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Reviewed by R. David Smola
n Late 1981, Queen was huge worldwide. They had topped the singles and album charts in the States, conquered the UK singles, albums and video charts, and played for over 131,000 people in Brazil. They were at their worldwide commercial apex. This release features a film released originally in 1984 as “We Will Rock You.” According to the commentary included by Roger Taylor and Brian May, the band was quite aggravated with the director and cameramen. Freddie Mercury especially felt as if the cameras were intruding on him. Queen recently won control of the product and, in typical Queen fashion, built a better airplane. In the original film, some of the music did not match the visuals (they were mixing audio from one night with video from the other), and they really cleaned up the picture. The film looks fantastic, if you can stand the ‘80s fashions, particularly of the audience. It also sounds fantastic. It’s raw -- four musicians doing everything, with no additional musicians or tricks. Later, Queen added a full-time keyboardist to the road show, but here it is just the four original members, blasting out tracks from their catalogue through The Game.
If anyone doubted their brilliance as a unit, the Montreal footage should put that to rest. Sinewy versions of “We Will Rock You (Fast),” “I’m in Love With My Car,” and “Keep Yourself Alive” are joined by the beautiful balladry of “Save Me,” an underrated track from The Game. “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “Another One Bites the Dust” get excellent workouts, as does “Somebody to Love.” Unfortunately, two tracks from the “Flash Gordon” soundtrack didn’t make the film, but are available on the CD. A lot of music these days is created with studio wizardry and tricks; Queen, in contrast, could pull off most of the stuff they did on album in front of an audience. Obviously, the operatic middle section of “Bohemian Rhapsody” is re-created from tape, but everything else is live without a net. What a frontman Freddie was, and Brian May, while perhaps not the greatest technician, but has a feel and a unique signature that puts him in the company of the great rock guitarists.
Additionally, their 20-minute-plus awe-inspiring performance at Live Aid is included. There were some tremendous performances at that concert in 1985, but I would argue that this one stole the show. Later that night, Freddie and Brian came out and did “Is this the World We Created” from The Works. Considering the occasion, the performance and song were quite poignant. The video and audio from Live Aid isn’t as strong as the Montreal concert footage, but the performance is absolutely superb. They blast through “Hammer to Fall,” “Radio Ga Ga,” and “We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions.” They were on their game that day, and this only confirms their status as one of the greatest live bands of all time. Bonus features include some rehearsal footage (with rehearsal audio) intercut with a pre-Live Aid interview and a 1982 fluff piece from an American TV show called “PM Magazine.” This is a monstrous live band, and this release absolutely confirms it in blazing fashion. Long Live (the) Queen!