Unbeatable stage masters
The Top 10 Greatest Queen Live Performances
Queen always were stage masters, Freddie Mercury unique ability to communicate with massive audiences, was a talent like no other singer showed before him and hardly still have done. No matter what their mood was, on stage Queen gave every bit of themselves to satisfy their large record breaking audiences around the world. Queen were also pioneers on the use of some stage props and effects, such as their “Pizza Oven”, their classic light switch grid, and the use of pyrotechnics (one of the first bands to use it) among other things. This is the Top 10 list of Queen’s best and most relevant performances with Freddie Mercury
1 – Live Aid, Wembley, London, July 13th, 1985, “The Works Tour”
Live Aid was Queen’s highest moment in their career, they were able to transform 20 minutes in the most memorable moment of Live Aid. Sharing the bill with some of the biggest names in music could had been a difficult task for Queen who were used to sold out stadiums on their own. In the same day, before Queen, Dire Straits and U2 both very popular at the time played, David Bowie and The Who followed Queen. Still on the same day and bill was Paul McCartney and Black Sabbath. But among all those household names, Queen were the ones that won the day, their performance symbolizes Live Aid and the biggest moment in any of the cities the concert took place. With an attendance of 80.000 people in Wembley and 2 Billion worldwide through the broadcast, Freddie Mercury conducted the audience to sing along with him proving his gift to master large audiences, during “Radio Ga-Ga” 80.000 people clap their hands following the band directions, they rushed through some of their biggest hits songs, in 20 minutes playing “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Radio Ga-Ga”, “Hammer To Fall”, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, “We Will Rock You” and “We Are The Champions” leaving the audience ecstatic, later that night Freddie and Brian returned to play the acoustic “Is This The World We Created?”. After Live Aid, the band saw a resurgence, gaining new fans and winning back old ones. Queen’s performance in Live Aid remains unbeatable to this day and it should stay that way for a long time.
2 – Rock In Rio, Rio De Janeiro, January 12th, 1985, “The Works Tour”
The festival Rock In Rio featured the biggest crowd Queen ever played to, a record of paying attendance. The band played two nights, on the 12th and on the 18th of January and it’s estimated that between 250.000 and 500.000 people attended their concert each night. Unlike the U.S, their popularity hadn’t decreased in other parts of the world, and South Americans specially were devoted Queen fans. Having released “The Works” in 1984, both shows featured a lot of material from that album, although in the ears of some Rock purists Queen had softened up with the 80’s, their performance that night proved the contrary and showed that the old kick was still there. Mercury conducted the sea of fans at the concerts to sing along with him, most memorably during the “Love Of My Life” performance.
3 – Morumbi Stadium, São Paulo, Brazil, March 20th, 1981, “The Game Tour”
A record breaking audience of 131.000 people attended the first of two nights at the Morumbi Stadium, the second night 120.000. Queen’s popularity was immense in South America at the time, and during “The Game Tour” the concerts they did in that continent are among some of the most attended ones in their career. Freddie proved again to be a stage and audience master. The setlist was more diverse than the ones did during the 70’s shows as their music became more diverse, they seldom would go back to their first two albums during most of the 80’s.
4 -Hyde Park, London September 18th, 1976, “A Day At The Races Tour”
Hyde Park was the first Queen event to attract a massive audience, it is estimated that 150.000 to 200.000 people showed up. The concert took place on the anniversary of Jimi Hendrix’s death. Queen and in particular Freddie Mercury were big Hendrix fans and so this concert added a special feeling to the band. The free concert, organized by Richard Branson, was a way that Queen found to thank back their loyal audiences for the last 3 successful years. During a roughly 90 minutes show they revisited their career. The concert that had run a half hour past its scheduled ending time had to end when the police threatened to arrest the band if they went back on stage to an encore, due to a curfew strictly enforced by the authorities. Freddie was later quoted saying how he would “prefer not to be stuck in a jail cell in his leotard”
5 – Estadio José Amalfitani, Buenos Aires, Argentina, February18th,1981, “The Game Tour”
The first time Queen played Argentina and the first time ever a Rock band was booked into a Football stadium which Queen sold out. Queen’s popularity in Argentina was so big at that time that 9 out of 10 albums in the national charts were from Queen. Feeling that they had somehow to prove their worth to the Argentinian fans, both nights were an spectrum of energy in which Freddie and the band completely tuned in with the audience. They were welcomed like royalty into the country, which was reminiscent of the first time they played in Japan back in the mid 70’s.
