Monday, April 14, 2014

Queen at Live Aid

I watched the Queen documentary Days of Our Lives, and learned many interesting new details about my favorite band. One thing that stuck with me was the story of their performance at Live Aid. By that time, many folks, especially music industry people, had sort of written Queen off. They hadn't had a hit song in four years, and had already pretty much "lost" America (and never really got it back until Freddie died). But they were persuaded to perform for 20 minutes at Live Aid. I'd seen the video of that performance before, but didn't quite understand the context. Apparently, Queen came out and totally stole this show. The way you see the audience moving in that video was during Queen's performance and no other time. I've watched a few other Live Aid performances, and no one worked this crowd the way Freddie did.

It was important show for the band. They'd all but given up and gone their separate ways. This show reinvigorated them. Not only did the band have a stadium full of people eating out of their hands, but all the other rock luminaries back stage stopped what they were doing and drifted to the wings to watch, well aware that Queen had just come out of nowhere, against all odds, to steal the show and prove that they are the champions. Queen managed to connect with audiences in a way few other bands ever have, and most of that was because of Freddie. As the documentary points out, he'd had experience working stadium-size stages before, and it shows in this video. But what made Freddie special was his ability to involve the audience. They weren't just watching the show, they were part of it.

The upcoming Freddie Mercury biopic will actually end with this triumphant Live Aid performance, and not his death, which is probably a good thing. This Live Aid performance was the band's, and certainly Freddie's, greatest triumph. It catapulted them back into the studio for three more albums before Freddie's death. And while they never had another huge hit in America, their subsequent singles topped the charts pretty much everywhere else.

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