts. Ouch! An interview with the band, conducted at the time of the show, is also included as an extra feature.
Accumulated years make it highly possible to forget old grudges. But in truth, I still remember many of the reasons why I initially disowned Queen way back when. Mercury, with his large, impossible to hide ego, can still get on my nerves. But this live document shows that on the right night, Queen could really rock you.