Voted the greatest live rock performance of all time, what more is there to say?
It’s 13th July 1985. It costs £5 for the event, plus a £20 donation. Freddie’s wearing a white tank top, tight light blue jeans and a belt and arm decoration in black leather and silver stud. Brian May’s hair is as big and beautiful as ever, and they’re followed onto the stage by John Deacon and Roger Taylor. Freddie goes right over to the piano, already flashing the crowd a few cheeky faces to egg them on, and their 20-minute set starts in the only way it possibly could. A song us students pay our respects to on every other night out, but Freddie blows the recorded version out the water. We only get a short medley of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, but it really is bliss with May’s guitar and Freddie’s awesome vocals. He can’t be sat for long though, and the short shorts wearing technician passes Freddie the mic and he’s off, strutting and dancing across the stage in time for ‘Radio Ga Ga’, holding the microphone up high with prowess and with a promise of what’s left to come. He flits between glancing skyward and staring down at the audience, who are eating out of the palm of his hand. He gets them to clap along, a whole stadium full, covered in tarpaulin and 72,000 bodies, using his punching fist to conduct his own voice and the hands of the crowd.
After a quick call and response with the audience between numbers, Freddie announces ‘Hammer to Fall’ and the full might of Queen sounds in response. Freddie rocks air guitar to Brian May’s playing, and the sun sets over the final verse. Grinding on May in worship, the mic and stand are Freddie’s dance partner and partner in crime, and they don’t escape without a little fondling.
Freddie takes a swig of his drink and thanks the audience, dedicating ‘A Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ to them, although he gets them to sing part of the chorus anyway. The thudding drum sets in after the final crescendo of ‘A Crazy Little Thing’ and everyone knows what’s coming; the crowd have compulsively started keeping to that three-beat institution. Freddie is doing his thing to the beat of the music like everyone else, just biding his time. He orders people to sing the chorus of ‘We Will Rock You’ like they have a choice, like it isn’t Freddie Mercury who’s asking. It’s one voice vs tens of thousands, but you wouldn’t know the difference.
Then it’s time for their last number, and as the piano melody of ‘We Are the Champions’ starts to mingle with the guitar, you know you’re in for a treat. Freddie’s voice rises and the whole crowd is swaying and then he pulls it back; a presentation of true power and control. He’s speaking to the audience with this song, and he gets up for the final chorus. Belting them all out from first song to last, he finishes as strong as he started, now the light’s gone and the set is over.
Catch the new music biopic about Queen and Freddie, Bohemian Rhapsody, on 24th October, and check out their performance below.