6 – Wembley, London, July 12th, 1986, “Live Magic Tour”
The second night at Queen’s Wembley concerts during the successful “Live Magic Tour” it’s perhaps the most well known and also most well documented. This concert that has been broadcast numerous times over the years and has had several official audio and video releases. Reportedly, Freddie Mercury was more nervous than usual that night due to the fact that his voice was not in great shape and he knew the concert was going to be filmed to be released. Despite that, Queen did one of the most memorable shows in their career, not knowing their live era with Mercury was coming to an end. An attendance of 72.000 filled the Wembley Stadium,among the audience many notable names such as Mick Jagger. Featuring one of their most complete live sets, in which they revisit literally all their albums without losing focus on the current “A Kind Of Magic”, Queen played snippets of their 70’s concert staples such as “Liar”, the “Sheer Heart Attack” track “In The Lap Of The Gods…Revisited” fully, “Under Pressure” (presumably Bowie was supposed to join the band on stage but that end up not happening) among many other of their greatest hits. A live album was released the following year, “Live Magic” containing highlights from the concert that didn’t do much justice to it. Wasn’t up until the 90’s that the concert was fully released on record.
7 – Nepstadium, Budapest, Hungary July 27th, 1986, “Live Magic Tour”
After failing negotiations to play the USSR and Czechoslovakia due to the political climate at the time, Queen only got to play Eastern Europe in Hungary. Everything surrounding the organization of the concert had some sort of political involvement to it, even the tickets were only available to specific persons and in specific places. Grateful for the opportunity to play in Budapest, Queen throw in one of their best live shows, even doing an attempt at a traditional Hungarian song , a gesture much appreciated by the audience. The concert was released on VHS in 1987 and was officially released by Queen on CD and DVD as “Hungarian Rhapsody” in 2012. Only a few days after the show, Queen would play their last one with Freddie, at Knebworth Park, U.K on August 9th.
8 – National Bowl, Milton Keynes, June 5th, 1982, “Hot Space Tour”
Having put out their new record “Hot Space”, Queen went once again on tour, only this time was not a hit record. “Hot Space” was highly criticized through all the music industry and fans, the dance/polished pop didn’t pleased to the masses as their previous albums. Despite that, 40.000 people attended the concert and Freddie made several allusions to the recently released album. The songs of the album were played, however, with the Rock kick Queen were known for. As usual Queen delivered an electrical concert, that was officially released on record and DVD in 2004 as “Queen On Fire: Live At The Bowl”
9 – Rainbow Theatre, London March 31st 1974, “Queen II Tour”
This was Queen’s first big headlining concert. Having released recently their second album “Queen II”, according the reviews and existing footage and sound, they performed an energetic set with songs from their first two albums, back then Queen was one of the Heaviest Rock bands around and that reflected on the Rainbow concert. Similar concerts at The Rainbow took place during November 19th and 20th of the same year, those released officially in 2014 on the album “Live At The Rainbow´74”
10 – Madison Square Garden, New York May 2nd 1977, “A Day At The Races Tour”
Having toured the U.S before, this was Queen’s first major concert in the States, the Madison Square Garden was the affirmation that the band was looking to get after years of hard work and touring. Then, they were at their peak in the U.S, touring their album “A Day At The Races” they revisited all their albums and achieved very good reviews of the performance. At the end of the show Freddie Mercury said to the audience “It was a pleasure doing business with you”
Watch Queen’s amazing 1985 Live Aid performance
Queen Live in Pictures
Listen to a selection of Queen Live songs compiled by Pop Expresso on Spotify
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