Remember When: When Freddie Mercury and the boys rocked St James’ Park in 1986


15 October 2014 by David Morton

As Queen and Adam Lambert prepare to go on the road, we recall a momentous Newcastle concert in ’86

Queen - Newcastle 1986
Queen in concert at St James’ Park, Newcastle in 1986

When Queen’s legendary singer Freddie Mercury died in 1991, at the premature age of 45, most people thought that was it for the classic band. Indeed, the group’s guitarist Brian May declared only recently: “When Freddie went, I thought, ‘That’s it. We did that. It was a great life. Now, it’s time to have a different life’, and for years, we didn’t try to be Queen in any way.”

It was never going to be remotely the same without the flamboyant singer, but May and drummer Roger Taylor have begun to fly the Queen flag again in recent years.

The mid-2000s saw a fruitful collaboration with former Free and Bad Company front man Paul Rodgers and, in 2012, they hooked up with American singer, Adam Lambert. Happily for Queen fans, it is this pairing which is hitting the road for a seven-date UK tour – including one night at Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena – in January next year.

Exciting though the project is, however, it’s never going to compare with the band’s 1970s and 80s glory years – with Mercury and the now retired bass player John Deacon – which saw them play in the region on numerous occasions. After their debut North East show at Newcastle Mayfair in August 1973, they headed North regularly, playing on one occasion and Sunderland Locarno, but more often than not at Newcastle City Hall.

Queen’s last two shows at the iconic Toon venue were in late 1979, before bigger audiences and pay cheques in the USA, South Africa, South America and Europe lured them away.

Queen's audience at St James' Park, Newcastle
Fans watching rock group Queen in concert at St James’ Park, Newcastle, July 9, 1986

The band did, though, play one final North East show – a stunning performance at St James’ Park, in the summer of 1986 when they arrived as the biggest band in the world – on the back of their triumphant appearance at the previous year’s Live Aid concert. Wednesday, July 9, saw Queen rocking the home of Newcastle United to its foundations. The Chronicle saw fit to publish a special souvenir edition that night, priced 20p, for the show which was a 38,000 sell-out.

The band earned great reviews in the following day’s paper, with Freddie Mercury categorically denying rumours of a group split. “

We’re not bad for four tired, old queens,” he quipped to a delirious crowd.

The Chronicle reported: “Along the way there was romance and drama aplenty, from the opening number One Vision, through the likes of Under Pressure, I Want To Break Free, Love Of My Life, Radio Ga Ga and We Will Rock You to the inevitable We Are The Champions. They even took time out for a series of renditions of old rock’n’roll favourites – like Ricky Nelson’s Hello Mary Lou and Little Richard’s Tutti Frutti – before taking up the almost operatic strains of Bohemian Rhapsody.”

The reviewer also praised support band Status Quo who warmed up the crowd nicely before Freddie and the boys blew the roof off St James’.

There really was “a kind of magic” in the air at that classic show back in 1986.

Queen and Adam Lambert play Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle, on Tuesday, January 13, 2015.